This fall, ILN members will have the good fortune to participate in a webinar with Pamela Cone, founder and CEO of Amity Advisory. Pam is speaking on the global movement behind corporate social responsibility and sustainability for law firms, and why firms should care, and in advance of that, I’ll be sharing some guest posts with you that may aid in your own efforts. Here is the third and final post in our series.

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How does your social impact program rate? Globally, firms are finding that prospects and clients, as well as employees and recruits expect them to take their corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability programs to a new level. These stakeholders expect you to show that you have a holistic, strategic social impact plan with measurable results.

Many of your clients are likely using third-party certification, audits, or other ratings to assess their vendors’ CSR and sustainability practices. Measuring up to certain standards and certifications can differentiate you in the industry and may determine whether you retain or gain new business opportunities. And it’s one more piece of your overall strategy to shape your business and its brand as a conduit for social good.

If you have not yet received a request for a certification audit from one or more of your clients, most likely using a service called “EcoVadis”, you soon will. Here’s what you need to know:

EcoVadis—A global assessment platform

EcoVadis is a global CSR and sustainability assessment platform based in Paris, France. Founded in 2007, it offers services for both buyers and suppliers, including software tools and platforms that provide CSR ratings and scorecards covering 21 CSR indicators, 190 commodities, and 150 countries. It’s built on three pillars: people, process, and platform.

Seven key principles: EcoVadis uses a CSR scorecard to assess how well a company or firm has integrated its CSR and sustainability practices into its business strategy and management decisions. This assessment is based on seven key principles:

  1. Evidence based
  2. Industry sector, country and size
  3. Diversification of sources to ensure rich enough stakeholder input for reliable scoring
  4. Technology—applied to ensure the process is secure, confidential, and to accelerate the cycle of measurement.
  5. Assessment by international CSR experts
  6. Traceability and transparency of documentation
  7. Excellence through continuous improvement

EcoVadis CSR audits or assessments include:

  • Custom questionnaire and supporting documents.
  • Document analysis.
  • 360 Watch. The EcoVadis 360° Watch selects stakeholder information from legitimate and transparent sources verified by EcoVadis.
  • Scoring. A score from 0 to 100 is allocated to each theme with feedback on strengths and highlighted areas for improvement.
  • Validation and publication. Senior analysts verify that firms have followed methodology guidelines, and the scorecard is published on the EcoVadis platform.

CSR issues and global standards. The EcoVadis assessment considers a range of CSR issues, which are grouped into four themes: environment, labor practices & human rights, fair business practices, and sustainable procurement.

The CSR issues are based upon international standards such as the 10 Principles of the UN Global Compact, the International Labour Organization conventions, the Global Reporting Initiative’s standards, the ISO 26000 standard, the CERES Roadmap, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights— also known as the Ruggie Framework.The issues covered in each assessment are based on the relevance of the 21 CSR issues to the company context, such as industry, size, and geography and shape the client questionnaire.

Resulting scorecard and benchmarks. Companies can engage EcoVadis to audit and assess their selected supply chain vendors, and/or they can participate in an assessment in order to obtain an EcoVadis scorecard for their own firm. Law firms that represent multinational and global clients may be asked to provide their EcoVadis score, so firms may want to be proactive and complete the assessment each year to have their scorecard available when clients ask for it.

Your EcoVadis assessment also provides benchmarks against which you can strive to improve. Since the process includes a rating methodology based on activity, size, and geography of the assessed company, this produces standardized scores that benchmark CSR performance of companies like yours and clearly shows how your score compares to similar companies.

Why should you care?

An increasing number of stakeholders voice their desire to do business with businesses who are “certifiably” committed to purpose as well as profit. This expectation includes their service providers, including law firms.

Tools and benchmarks such as an EcoVadis report card and score and the B-Corp Certification are among the many tools and certifications which are becoming global standards.

Familiarity with these tools will help you serve your clients, as well as your own firm. Law firms who take the EcoVadis Assessment not only receive their scores, but also insight for areas they can improve, thus guiding CSR & sustainability planning going forward.

Pam Cone is the Founder and CEO of Amity Advisory, and Global Social Responsibility Officer at Milliman.