This article has been written in collaboration with Yesim Tirpan, Sustainability Analyst, and Pamela Lam, Sustainability Consultant, at Nexio Projects.
EcoVadis is a leading provider of sustainability ratings and assessments for companies and their supply chains. Additionally, EcoVadis provides supplier intelligence solutions.
Businesses can utilise the platform for sustainability assessment and obtain an internationally recognized and trusted EcoVadis sustainability rating. The EcoVadis platform can also be used for supplier evaluation, supply chain monitoring, collaboration, reporting, risk management, and compliance.
Over 100,000 companies worldwide use EcoVadis to evaluate and control sustainability practices in their supply chain.
EcoVadis medals recognise companies that have completed the EcoVadis assessment process. Also, companies with a high EcoVadis score have demonstrated a relatively strong management system that addresses sustainability criteria, as outlined in the EcoVadis methodology.
The ratings are based on four core pillars of sustainability:
- Labour & Human Rights;
- Sustainable Procurement.
Companies are rated on these four core pillars. Each pillar is divided into specific parts within a sustainability management system, policies, measures, procedures, and reporting. So really the companies that participate in the EcoVadis assessment receive a very detailed evaluation of their sustainability performance.
The scoring scale serves as a standardised framework that assesses and measures the sustainability performance of companies. The scoring scale goes from a range of 0 to 100, with obviously a higher score indicating a better sustainability performance. So, a score of 0-25 for example represents a company with a low level of sustainability performance. On the other hand, a score of 86-100 indicates a top-performing company with outstanding sustainability performance.
There are 4 levels of EcoVadis medals: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
To learn more about the EcoVadis assessment we interviewed Yeşim Tırpan, Sustainability Analyst, and Pamela Lam, Sustainability Consultant, at Nexio Projects. They are both certified EcoVadis consultants and offer 5 key tips and insights to help you improve your own EcoVadis score.
01. Inspire Your Strategy
Q. How can a company improve their EcoVadis score by using EcoVadis to inspire its strategy?
So, what we mean by that is EcoVadis is a sustainability management assessment tool. So, you should already have a management system in place before using EcoVadis. Then you can use EcoVadis to assess how effective the existing system is. What are the gaps? What are your strengths?
Many companies, who are introduced to sustainability through EcoVadis, perceive it as the finished product of their sustainability management system.
We try to encourage companies who started using EcoVadis for compliance purposes, for example through a client or supplier, to look beyond this assessment. Ideally, they build it up into a wider management system themselves.
They can use this assessment for ideas on how to do that and improve their management system in the future. But it should never make up their whole system by itself, that is the main tip we have regarding that.
Q. So basically, EcoVadis provides inspiration to create something bigger?
Exactly. It's like receiving an exam grade and assuming that's all you need to study for the next exam. But that’s not how it goes.
You get your results, and they will show you whereabouts you are on your journey. Then you’ve got to take those results and use them to put a plan together to improve. Use them for inspiration and direction.
Also, it gives you a clear understanding of the relevant topics for your organisation, based on the industry you're operating in. It also provides inspiration for the areas your strategy should be addressing.
02. Use the Scorecard
Q. How can a company use the scorecard to improve its EcoVadis score?
This one is very much connected with inspiring your strategy with EcoVadis.
The scorecard goes into more detail per question, compared to the EcoVadis questionnaire. For example, it explains the ratings you have received on each item.
It also provides information on the improvement areas identified. These improvement areas can be very interesting for companies. Depending on the realities of the company, they may choose to implement some improvements.
The scorecard also provides a lot of information about best practices, or procedures like due diligence and how those might work. Therefore, companies can use that information to understand how they can improve their sustainability management systems.
Also, they can use the scorecard to better understand their strengths and replicate the way they organised those strengths internally to understand how they can address their improvement areas. To find their strengths, they can review their answers to see why and how those were strengths.
You can also see how you scored under each of the particular pillars. You receive information about how you are benchmarked against other companies within the same industry. So, you can see a comparison with other companies that EcoVadis rated.
Therefore, there’s a lot of information their companies can use to improve their sustainability.
Q. Yes, plenty of information to make deep and holistic changes when it comes to sustainability, right?
Yes, there is, we want to emphasise that it’s so important to use the scorecards well in advance. Often, clients come to us just before a reassessment and ask us how to make changes or improvements. However, it is just too late at that stage.
Companies need to start right away once they receive their scorecard. They should use it to inform and direct new updates to their procedures.
Updating formal procedures usually requires management approval. Hence, a lot of stakeholder involvement, etc. and all this takes time. So, companies should act fast to make an action plan for changes as soon as they receive their scorecard. This is something we can't emphasize enough.
03. Anticipate the Trends
Q. In terms of anticipating the trends, how can a company do that to boost its EcoVadis sustainability rating?
We often see that clients want to have a competitive advantage compared to competitors in their market. And this is also the kind of information that EcoVadis provides.
It provides a comparison with other companies within the industry. There's also information about the industry's general strengths and weaknesses. So, if you want to be a leader in sustainability, then this is information you should consider. Even if you work for the company, you can use this information to convince management to implement these measures.
Q. So, is it key to address the trends once they have been identified?
Exactly. The information EcoVadis provides can help in identifying important trends in the market, which can inform and strengthen arguments for change by companies’ management. If they improve in the right areas, their EcoVadis score will definitely increase.
04. Manage Documents (Well)
Q. How can managing documents help with improving the EcoVadis score?
This is actually very important for bigger companies or those further down their sustainability journey. These companies are doing a lot of things so they must prioritize which documents they would like to attach.
EcoVadis is a document-based assessment, and you are only allowed to upload 55 new documents. Some clients struggle to cover everything, especially because the documents are spread across four different pillars. Hence, prioritizing and staying organised are crucial.
Q. So, for each new assessment organisations can upload 55 new documents. But what about the documents from previous assessments? Can you keep them within the system and reuse them, if relevant?
That's an important point to clarify. These 55 new documents do not include the ones that have already been uploaded during previous assessments.
Many companies make the mistake of not fully reading through their scorecard. Therefore, they cannot see which procedures already have high ratings and which ones need improvement. It's always better to focus on the areas that need improvement and to find documents which address these areas.
You do not have to fix anything that is not broken. For example, if you have scored 99% in an area, you do not need to update documents covering this topic. Use your 55 new documents to address areas that need improvement.
Q. For example, if you have 35 documents highlighting strengths, should you leave them all there?
Yes, absolutely, you can reuse uploaded documents as long as they are relevant and valid. Also, companies sometimes get confused about which kinds of documents they should upload. Companies will sometimes mix up the division between policies, procedures, and reports.
But the best way is to upload only relevant documents. Meaning only uploading policy documents for policy questions, procedures for procedures, and so on. Also, make sure they match and have internal awareness around that.
Therefore, document management is crucial because EcoVadis only assess you on the documents you provide. They don’t have any more context than what you give them.
05. Set Roles & Responsibilities
Q. How setting roles and responsibilities can be helpful for a smoother process?
When it comes to EcoVadis as consultants, we form the link between a company and their EcoVadis assessment. If companies want to take that on themselves, it’s important for them to be organised and set clear roles and responsibilities.
Firstly, the assessment itself can entail a lot of detailed work. For example, attaching page numbers and comments. Also, you need to have an overview of which document is used where.
And, of course, some documents cover multiple pillars. Hence, there needs to be clear oversight and accountability. Everyone involved must know the key responsibilities and who is responsible for what.
Also, it can be good to give people specific targets for sustainability or EcoVadis in particular. People show greater investment when their performance includes a specific goal. This will create more accountability towards EcoVadis and the wider sustainability strategy team.
Q. Yes, organisation and accountability are always so important - I suppose alignment too?
Yes, two other very important elements are horizontal cohesion and vertical alignment. Particularly for roles and responsibilities.
Horizontally, you’ll want to have everyone in your company across all departments working in parallel towards the same goal. And vertically, you need to have the different levels of employees on board. You need support from management, the board, and all employees to achieve your goals.
So, it shouldn’t just be one small group trying to pull everyone’s attention towards sustainability and even EcoVadis specifically. Everybody needs to be paying attention and pulling in the same direction.
Q. Beyond that, how can you specifically approach the EcoVadis assessment in terms of personnel?
There are two practical approaches for dividing roles and responsibilities.
First, you can opt to have one central team of at least two people or more working within your company. These people will have conversations with the subject matter experts and the people with knowledge about each area of the assessment. And this central team will collect this information, have it reviewed, and then submit the assessment themselves.
The other approach would actively involve the subject matter experts filling out the questionnaire themselves. Both of these methods work well, it depends mainly on whatever works best for the company doing the assessment.
I also want to emphasise that these tips around roles and responsibilities are twofold. On the one hand, improving the sustainability management system as a whole and ensuring there are clear roles and responsibilities. On the other hand, it is important to have clear roles and responsibilities for teams that are really focused on collecting data and answering the EcoVadis assessment itself. Both are key to have an improved EcoVadis score moving forward.
Your Journey With Nexio Projects
Companies willing to improve their EcoVadis score must:
- Use EcoVadis as an inspiration to create a more comprehensive sustainability management system.
- Make full use of the information provided by the EcoVadis scorecard when implementing changes within the company.
- Use EcoVadis to anticipate trends that will allow them to gain a competitive advantage within their industry.
- It is crucial to manage and organise documents well.
- Set clear roles and responsibilities within the organisation regarding the EcoVadis assessment itself and sustainability in general.
Interested to get more advice or guidance about EcoVadis and how to improve your sustainability performance, please contact us.