How Product Transparency Keeps Conscious Shoppers Engaged

As sustainability correlates with innovation, companies turn to cloud technologies to connect with customers beyond the point of purchase.

By Tim Ryan

By Tim Ryan August 27 2019

The convenience of finding the best price online has many people wondering about the real or hidden costs involved, and it’s driving them to desire more information from companies. To meet that growing need, companies share more product details, including “making of” stories or sustainability supply chain explanations. Cloud computing is helping some businesses turn sustainability efforts into customer engagement that brings business value.

Outdoor clothing and gear maker Patagonia is on a mission to build the best product without doing unnecessary harm to the planet. Their Footprint Chronicles storytelling platform provides a look inside the company’s supply chain and efforts to eliminate real or potential harm. The company is even developing an app that allows workers in its supplier factories to capture real-time video and images of work conditions, both positive and negative, and upload those first-hand visuals to the cloud so the public can see.

Building a Program for Sharing Transparency 

In the same way that Patagonia makes sustainability part of its mission and product persona, other companies are carrying out similar campaigns. Some turn to EcoVadis, which gives companies and suppliers a corporate social responsibility (CSR) analysis scorecard. EcoVadis focuses on environment, fair labor and human rights, and ethics and sustainable procurement, using a standard methodology agreed upon by the UN. 

Most companies want to do good in the world, but the sheer task of it is daunting, according to Lucas Lopez, Product Marketing Manager at EcoVadis. 

Lopez said running a sustainable procurement program can be difficult for companies. Efforts to be more transparent can get expensive.

“Understanding the regional differences for suppliers, organizing it and then having a system to manage it all is near impossible for most companies to handle in-house,” he said. 

“The companies we work with see the value in doing good, but then reality quickly sets in. For example, customers start asking you to prove your claims, or to verify the assessment of the supplier to make sure it’s up-to-date and accurate. It all becomes time-consuming and costly, fast.“

“Brand risk is and always will be a primary driver of these types of initiatives, but increasingly business value and innovation are the key selling points,” he said. 

“We’ve all heard the terrible stories affecting brand value overnight and it will forever be a major driver for sustainable procurement,” said Lopez. “Brand risk is just part of the story; sustainability is now being correlated with innovation as a critical lever driving business value.” 

“The companies we work with see the value in doing good, but then reality quickly sets in. For example, customers start asking you to prove your claims, or to verify the assessment of the supplier to make sure it’s up-to-date and accurate. It all becomes time-consuming and costly, fast.“

Lucas Lopez

Sustainability Brings Business Value

Lopez said even EcoVadis turned to cloud computing to speed up how it delivers its supplier assessments. 

“It takes months to publish a scorecard,” he said. “Our EcoVadis IQ is an AI-powered system powered by the cloud that crawls through 12 years of EcoVadis assessment data about countries and purchasing categories. It understands the inherent risks of all suppliers. Businesses will simply be able to input a given supplier, estimate their risk and score.”

He said EcoVadis expanded beyond searching its proprietary databases to include all relevant information available online. 

“EcoVadis performs what we term 360 degree research,” he said. “Our AI does a deep streaming search of topical information in the public domain, including news, trade union documentation, and human rights reports. It provides a neutral, unbiased peak into the countries, companies and suppliers.”

Businesses can then access this assessment data to make decisions regarding their suppliers. EcoVadis awards businesses who make sustainable choices across their supply chain with a badge of approval. For example, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries received an EcoVadis Silver for overall sustainability.
Not only do these badges help support B2C and B2C communication strategies, soon they can be integrated into the multiple platforms and channels where business decisions are being made.

“To take the value of these ratings to the next level, we’re working on ways to integrate them into financial products and marketplaces like Amazon,” said Lopez. “As sustainability becomes more of a requirement, the scores we’re providing could become the de facto metric that the world uses.”  

EcoVadis automates responses to questions around environmental stewardship, sustainability of manufacturing, or whether supply chains are clear of suspicion of illegal or unethical practices. Companies no longer have to directly answer to these requests, which alleviates cost and complexity. Cloud computing helps power this automated service. 

“To take the value of these ratings to the next level, we’re working on ways to integrate them into financial products and marketplaces like Amazon,” ... “As sustainability becomes more of a requirement, the scores we’re providing could become the de facto metric that the world uses.”

Lucas Lopez

Lopez said that once these assessments are in place, companies have a solid foundation from which to plan their most ambitious long-term sustainability goals. He said it’s not uncommon for EcoVadis to work with large enterprise, and set up assessment strategies and risk mapping that provide guardrails and guidance to their big picture business strategies. 

Tire-manufacturer Bridgestone’s procurement policy states that the company will use 100% sustainable materials by 2050. Bridestone is using EcoVadis’ assessments to address immediate concerns in its supply chain, as well as to expand on its strategy for best practices in sustainability and transparency over the longer term. 

Like many other companies, Bridgestone is working towards a 2050 business landscape that will look drastically different from today. Sustainability won’t be a nice-to-have feature. Lopez said consumers will increasingly have the ability, means and information to learn more about products and services. Businesses will need to be sustainable and transparent about these efforts. They’ll need to see these as a means for building business value, which means they will require technologies that connect with customers and integrate with business operations. 

Tim Ryan is a contributing writer. 

© 2019 Nutanix, Inc. All rights reserved.  For additional legal information, please go here.

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