Compliance used to be easy. Collect the tax information. Make sure the other party is not on a denied party list. Don’t buy or sell a restricted material without the right permits and don’t buy or sell a banned substance. Done.
But then came globalization. Now you had to collect information for import / export requirements. Satisfy a new slew of tax regulations. Comply with additional inspection and security requirements. Track all of the restricted substances, denied materials, and denied parties of another country. And then as supply chains lengthened and ships made multiple port stops, multiply these requirements.
And that was manageable, but then came a new round of financial regulations, like SOX, in the wake of corporate meltdowns (like Enron) which made compliance more cumbersome. And that was somewhat doable. But with the global penetration of the internet, news spread faster and faster and the unsafe and sometimes inhumane working conditions that outsourced providers were comfortable with made the news regularly, the dangers of poor “recycling” efforts which just saw almost toxic waste dumped on mass to ill-equipped “recycling” centers, and the use of slave/child labour where it was not known before.
As a result, ethical countries started implementing laws on environmental protection, dangerous substances, especially around recycling and disposal, ethical and safe working conditions in the supply chain, and even anti-trafficking and anti-slavery laws — all of which the last link in the chain, the end buying organization, was responsible for.
This makes compliance a bit more tricky. There’s lots of data on financial performance and financial risk, certifications, import/export, and even public sector performance data, but when it comes to corporate social responsibility — environmental compliance, worker’s rights, anti-trafficking, and so on – where do you get that data. Not D&B. Not BvD.
This is where a new generation CSR player comes into play – one that tracks environmental data, sustainability data, social compliance data, and third party audits. But there aren’t many players here yet, and Ecovadis is the largest. But will they be able to take their European success and globalize? While there are a few other players in Europe (Sedex Global, FLO-CERT, e-Atestations, etc.), there are few, if any in North America.
Ecovadis likely has the best shot, especially with their ever-increasing partner footprint, but they need to be the first to scale and win over the hearts (and wallets) of global procurement organizations, especially those in North America, which generally are not as advanced around CSR tracking compared with their European counterparts. The road ahead will be interesting to watch.