Category Archives: CSR

Carbon Tracking is Important — But a Calculator or a Credit is Not A Solution!

We need sustainability. But that’s a heck of a lot more than just calculating the carbon in your supply chain or buying credits from an unknown seller of dubious origin. However, in the last two years, we’ve seen dozens (upon dozens) of startups that, as of now, do just that — and only that.

If they have plans to do more, that’s great, we need more — a lot more, but for now, all they are adding is unnecessary duplication of capability and confusion to a space that needs more clarity.

First of all, you don’t need a custom “carbon calculator” to compute your carbon footprint. All you need is the data on the products you produce — specifically, how many units you buy, the carbon output by the factory on an annual basis, and how many total units it produces. Then, you can compute a carbon contribution by product. (Yes, this is a bit simplified, but you can have the factory track daily production by product and daily output and improve the estimate if you like. It’s still a simple calculation.)

And, most importantly, you can do all of these calculations easily in any Business Intelligence (BI) or Spend Analysis Tool. Just load the factory carbon / GHG output for a day and the number of products produced per day in a tracking table and create a derivation dimension for carbon and each GHG you want to track and that’s your output per product. Then, on your product purchase table you create a derived dimension that calculates how much carbon (and GHG) the products you bought contributed. Dump the table and there’s your report, which you can format how you like.

And you can even do all this work in, gasp, Microsoft Excel if you don’t have a spend analysis tool — you don’t need someone to build a custom mini spreadsheet tool to do this for you (or pay for it).

But even worse is an unregulated someone who will take your money and invest it in “carbon offsets” for you. Especially when the enterprises that someone invests it in may or may not be doing anything that’s actually reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The reality is that, today, many “carbon offset” investments are a complete and utter scam, as per this John Oliver segment, and many more that look like they are doing activities that will capture atmospheric carbon are just wasting time and money. For example, just planting a tree does nothing if the tree doesn’t survive. In many areas of South America and other locales undergoing rapid deforestation, especially where droughts are common, the climate quickly becomes similar to that of a semi-desert part of the year — and a young sapling in this climate generally won’t survive without irrigation. Also, if the entity doing the planting decides to plant a non-native species of tree that they believe should “grow faster”, chances are those trees won’t survive the climate either.

What we really need is a few internationally regulated organizations that create requirements and standards for an operation to be a real carbon offset operation and auditing requirements that must be met in order for an operation to be certified as being a true carbon offset operation — before it takes a dime of your money. Otherwise, yet another organization just wanting to do good is NOT enough.

And then, we need these companies that care to take the next step and provide meaningful guidance to global enterprises as to the steps these global enterprise clients can take to reduce their carbon footprint — technologies they, and their suppliers, can invest in to reduce carbon and GHG production, alternative raw materials and components they can use in their designs that produce less carbon in their mining and production, and ways to reduce consumer demand for carbon intensive products. (Which, by the way, doesn’t have to reduce profit — conscientious customers will pay more for sustainable products, especially if those products now last longer as a result!)

In short, we need actions, not calculations!

It’s Not Just Beds Burning Anymore, it’s the Planet. What Impact Are Your Efforts To Stop it Having?

Four decades ago, when sustainability was only a concern for the environmental extremists because, thanks to industrialization and burgeoning globalization, we had other disasters to deal with (hunger in Africa, aboriginals being forced from their land [sometimes with fire], the global AIDS epidemic, etc. — see Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire, which took us through 1989 [the year, not the 2014 Taylor Swift release], and the doctor chronicled the next 20 years here in an unofficial Part II). And even though we still have all these disasters, and many more, the planet is in upheaval with every type of natural disaster occurring everywhere all the time. In fact, climate-related disasters have tripled in a mere 7 years. 7 years! We’ve gone from disasters increasing over the span of thousands of years during natural planetary cycles to disasters increasing in the span of mere years due to global warming thanks to the rapid increase in carbon and GHG emissions as a result of 150+ years of industrialization and rapid deforestation and wetland destruction. (Forests and wetlands have historically acted as carbon sinks for all of the carbon released by life, it’s historically primitive actions, and traditional disasters that resulted in the destruction of forests [and when trees die or get burned, all the carbon they captured is released]).

Now it’s true that, on average, even the largest of corporations on its own could only make a small dent when the depth of the problem is considered, but if even ten of the largest corporations in an industry teamed up, they could make quite an impact. (And if the largest retailers teamed up, think Amazon and Walmart and Target, and insisted on a maximum carbon footprint per product — think of the impact that would make.)

For details on the impact that can be made today, you should download the new Ecovadis Network Impact Report, 3rd Ed. which points out that Industry-level collaboration is one of the best levers available to companies looking to build more sustainable value chains and scale their positive impact. EcoVadis Sector Initiatives (SIs) are a highly effective vehicle for this. Six initiatives spanning a diverse range of sectors — from chemical manufacturing to health — are using the EcoVadis solution to share best practices and collectively address sector-specific challenges across their often highly interconnected supply chains. Our data shows that participation in an SI helps buyers improve their supplier engagement and enables rated companies to improve faster than their network peers.

More specifically, companies engaged in a Sector Initiative outperform the [Ecovadis] network average by 5.3 points — not only do companies that try to better than those that don’t, but companies that work with peers on the right objectives do better still.

But this is only one reason you should read the latest Ecovadis Network Impact Report, 3rd Ed.. Another reason is because, if you don’t, you won’t see how Ecovadis, which in 2022 officially became a “purpose-driven” company under French Law, has continued to grow at a rapid rate and how it is starting to make a global impact. When your customers represent 4.8 Trillion in global spend, you are starting to get somewhere. That’s 4.5% of GDP, and if Ecovadis could grow 30% year-over-year for nine years, that 4.5% could become 49%, close to the tipping point where we’d finally start making significant progress. (Which means if we can survive until 2032, we could start making real progress on sustainability and environmental stabilization. Not as fast as we need to, as parts of the planet will literally start burning by then, but Ecovadis and its peers may still save some of us.)

And, even if you don’t think Ecovadis is the answer for you (even though 945 organizations do and the number increases every year), the report will still educate you on the five key pillars of a sustainable procurement platform. And once you understand those pillars, you can assess, monitor, improve, report, and continue the wheel.

Sustainability is Getting the Buzz …

… but will it get the buck?

By now it’s very unlikely that you haven’t heard the recent news about Ecovadis getting a 200 Million investment to spread its sustainability ratings to a larger audience … both directly and indirectly through its ever-expanding partner network.

And while it may be the case that momentum towards a more environmentally and societally focused economy has been building for years, that doesn’t mean that it’s here. It doesn’t mean that an organization will put their money where their data is and actually choose the most sustainable supplier for the award.

After all, the last few surveys that have been done asking buyers how much more sustainability is worth to them in real dollar terms have continued to demonstrate that while buyers want ethical and sustainable companies and products, they aren’t willing to pay much more for them. A few percentage points, tops.

And with inflationary times back, this means that companies are still under pressure to keep costs down to sell in addition to keeping profits high to keep the shareholders happy. This leaves little room for a move to a costlier supplier, even if that supplier is much more sustainable.

After all, unless the organization is willing to stand up to its investors and take a profit hit in the short term to embrace a new sustainability agenda (which WILL pay off in the long term as lack of non-sustainable resources causes everything to go up in price), all that is going to happen is that the buying organization is going to use the sustainability data to choose the lesser of two or three evils, not the most sustainable organization that will generate the greatest benefits over time.

And despite the hopefulness of companies like EcoVadis, and their investors, the doctor doesn’t think that tipping point has been reached yet, or that we are even close. However, the need to look like you’re doing good is growing, and making statements about the use of independent data on sustainability and ethics helps you look good (for now, anyway), so it is a good time to be one of the few, big, global players so the doctor does project continue growth for Ecovadis, even if the companies that subscribe to the data aren’t using it the way that they should.

Another Decade Has Passed. How Are You Doing on the 10 Rs?

Ten years ago (yes, this blog has been around for a long time, especially in internet years), we picked up on a great article by SupplyChainBrain on Ten Steps to Green Packaging in the CPG Industry which was a great article not just because it demonstrated just how many ways there were to make packaging green, but because it gave us so many ideas on how to make our entire supply chain green.

In brief, the ten steps were:

  1. Replenish
    Purchase raw materials from suppliers who employ sustainable resource management practices.
  2. Re-use (Re-explore)
    Use recyclable material.
  3. Reduce
    Use ergonomic design and optimization to minimize the use, and size, of packaging material.
  4. Replace
    Replace hazardous and harmful substances with eco-friendly materials.
  5. Reconsider
    Use renewable materials whenever possible.
  6. Review
    Inspect, monitor, and control waste in the packaging process.
  7. Recall
    Immediately recall harmful packaging and put processes in place end harmful packaging.
  8. Redeem
    Collaborate with retailers and collect reusable and recyclable packaging materials.
  9. Reinforce
    Set up a Centre of Excellence (COE) to disseminate environmental best practices.
  10. Register
    Sign up for a carbon reduction commitment initiative and follow-through.

And they are globally applicable.

  1. Replenish
    Regardless of what you are buying, you want a supplier who is focussed on sustainability.
  2. Re-use (Re-explore)
    Modern science has advanced us to a point where most materials are reusable and recoverable. You should be working to get to 90% re-used/recycled/replenished content within a decade.
  3. Reduce
    Modern structural analytic techniques (especially with the low-cost availability of high-powered computing, low-power cores, and the ability to host data centers in naturally cooled environments) allow for the usage of much less material than before, without compromising any structural integrity
  4. Replace
    There is no need for hazardous materials in the majority of products on the market today. Science has delivered us alternatives.
  5. Reconsider
    Non-renewable materials are becoming limited. It’s not just a cost or green consideration anymore, it’s becoming a necessity.
  6. Review
    Waste should be minimized inside your organization and eliminated in your supply chain. Waste to you can be raw material to someone else. Food stuffs don’t meet your level of quality for human consumption? Might more than surpass the level of quality for animal consumption and, if not, there’s always bio-mass energy production. Metal scraps? Straight to smelting and recycling. And so on. Your waste can always be someone else’s inputs if you are smart about your process.
  7. Recall
    Whatever you are creating should be benefiting the consumer, not harming them. If you screw up, recall the product, immediately fix or recycle it, and improve your processes so it doesn’t happen again. (Don’t reprimand the workers, but fire the pointy haired idiot who requested it or was responsible for guiding the workers. And yes, SI still disdains the average Master of Bullshit Administration.)
  8. Redeem
    Make all of your packaging reusable and get it back. (Considering how many empty miles exist in the trucking industry, this is not a big deal or big cost if properly planned. Coupa Sourcing Optimization and Jaggaer One Advanced Sourcing Optimization in particular have models customized for transportation and reverse transportation. USE THEM!)
  9. Reinforce
    … and mandate! Set up the COE, make an executive mandate that policies must be followed, and green your operation.
  10. Register
    Make a public commitment to carbon reduction, waste reduction, and energy usage reduction, measure annually, publicly report, and follow-through. (And don’t just buy carbon credits or carbon offsets. Don’t make your problem someone else’s.)

Sustainability isn’t hard anymore … and the organizations that start now will be the ones that will be around in the decades ahead.

CSR, Procurement and North America: Creating a Market

In our previous article, we asked if you could solve the modern compliance challenge, and, more specifically if you could do it with Ecovadis. This is because compliance has morphed over the past few years from insuring you weren’t doing any illegal trading and simply satisfying the tax man (and import/export compliance is essentially just respecting the legality of the country you are trading with and satisfying its tax man) to having to comply and deal with a lot of regulations around financial reporting and global trade to having to respect the environment (pretty much everywhere but the US, with the exception of California) to having to take corporate social responsibility for the organization’s entire supply chain and ensure there is no violation of worker’s rights, child labour, or human trafficking — or face the consequences that can not only include bad press (at internet speed) and large fines but, in some countries, criminal charges against the officers of the corporation.

We also noted that solving the compliance challenge was tough because you needed environmental data, sustainability data, social compliance data, and even third party audits on your suppliers, and sources of this data (outside of internal surveys that were unverifiable without site audits) were few and far between. The few players with even remotely recognizable names that exist are in Europe, and Ecovadis is the largest. As a result, it likely has the best shot at championing a market in North America, especially with its increasing partner footprint, supplier database (with over 55K assessed companies), and global reach (as they cover suppliers across 155 countries).

But Ecovadis is not a household brand in North America. To become one, it really must drive material commercial traction outside of the EU and, most important, prove that the market for CSR ratings and compliance in North America is as central to supplier management as other supplier management initiatives (e.g., risk, EHS, etc.) to truly “go global”.

The case for an Ecovadis model is sound. Most major procurement departments at US F500s and larger mid-size companies are still focussed on cost-cutting. And using Ecovadis to get the sustainability data the organization needs is roughly 20% of the cost of trying to do it in house.


  • Organizations that are embarking upon more strategic category management want deep supplier information before selecting potential strategic suppliers and the response rate to Ecovadis-initiated assessments is 90%
  • The average organization will struggle with a 70% response rate in such initiatives, especially when you consider the average supplier turn-over (as identified in a recent QIMA survey) is 27%
  • Once a supplier is in the Ecovadis network, the chances that their overall CSR rating will improve on their next (annual) assessment is 64%
  • For an average company, unless they initiate a supplier development program and work with the supplier, the chances the supplier will otherwise improve on their own is, as we all know, closer to 6.4% than 64%

Less money. Better results. You’d think it would be an instant buy, but it’s not. So why. Is it because it’s European?

Not necessarily — Jaggaer One+ and Jaggaer One Direct from Jaggaer, which is one of the S2P juggernauts, has good NA penetration, and those solutions (formerly BravoSolution and Pool4Tool) are European.

So that’s not it.

Is it because the space is new or unproven? Can’t be. Ecovadis has been around for 12 years and Sedex Global for 18. Plus, there are a number of other players in the space. Is it because the solution is not user friendly? No — it’s delivered via a simple SaaS platform and they even have public quotes from F500s to that effect. So what’s the problem?

North American companies.

First of all, with apologies to Spike Lee, many will “only do the right thing” when they are forced, and then only to the extent necessary (although this may be changing).

Second, they’d rather profit today than save tomorrow (even if the long term savings would be multiples of the short term profit gains). This means that for them to invest in a solution, they want to see a large, immediate, sometimes unreasonable ROI.

Third, they tend to only act when they’re scared (e.g., losing budget if they have extra).

This means that, unless something changes, for Ecovadis to create a true market in North America with a similar reasonable TAM for say, the compliance management side of supplier / contractor management, it will need to lead with evangelism and, perhaps, more.

All things are possible. But as Vincent Ngo speculated decades ago, it takes a superhero to change the mind of the corporate culture. Can Ecovadis be that superhero?

For the sake of procurement and a better world, we hope that they’ll do it — or someone else.

For more information on Ecovadis, check out Spend Matters’ recent post on Catching Up on a Provider to Know (which also includes links to a deep 3-Part Vendor snap-shot co-written by the doctor and the maverick).