Exploring EcoVadis

Last month, Jason Busch gave the sourcing world an introduction to EcoVadis in his two part series (Part I and Part II) over on Spend Matters.

In his posts, he noted that EcoVadis was a European (and, in particular, a French) provider of a sustainability solution for evaluating and monitoring suppliers whose primary focus is helping European companies meet emerging green and sustainability regulatory requirements. According to Jason, not only does EcoVadis monitor environmental and operational practices, but they also consider labor practices & human rights, fair business practices, customer and product responsibility, and sustainable procurement. This is important because, in the EU, there are country-specific laws that require green and sustainability efforts.

Jason also notes that not only does EcoVadis provide capability with respect to supplier assessments, supplier audits, and corrective action procedures, but that they are also compliant with GRI G3 standards and the pending ISO 26000 certification with respect to the 150 procurement categories they are currently supporting across 23 green/sustainable criteria (and the 1200 plus pre-defined questions at a user’s disposal).

In this post, I’m supposed to be tackling the technology underpinnings of the solution, but the fact of the matter is that the technology underlying the platform is quite basic – which it should be when you consider the goal. The goal is to give a procurement buyer a quick overview of the sustainability status of a supplier on a single screen while also giving the buyer the ability to drill down deep into the rating and understand where the supplier is strong and where they are weak from a sustainability perspective.

All you need is a “dashboard” that shows a snapshot rating of a supplier on each of the key categories with the ability to drill down (which is key, because, otherwise, a “dashboard” is useless) into scorecards for each rating to find out why the score was high, low, or zero and linkages to relevant audits, alerts, and reports that led to the scores. In addition to this, EcoVadis offers a 360-degree watch that aggregates human-reviewed news articles relevant to the suppliers and their sustainability ratings, benchmarks against other suppliers in the industry on the relevant sustainability categories, and highlight summaries of each supplier. With regards to the solution they are trying to offer, the only critical component missing is an administrative interface where the head of CSR can add additional questions specific to the company and category in question (as some companies will want to go above and beyond the regulations and others will have special needs). The solution, which is multi-linqual, has the ability to add specific questions by category and customer – they just haven’t coded a web-accessible user interface yet (as most of their early customers have been more than content with the extensive question sets built into the product).

The big advantage of a standard web-based solution such as Ecovadis is the fact that suppliers only have to answer a question once and the result of an audit can be shared across multiple clients. One of the biggest downsides to wide-spread sustainability initiatives is the severe burden they place on a supplier. Think about it – not only is it resource constraining for a supplier to answer essentially the same questionnaire from each of its customers, and undergo multiple audits on the same indicators (when one surprise audit every couple of quarters should be more than enough), but it is resource crippling to have to answer the same set of questions for every potential customer, knowing that you’re only going to win a percentage of the RFPs you answer. A supplier should be able to answer the questions once, go through the (surprise) audit once, and then not worry about it for at least a couple of quarters.