Practice guide

Leverage Software for an Efficient EcoVadis Response Process

Learn six ways automated systems can optimize your EcoVadis response process

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Table of Contents

Case name

Rebecca Boden
Marketing & Sustainability

In a Nutshell

  • EcoVadis sustainability assessments are crucial for companies, influencing customer relationships and often required for those with global supply chains
  • Responding to the EcoVadis questionnaire is a challenging and time-consuming annual process, but the value of the EcoVadis rating drives continued effort
  • Automation software like Sunhat addresses EcoVadis response challenges, streamlining processes and enhancing efficiency in finding, updating, and collaborating on responses

EcoVadis – a Widely Used Sustainability Assessment in Supply Chains

Year after year, many companies dedicate an extensive amount of time, money and resources to completing the EcoVadis sustainability assessment

An EcoVadis score is an important and oftentimes required indicator, influencing current and future customer relationships. Sustainability assessments, like EcoVadis, are becoming common practice for large companies who have global supply chains. Additionally, today’s technology allows immediate exchange of information between any points on the globe, leaving your customers with the expectation of fast and professional responses to sustainability-related questions.

This article will walk you through some best practices to enhance your response time to the EcoVadis questionnaire and, more importantly, how to lower the immense amount of time and energy devoted each year from your team for this task. 

The Yearly Process of Responding to The EcoVadis Questionnaire

The yearly process typically starts by communicating with colleagues, ideally a few months in advance, to make sure your company documents will be ready, up to date, include new sustainability metrics, and follow all EcoVadis guidelines. After downloading the several-dozen page questionnaire, you begin parceling through question by question, emailing back and forth with your colleagues until it’s completed. 

Needless to say, the process to respond to the EcoVadis questionnaire is challenging, lengthy and time-consuming

Knowing the value and relevance which comes with an EcoVadis rating is incentive enough to continue putting effort toward its completion each year. With transparency and a commitment to sustainability-focused improvements, your business will be more competitive in the market. 

The best way to expedite the EcoVadis questionnaire is to leverage software to establish efficient processes for responding.

How Automation Software Can Help Overcome EcoVadis Challenges 

Even as a company with past experience, completing the annual EcoVadis questionnaire often remains a challenge year after year. Some of the obstacles that automation software can help you overcome include:

  1. Finding and Updating Past Answers
  2. Collaborating and Delegating Workload
  3. Mapping and Maintaining Documentation
  4. Adhering to Document Requirements
  5. Storing Up-to-Date Documentation
  6. Preventing Response Uncertainty

In this section, we will address each of these challenges and share best practices for optimizing the EcoVadis response process with automated software.

An overview of 6 best practices to optimize your EcoVadis response process with Sunhat

Finding and Updating Past Answers 

Challenge: The EcoVadis platform does not remember or store all your answers to questions from previous years. Nor do internal systems usually save the answers to similar questions from all the sustainability questionnaires you answer during the year. As a result, you have to start from scratch for many questions every time, making it difficult to remember or find the exact answers from past questionnaires which could oftentimes be reused after easily updating the content and values.  

Best practice: Establish a system which structures and keeps all your answers from previous questionnaires and continuously updates with each newly incoming question. By saving past answers, allowing for easy searching, and suggesting answers from existing data, Sunhat's software can be a true game changer for your productivity. Based on your past answers you can decide whether you’d like to use the response again or you’d like to improve and update it in a future response. 

If you answer EcoVadis for the first time: 

Because EcoVadis questions are usually structured by policies, actions and key performance indicators (KPIs), stick to this structure when preparing your answers:

  1. Policy: Formalized, regularly reviewed statement containing qualitative and/or quantitative objectives reflecting commitments for sustainability, ranging from responsibilities to definitions of actions to comply.
  2. Action: Measure or task that needs to be performed and controlled to fulfill the policy. They must also be regularly reviewed and describe how they mitigates risk.
  3. Key performance indicators (KPIs): KPIs are the outcomes or results from actions you can report on by providing respective evidence. 
Sunhat's embedded templates guide you and help you reveal potential gaps linked to a specific area. Focus at first on the areas where you need to collect evidence data from your colleagues or business partners, as this will take the longest and require follow-ups. 

Based on this structure, create a checklist of necessary answers and documentation that will be used as evidence, with the following questions in mind:

  • What answers and documented evidence can I provide right away? 
  • What actions are already in place, but are not yet documented?
  • Where do I need to ask my colleagues or business partners to provide answers and/or evidence?
  • What evidence needs to be updated? 
  • What evidence needs to be approved by an executive in your company or an independent third party? 
  • Are all the documents formatted correctly? Do they show my company logo, the date of implementation and last revision, as well as a signature from management?

Collaborating and Delegating Workload

Challenge: While multiple colleagues can work within the EcoVadis platform, internal communication while collecting and preparing the answers to complete the questionnaire remains still a challenge and is arguably more important. The preparation process is often done by creating internally-shared excel spreadsheets, working on them together, then transferring the final product back into the EcoVadis platform. With so many steps just to prepare your responses, this process is as laborious as it sounds. Additionally, it can be difficult to clearly establish how to divide up the work and know which questions have already been completed. 

Best practice: Here are some ways you can manage and govern tasks around the collection of evidence data in Sunhat:

  • Assign entire questions and responsibilities via the system to others and keep them accountable for delivering the requested answers and evidence 
  • Use comments to clearly communicate goals and expectations with reference to each questions to your collaborators
  • Structure the overall workload to maintain an overview on tasks to tackle
  • Set timelines for the collection and/or maintenance of answers and evidence
  • Automatically send out reminders and follow-ups on a regular basis

With a seamless system and workspace for collaboration, and thus less waiting time between communication exchanges, you can get started straight away and complete your EcoVadis questionnaire efficiently. Seamless communication is key to answering questions efficiently, in a standardized manner, and ensuring answers and documents adhere to EcoVadis guidelines.

Mapping and Maintaining Documentation

Challenge: It is very time consuming to figure out which document(s) should be uploaded for each question. On the one hand, the same documentation can be used as evidence for many different questions, but must still be attached and uploaded with the corresponding question each time. On the other hand, some questions might require several documents in order to fully answer the question.

Best practice: Managing entire documents in one centralized system can help you find the matching context for each question. By mapping out the right page numbers and paragraphs from the documentation based on past questions, Sunhat’s automated system takes care of these repetitive tasks for you. Rather than starting to find the right reports and paragraphs for each question every year, software can link the documents to specific questions. In addition, the system continuously reminds you to update the necessary documentation throughout the year.

Adhering to Document Requirements

Challenge: EcoVadis provides an extensive list of what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to document type. The documents must be formal company documents, updated recently with official signatures, and follow EcoVadis guidelines for size and format. It can be easy to miss one of the requirements, risking that any question using that document is left unscored.

Best practice: When creating new documents, Sunhat's software solution can provide templates to guide you in fulfilling EcoVadis document requirements. More importantly, the software helps you keep all your documentation up to date by flagging any potential incompatibilities or necessary updates. 

To follow the EcoVadis documentation guidelines, you must:

  1. Ensure that all sustainability evidence includes the company name, logo, implementation/most recent review date, and who approved it
  2. Keep in mind that evidence documents must be in effect at least three months before completing the EcoVadis questionnaire, and cannot be created for the purpose of responding to EcoVadis
  3. Know the EcoVadis documentation validity guidelines and update your evidence accordingly 
    -> General documentation (e.g. policies, procedures) is valid for 8 years
    -> KPI reporting is valid for 2 years

Note that consolidated reports like your Sustainability Report allow you to obtain high scores, whereas submitting combined documents that consist of various sub-documents is not acceptable. According to EcoVadis, the latter documents are created for the rating purpose and are thus not based on a robust sustainability management system. 

Tip: Ensure that your documents are pre-existing, well-structured and easy to access for stakeholders. In addition, documents should support the implementation of policies with procedures, action plans, or work instructions and be up-to-date. 

Storing Up-To-Date Documentation

Challenge: Without a good system for storing documentation and data, you have to devote extensive time to collecting information and finding necessary documents again. Much of the data and documentation needed for the questionnaire will come from different departments of your company like HR, management, etc. Thus, it takes a lot of time, and often many emails back and forth, to acquire updated data and documentation each year.

Best practice: Having one central place where you can store all your documentation, and is accessible to all relevant employees, eliminates the back and forth emailing between your sustainability team and other departments. This way, you always have access to any previous or new versions of documentation. Within Sunhat’s system, you can distribute responsibilities, giving everyone a dedicated focus area and the ability to make and view any edits immediately.

Preventing Response Uncertainty

Challenge: We are all only human, and with a questionnaire which can be upwards of 100 pages, it is easy to make a mistake in answering, attaching the correct documentation, or including up to date information. With no direct feedback mechanism in the EcoVadis questionnaire, you are not alerted if you submit an incompatible supporting document. This may result in not receiving any points from the expert analyzers for this question, even though the relevant evidence may have been provided elsewhere or the metric may have needed further updating.

Best practice: Incorporating Sunhat’s software allows you to implement control and approval mechanisms for each question to double check answers and corresponding evidence. With Sunhat, you can set up and track when a document has passed EcoVadis’ validity period, ensuring that you make any necessary changes and updates in a timely manner and before submitting the questionnaire. 

The Sunhat Way 🪄

Technology can take some of the work burden off your shoulders when completing the EcoVadis sustainability assessment. 

An automated system which offers suggested answers based on previous responses, maintains and updates previous responses and documents, and assigns questions and answers to internal and external collaborators to share the workload will save immense time and reduce your workload.

Sunhat provides you with such a solution. 

Manage your data, share responsibilities, map your documents and key performance indicators with Sunhat to reduce the time spent on answering the EcoVadis questionnaire.

👉 If you are interested in learning more about Sunhat, request a demo or send us a message.

Want to learn more? Get in touch with our expert team at Sunhat.

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Frequently asked questions
How long does it take to complete the EcoVadis questionnaire?

While EcoVadis suggests "a few hours to a few days," the reality is it often takes weeks or months to prepare responses. The questionnaire completion period is three weeks, with expert analysis taking 6-8 weeks, making the entire process time-consuming.

How can automation software streamline the EcoVadis response process?

Automation software, like Sunhat, addresses challenges such as finding/updating past answers, collaborating/delegating workload, mapping/maintaining documentation, adhering to document requirements, storing up-to-date documentation, and preventing response uncertainty. It streamlines the EcoVadis response process, saving time and improving efficiency.

What are the key challenges in responding to the EcoVadis questionnaire, and how can they be mitigated?

Challenges include finding/updating past answers, workload collaboration, documentation mapping/maintenance, document requirement adherence, storing up-to-date documentation, and preventing response uncertainty. Automation software, like Sunhat, provides solutions by structuring past answers, facilitating workload management, mapping documents, ensuring compliance, centralizing storage, and implementing control mechanisms for accurate responses.