How Much Does A Supplier Sustainability Monitoring Program Cost? Make vs Buy Analysis


When investigating or preparing to launch a sustainable procurement initiative in your company to monitor supplier sustainability and CSR practices, risks and performance, a couple key questions you face include: “How much will it cost?” and “What can I do internally, and what should I outsource?” We gathered guidelines and comparisons here, based on more than a decade of working with over 450 global procurement teams from every industry, to help provide some insight on the real costs and challenges of "do-it-yourself" (DIY) programs, and a comparison of the tradeoffs vs using EcoVadis' established supplier sustainability ratings platform.

Step 1: Defining Cost Elements For A Supplier Sustainability Monitoring Program

Before jumping into a calculation, let's define the scope of the program, and break it down into components. Here are the starting steps, based on our experience with 450 procurement organizations’ sustainable procurement programs:

1. Risk Analysis of Supplier Profiles: 

Since most procurement teams in large multinational companies have tens of thousands of suppliers, it is neither practical nor useful to assess all of them at once. Instead, most organizations start by classifying supplier risk profiles based on three basic criteria: category, size and country.

  • In-house staff-time measured typically in minutes per supplier

2. Research Sustainability Risks per Sector: 

In order to properly classify supplier risk, each sector must be rated for risk. This research typically includes a regulatory watch, best practices identification and review, defining KPI’s and scoring model:

  • In-house staff-time measured typically in staff-days per sector

3. Research Sustainability Risks per Country: 

Similar to sector risks, geographic location can be a very important indicator for risk of a supplier. This research includes researching and and reviewing country-related risks and defining scoring model:

  • In-house staff-time measured typically in staff-days per sector

4. Supplier Outreach and Sustainability Assessment Questionnaires: 

The backbone of a supplier rating program is the sustainability questionnaire, which collects documents and proofs of their sustainability practices and performance. This step involves creating the survey mechanism (online, spreadsheet, etc.), deploying the survey (e.g., email campaign), and follow up with suppliers (emails, phone calls) to maximize response rate.

  • Estimated In-house staff-time is typically in hours per supplier;

  • + additional time/staff/cost for translation to support documents to/from local supplier languages

5. Data verification and document audit: Collect and audit documents. 

This step is perhaps the most important, and requires staff with an educational background in a sustainability-related field such as masters of Environmental Engineering, Environmental management, Environmental studies, or related field such as Chemical Engineering or similar. The task is to examine the documents and provide an opinion on their completeness and relevance across all domains environmental, labor/human rights, ethics, and sustainability management of their own suppliers. For example: company policies; 3rd party certifications such as ISO 14001; site audit reports; Sustainability reporting; GHG emissions, energy use data and KPIs; external accreditations; etc.

  • In-house staff-time is typically estimated in hours per supplier assessment;

  • + additional time/staff/cost for translation to support documents in local supplier languages

6. Monitoring / “360° Watch”: 

In addition to collecting data from suppliers, the reliability and depth of the evaluation is significantly enhanced by validating with external/diversified sources. This step involves research of Sustainability information/incidents on suppliers provided by stakeholders (NGO’s, Trade Unions, etc.)

  • In-house staff-time typically measured in minutes per supplier per week;

7. Supplier Debriefing: 

Once a supplier has completed and submitted a survey questionnaire, related documents, and you have analyzed their performance, they will want feedback on the outcome. In this step, the sustainable procurement team prepares a summary of their results/performance, ideally with a compared to an industry benchmark, and then conducts the debriefing with each supplier.

  • In-house staff-time measured in in hours per supplier;

Step 2: Calculating your costs

With the set of cost elements and parameters defined, the next step in estimating the cost of your program is to assemble these inputs into a table, and plug in the number of suppliers you want to evaluate to determine your cost. A spreadsheet model is the easiest way to do this. Here's an example:

Make vs buy cost calculation supplier sustainability assessment

The rows you list the cost elements described in part 1. Columns contain estimated costs per unit for each, based on best practice examples.  The “Variables” Columns contain the variables you enter, depending on how many total suppliers you have, and how many you end up evaluating. This process assumes you perform a risk analysis first to help select suppliers. You can see an example formula to calculate the cost in Staff days.

EcoVadis provides a customized evaluation of your company’s supplier Sustainability monitoring system, and which includes a detailed Cost Calculator Spreadsheet, similar to this one.

Step 3: Comparing to a full-service outsourced program such as EcoVadis

A comparison of approaches should encompass both the direct cost differences, as well as the qualitative value comparison - for all stakeholders including Buyers and Suppliers: 



Dedicated Platform

Internal “DIY” programs 


Subscription supply chain sustainability platform, providing globally recognized ratings for suppliers, actionable scorecards with verified information, mutualized sharing

Buyer organization designs and deploys its own questionnaires; Send them to our suppliers ; Analyse the answers and audit specific documents. Establish proprietary Scoring Model, etc.

Value for our Suppliers


(Globally recognized; mutual sharing; feedback to improve)

Additional Workload

(risk of low response rate)

Value for our Buyers


(leverage resources on more strategic aspects of relationship, improvements)


(High administrative burden, low engagment)

External stakeholder 


(Robust methodology, with data validation)

Low or undefined credibility


∿priced based on size (turnover/spend)

∿10x the cost

Each company will have a unique set of issues and scope. If you want to receive a free consultation and cost calculation customized to the sustainable procurement needs in your organization, or have any questions or more data you can share on the costs of Supplier Assessment and monitoring, please contact us!

Click here to contact us or request a free consultation →

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