Sustainability progress in sprints: using the EcoVadis framework

We’re now into our third year of using the EcoVadis framework to accelerate our progress as a sustainable business with global and local responsibilities. The framework is used by more than 100,000 businesses globally. It helps direct focus and assesses our sustainability along four dimensions: environment, labour & human rights, ethics and sustainable procurement.

With another milestone under our belt and a much improved EcoVadis score achieved last year, we sat down with Mette and Erik who are in charge of the supplier and procurement part of the EcoVadis process behind the scenes here at Norican, to talk about how the framework has helped them drive progress – much faster than you’d think possible.

Q: Erik, according to our latest score we made notable progress in 2022. How did you do it and what was involved?

Erik: Our first year of working with the framework to track our progress was all about policies, plans, and setting targets.

Last year we started implementation and ticked a big box by creating and rolling out a sustainable procurement policy. This helped improve our score a lot. But most importantly, it ensures our procurement policy aligns with our overall sustainability goals. It also means we’re applying the same standard everywhere within Norican Group. The aim is to embed sustainability into everything we do, in a meaningful way.

Q: And what’s next?

Erik: The next thing is the implementation of our supplier code of conduct. The process has already started, but it’s a continuous exercise to roll it out to all of our suppliers. The supplier code of conduct builds on the Norican Group code of conduct we formalised in the very first year of working with EcoVadis.

Mette: This is something we’ve noticed about the EcoVadis framework. Things tend to get easier as each building block is placed. It accelerates the progress you can make.

Q: What else have you found about working with a framework like this?

Mette: It provides a clear roadmap and highlights the areas where you can make the biggest difference quickly. On the things we can actually do and act on. It will transform the whole business for the better, so we have to go beyond theory. It’s important to me that we create something meaningful and make tangible changes.

Q: What does that look like for suppliers?

Erik: It means that we request our suppliers to work with the code of conduct, and commit to it by signing it, in order to ensure they meet our standards. That way everybody around the world is on the same page adhering to the same standard. This makes it all measurable too.

If you’re a supplier of ours and have obtained the ISO 19001 or other certifications, it’s likely that you are already compliant. For us, this is not an exercise in creating lots of new bureaucracy, but rather to formalise, enhance and drive consistency.

Mette: More importantly, it’s starting new conversations with our supplier base. Perhaps some suppliers were initially a little scared about it all, but we’ve been getting really positive feedback from them. My guess is, it’s because the code is born out of something that was already there in the supplier base, through years of engagement. It’s not a new way of working for Norican and our suppliers, but formalising our ways of working. It’s purpose-driven and designed to effect positive change, not as a stick to beat people with. It’s there to help us work collaboratively towards a shared goal.

We often assume, these kinds of global standards are for rich countries or are there to put poorer or emerging economies at a disadvantage. We’ve found that’s absolutely not the case. Good conduct is something that is achievable globally – and something our suppliers have embraced.

Q: What’s the benefit of the framework for our customers?

Erik: In addition to the reassurance of working with a company that is serious about living up to its values, putting these codes and processes in place makes it a lot easier to procure from us, as all of this ensures no box is left unticked. It’s a clear global standard.

Q: Mette, what’s your personal takeaway so far?

Mette: On a personal level, it’s been really interesting to see how the framework takes you from what looks like corporate buzzwords to filling those buzzwords with meaning and then bringing it all to a place where you can work with it. Where it becomes tangible and drives positive change.

Seeing how fast we’ve made progress, and how quickly we’ve learnt, has been really energizing. It’s incredibly forward-looking. We’ve seen our work change minds and foster understanding. In the news, we hear a lot about a lack of action or lack of progress when it comes to climate change. So it’s refreshing to focus on what we can do, what we can all do, to work towards a better future.