A Roadmap for Sustainability: Insights on the EcoVadis Assessment from the Founder of a Small Tech Company

October 14, 2021 EcoVadis ‏‏‎

Apynov is a French company based in Toulouse that specializes in smart home technology, including voice-activated connected devices under its “Konyks” partner brand. Its distribution network includes SFR (a leading French telecom), Orange (Europe’s third-largest telecom) and retailers like Boulanger, Leclerc, Intermarché and Monsieur Bricolage. The company is also part of the French tech initiative, which supports startup ecosystems in cities across the country. 

Apynov was interested in a large tender for a new Orange contract that required an initial CSR assessment to be carried out. The company’s founder, Olivier Medam, decided to undertake this assessment using a trusted third party appointed by Orange: EcoVadis.

The results were highly promising. Upon undergoing the EcoVadis assessment process, the seven-person company (considered a “very small enterprise” or “VSE”) with a turnover of €1 million in 2020 attained an "advanced" score for its ethical and social performance. And, with an overall score of 64 out of a possible 100, it earned a Silver medal in its very first assessment. 

"Initially perceived as a constraint and a waste of time, we clearly validate the EcoVadis assessment as a real opportunity to improve, identify the "holes" in our CSR policy and set precise objectives and KPIs".

Olivier Medam, Founder and President

"The EcoVadis assessment enables us to communicate the value of our in-depth work to large clients. In addition, it will give us access to tenders from large companies or public markets".

Thierry Leroux, Business Development 

Encouraged by this performance, the whole team is now working on a two-year progression plan and exploring opportunities to make even more progress by engaging the EcoVadis community. 

Interview with Olivier Medam, Founder of Apynov  

1) What are your thoughts on the practice of buyers asking for a CSR assessment as a prerequisite for collaboration, particularly for a small company?

As a very small company – even though we’ve embedded sustainability principles throughout our business activities – being evaluated by EcoVadis was not part of our plans for 2020.

At the request of our large customers, we sometimes have to answer questions on child labor, recycling, reparability, etc. However, what convinced me about Orange's approach was the fact that there was no apparent minimum threshold to be reached in this CSR evaluation in order to position ourselves in the call for tenders. 

“So, we finally played the assessment game and discovered its scope by doing so. We were fortunate to have taken the time to understand the spirit of the evaluation and what was being asked of us. After initially feeling that the process may be too formal for our very small company, we discovered that – by simply respecting French social and ethical laws – our existing procedures, actions and training already position us well ahead of many other companies in our sector.”

The principle of evidence-based assessment required us to formalize internal rules that were already embedded in our company culture but not written down (as is common among VSEs). This will not only be useful for onboarding new employees but also in helping us develop a more robust CSR management system in the long term. We were also required to set clear objectives and KPIs as part of a roadmap for progress. 

We were pleasantly surprised by the score we ultimately earned – especially as we had no idea what to expect when the process began. We have since entered into a three-year contract with EcoVadis that will give us more time to showcase what we have already done as a company and what we want to do over time. The EcoVadis assessment will serve as an important milestone for the team over the next three years.  

2) Can you give us an example of an environmental initiative you’ve launched within Apynov? 

Without hesitation, the plastic challenge! As early as 2018, we identified a key area for improvement: reducing the proportion of non-recyclable materials, particularly plastic, in our products. 

Over 2019 and 2020, we implemented a plan to make our packaging more sustainable. This included: 

  • Eliminating all mineral ink-based packaging printing and switching to vegetable-based ink;
  • Progressively eliminating plastic elements in packaging (hanger pins, blister packs, packaging bags) and replacing plastic hangers with cardboard hangers;
  • Eliminating non-recyclable packaging bags.

All Konyks production since the end of 2020 meet the "zero plastic" criterion on and in the product packaging. The challenge for 2021 and 2022 is even more ambitious: 

  • Introduce packaging comprised of cellulose fibers from FSC-certified sources, with an aim to make this 80% of packaging by 2022;
  • Introduce a target share of recycled plastic in the design of new products: 30% of new products will have to have a proportion of 50% recycled plastic (as a minimum target).

3) As a founder of a small company, what advice would you give to someone invited to evaluate their company on the EcoVadis platform?

This was one of the reasons I wanted to share our story. A CSR assessment can be useful even for a VSE – and at a very reasonable cost.

With products marketed to an increasingly environmentally conscious general public, having an external measure based on evidence protects our VSE and our brand from potential "greenwashing” risks.

The advantage of a very small company is obviously its size: It is much easier to define guidelines and act quickly on CSR issues, and the responsiveness of the team is an undeniable asset. If this manager is convinced, then it is easy to get a small team on board. 

“Above all, being listed on the EcoVadis platform is a great potential for us to develop internationally in our sector. We are now going to test this, for example, by sharing our evaluation sheet with potential clients and prospects in the EcoVadis network. Although we are not yet sure how the EcoVadis assessment might help us develop internationally, exploring this is certainly one of our main objectives for 2021.”

For us, this first evaluation is just beginning. We have not yet taken the time to look at it in great detail and go through it point by point, but we certainly will. What is also certain is that we will use the assessment to guide our CSR progress, as it gives us a fairly precise framework and challenges us on certain subjects such as responsible purchasing. Now that we have achieved a Silver medal, let’s reach for the gold!

Despite our very small size, our main suppliers are based in China. In the consumer electronics market, relocation is not currently a viable option because the whole ecosystem – manufacturers of raw materials, components, etc. – is based overseas. Nevertheless, we remain alert to the importance of these elements in the end customer's price premium. While we can keep relocation in mind, I am more interested in seeing how Apynov can tap into the EcoVadis network of 75,000 evaluated companies. Why not, for example, identify partners in China already assessed by EcoVadis? I have been working in China for 25 years, and the social and environmental progress its factories have made over the last 10 years is undeniable. 

Thank you to Olivier Medam for sharing his insight.

Link to the original French original article: 

Evaluation RSE : retour d’expérience d'un dirigeant d’une TPE française évaluée pour la première fois

 

 

About the Author

EcoVadis ‏‏‎

EcoVadis is the world’s most trusted provider of business sustainability ratings, intelligence and collaborative performance improvement tools for global supply chains. Backed by a powerful technology platform and a global team of domain experts, EcoVadis’ easy-to-use and actionable sustainability scorecards provide detailed insight into environmental, social and ethical risks across 200+ purchasing categories and 160+ countries.

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