Ecovadis: Ecovating the Globe

When we introduced you to Ecovadis back in 2008, we pointed out how this European start-up was building a sustainability solution for evaluating and monitoring suppliers in a manner that would help companies meet and exceed the emerging green and sustainability regulatory requirements. Fully compliant with GRI G3 (Global Reporting Initiative) standards and the ISO 26000 CSR Guidance with their solution that tracks metrics across 23 green/sustainable criteria for the 150 procurement categories they support, it provides a very extensive CSR scoring mechanism across environmental, social, ethical, and supply chain issues.

Back in 2008, all they had on the technology side was the core supplier assessment module for the buyer — which was built around a “dashboard” that provided a snapshot rating of a supplier on each of the key categories with drill down ability into the scorecards for each rating, cross-industry benchmarking, and integrated news feeds (with human reviewed articles, relevant legislation, etc.), and a supplier portal — which allowed the supplier to log in, answer questions, provide relevant data, and see their scorecard. On the services side, they had the ability to arrange and verify audits on your behalf, scan and classify relevant documents automatically, and support suppliers in five languages even though the platform only supported English and French. And when SI last covered them, they had only three public customers.

Flash-forward to 2010, and they have made considerable progress on the technology, services, and customer front. On the technology front, they have made significant updates to the core supplier assessment platform (the newest of which are in beta testing now and will be in general release at the end of the quarter / start of next quarter), released an audit module, released a new risk analysis module, and improved the multi-lingual capabilities of the platform. On the services side, their partnership with SGS, the largest certification company with over 1500 auditors certified in CSR auditing, allows them to do 2nd party audits on your behalf on your suppliers anywhere in the world and they have added a few more languages to their back office. On the customer front, they have increased their customer base tenfold, with 30 public customers that include 10 companies in the Global 500 who are in the top 10 in their vertical (including the largest construction company, the second and third largest insurance companies, the third largest building materials company and the third largest industrial manufacturer), with a few more big names to be announced soon. These customers represent over 2,500 users that collectively track CSR data on over 4,000 companies across 40,000 sites in 80 different countries with a 94% adoption rate among suppliers.

The upgrades to the core supplier assessment module include an improved UI, feedback capability within scorecards, guidance for buyers and suppliers on how to improve ratings and the most critical weaknesses that need to be tackled, and a new corrective action plan capability for suppliers to allow them to propose corrective action plans and collaborate with buyers on their design and implementation. The guidance highlights key issues across each of the 23 categories, primary weaknesses, (upcoming) regulations and initiatives of import, policy recommendations, and proposed actions.

The Risk Analysis module, designed to allow all users to perform a quick check of the potential CSR risks associated with a specific supplier profile, and identify those suppliers which should be subject to a formal assessment or audit, is pretty simple, but it’s a great start considering that most organizations don’t have any tools at all. (Plus, you can’t automate risk analysis — this will always require human interaction. Software is not intelligent and can’t identify unknown threats — only humans can.) Basically, the user fills out a (proposed) usage profile (direct or indirect, country, turnover, categories, branding, influence, etc.) which can be uploaded from an Excel file, the system extracts the CSR profile of the supplier and all of the related data, and an automated analysis engine determines the primary potential risks, the probable degree of supplier CSR risk relative to buyer CSR exposure on a nine-by-nine grid (which goes from low to high as you progress from the lower left [green] zone to the upper right [red] zone), and the action you should take (which is either no action, assessment, or full audit). While not perfect, it will quickly identify the majority of the company’s riskiest suppliers, which is where the company should start its risk management efforts.

The real value in their solution to procurement is in the massive cost savings it enables. CSR is important, but we all know that North America tends to follow the mantra of Gordon Gekko and that, unfortunately, when times get tough, the mighty dollar trumps everything else. Companies like to feel good, but they like to profit more. These days, profits come not from sales (which are sluggish), but from savings that come from cost reductions and risk avoidance. Ecovadis‘ platform assists you on both accounts. Without the platform, buyers are wasting a lot of time and money chasing suppliers, who are fatigued from answering the same damn survey over and over again, for data, analyzing that data, and shelling out for expensive benchmarks from high priced consultants to put that data into relative light — data that might be suspect to begin with. Similarly, suppliers are wasting time cutting and pasting data instead of providing the buyer with the products and services the buyer needs, which drives up costs for both parties, and not even getting any decent feedback in return that they could use to improve their operations. But with the centralized sustainability marketplace Ecovadis provides, suppliers only have to answer a question once, they only have to suffer a time-consuming and costly audit once, and they get a scorecard which not only rates their performance, but benchmarks them against their peers and identifies areas for improvement. Buyers get up-to-date reliable data and actionable scorecards which they can use to leverage suppliers and make better decisions. Everyone wins. Plus, if the buyer has a SPM tool (like that offered by Ariba, Aravo, Hiperos, SAP, etc.), Ecovadis’ can plug their platform into the tool and greatly simplify the CSR SIM that the buyer would likely have to do manually.

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