Samuel Chauffaille
Managing Director AsiaPacific (excl. China) - Ecocert
Sam’s introduction

In 2003, I joined International SOS, world leader of medical and security assistance services and relocated to Singapore in 2008 where I have spent my life since. I held different regional leadership roles and I was a founding member of the Sustainability Committee and initially led the S (Social) part. I was also leading the Environment pillar, with a special focus on the Ecovadis certification.

I enrolled at SMU back in Sept 2020 and graduated from the Sustainability and Sustainable Business executive masterclass in Dec 2020. In July 2021, I joined a local singaporean startup H3Dynamics with the ambition to decarbonize the aviation industry! And since May 2023, I am now the managing director AsiaPacific for Ecocert, world leader in certification for organic products. I am also the Singapore Ambassador (volunteer) for Ecomatcher to help brands fight climate change, one tree at a time.

Finally, I am a French Trade Advisor and part of the Sustainability Committee to strengthen bridges between France and Singapore on this crucial agenda.

Could you describe your current company? What do you do?

Ecocert is a French company, pioneer and world leader in certification for organic agriculture, textile, forestry, cosmetics and eco-products. Ecocert was founded by a group of local farmers and agronomy engineers 32 years ago and now has 1700 collaborators around the world. I have the pleasure of leading the team and business in the AsiaPacific region.

As market demand evolves, Ecocert is also now offering services around sustainable and ethical certifications (fair wages, child labour, modern slavery, community impact…).

Thanks to its stringent processes and high quality audits, the certifications issued by Ecocert guarantee and highlight the best environmentally friendly and socially conscious practices.

Finally, with its Training and Consulting branches, Ecocert provides suitable solutions to promote good environmental and societal practices, across all sectors, globally, with the main objectives of working towards a more sustainable world.

I consider Sustainability as a strategic business agenda and for having been in the shoes of a business leader, I fully understand it is hard sometimes to know where to start with such a broad yet critical topic like Sustainability. What it is exactly all about, how to drive change with people, where to find the right team to push initiatives, how to get internal stakeholders buy-in, what to focus on, how to find tangible partnerships outside the organization, what are the fast-changing regulations saying, how to use a plan decided at HQs far from the reality of a country/region, how to measure success, etc… 

All those questions are currently blocking some organizations and leaders here to move (faster) on the Sustainability tracks.

So based on my experience as a business and team leader and leveraging on my Sustainability knowledge, acquired both on the ground and in a classroom, I am extremely proud to be part of the Ecocert leadership team to provide real tangible solutions when it comes to working towards a more sustainable world.

Why did you choose to join Ecocert?

I decided to join Ecocert because their mission, their values and their goal fully aligned with my purpose at this stage in my career.

The brand Ecocert is highly respected in the organic world, as a pioneer and leader, and with 80,000 customers in their portfolio, this is a great testimony that Ecocert is a good company to work for.

They have ambitious objectives in the region, want to drive innovation and explore new markets, so very exciting challenges for me to work on.

For a few years now  I have been looking for my “Ikigai”, this Japanese concept of finding the balance between what you love (passion), what you are good at (profession), what you can be paid for (vocation) and what the world needs (mission).  With this role at Ecocert I strongly feel I found my Ikigai !

You led the Ecovadis certification process for your previous company: What were the motivations for such a sustainability project & Why Ecovadis?

My previous company strongly believed in the power of norms and standards that help achieving a higher degree of quality, safety, security… We were always ahead in terms of ISO certification, Data Security and Privacy, etc…

On the Sustainability front we were following the GRI standards but, as you know, they are self-declaration based. So, it became natural for our Senior Leadership to have our Sustainability policies and practices audited by an international organization leading recognized standards around Sustainability. It was important to be measured by experts in Sustainability against best-in-class companies, and useful to identify the areas where we were strong and those where we needed to work harder. We felt the timing was right in 2019 to get audited as our Sustainability Committee was in place for some time and there was increasing pressure from the business and from our clients to display strong Sustainability commitments.      

Since its founding in 2007, EcoVadis has grown to become the world’s largest and most trusted provider of business sustainability ratings with over 75,000 companies using Ecovadis certification services. Each company is rated on the material issues as they pertain to their company's size, location, and industry. Each company is assessed based on evidence and is provided with an easy-to-read scorecard. Additionally, the scorecards provide guidance on strengths and improvement areas, which the rated companies may use to focus their sustainability efforts and develop corrective action plans to improve their sustainability performance. So, it is an extremely easy to use audit system with clear actionable items and it was really the most relevant guide for my previous employer at the beginning of their Sustainability journey.

Could you tell us more about the process and the project team?

In terms of process and impact, the most important is really to have the full support from the Senior Leadership behind the company Sustainability agenda. It must come from the top and the top needs to show that it is a crucial topic for the business and its people. If there is no clear and on going commitment from Senior Leadership then internal buy-in will be longer to get, changes will be harder to drive and ultimately people involved will start to lose focus.

So, after our first audit where we did not score as expected, we regrouped with the Sustainability Committee and the Senior Leadership to drive a much stronger internal communication campaign with more visible initiatives, all driven from the top. A special Ecovadis taskforce was created, covering all key functions of the organizations. Time was set aside for those people involved to ensure there would be no excuse if tasks were not completed on time. All Group Exco members were aware and aligned to extend support. We provided regular updates to the Senior Leadership, and we knew we could get their quick advice when decisions needed to be made.

In less than 6 months, there has been tremendous progress made in the overall structure of our Sustainability agenda, policies, processes, communication, across all pillars. And the Ecovadis corrective action plan also really helped to focus resources and energy on the key areas, to prioritize tasks and to fine tune our strong areas.

What were the challenges and difficulties you faced? How did you overcome them? If you had to do it again, what would you do differently?

When the Ecovadis questionnaire with over 200 questions on different topics land on your desk, it is really overwhelming at first. Hard to know where to start, to decide who works on what. We were not really prepared for that, and the team members were not fully briefed on what to do, where to find the answers, etc… So, we spent a lot of time deciphering the questionnaire and assigning questions to the team members based on relevance.

Also, at the beginning of the Ecovadis journey in 2019, as we worked with a small team, outside of our normal working hours, with no clear support from the top, it became harder to keep people motivated and complete tasks on time, attend meetings, etc… I feel people were not really empowered to dig deep in the policies, processes and as such we just scratched the surface in our first audit. And the result showed that. Not that the company was not good in Sustainability but more that we did not prepare properly for the audit.

We definitively learned from our first audit. And to go to the 2nd round, we ensured to:

  • get full visibility and support from the Senior Leadership
  • get the commitment from the team members (and their respective managers) to dedicate time on their normal scope for this project
  • select team members with strong motivation and after interview process
  •  increase internal communication on this project to keep people on board
  • have more frequent interactions to not lose tracks
  • provide the new team members with a very detailed brief on Ecovadis audit, their respective scope and authority, clear project timelines, etc...

I strongly believe that with this in place we have been much more efficient in our audit preparation and therefore helped to drive the Sustainability agenda to a new high level.

On top of being certified at the Gold level, are there any other positive gains from this sustainability project?

As mentioned earlier, Sustainability is a strategic business agenda and impacts an organization at multiple levels. Obviously on the business side first, as some clients will no longer contract with companies that do not have a strong Ecovadis score (the same way in the past you could lose business or not participate in tenders if you did not have ISO9000 certification for example).

But your Ecovadis score will also have an impact on your HR as it can be accessed by candidates who plan to join your organization. As we know, new generations of employees will pay much stronger attention to their employers’ commitments to Sustainability. So, if you want to attract and retain the talents of tomorrow, Ecovadis score can be positively marketed to provide another source of information for those candidates in their final choice.

And so many other areas and stakeholders will be positively impacted: financials (cost-savings), investors, banks and insurances, media, etc…

You learnt sustainability while working. In 2020 however, you decided to take time to study again. Why did you choose to add a sustainability certification to your resumé? Would you recommend formal classes to anyone willing to work on sustainability?

I felt it was important to learn from the experts on the many complex concepts in the Sustainability ecosystem (finance, reporting, standards,etc..).

As I was planning to make a career move in that space it was key to become more knowledgeable and be able to walk the talk.

It also helped me to build a solid network in the Sustainability scene in Singapore. And the more you discuss with the people who know, the more and the faster you learn and increase knowledge. So, all in all, it was a great experience, with solid content and good lecturers.

I would definitely recommend taking a similar class to anyone who wants to know more about Sustainability. It really helps to get all the foundations in place.

And what I liked with SMU class is that most of the case studies and examples were Asian focused. So very relevant to me as I plan to stay here for a while.

What are you most proud of?

To be the Singapore Ambassador for Ecomatcher, a digital platform that helps brands fight climate change with tree planting and forest regeneration. Having sold several thousand trees with Ecomatcher is a very exciting and fulfilling experience. And more forests to come hopefully.

Ecomatcher sells forest planting to companies to use those trees as a gift to their employees or customers. Ecomatcher's objective is to integrate tree planting into any company business and that anyone thinks of trees for gifts, rewards, loyalty programs, instead of the usual plastic stuff.

Ecomatcher partners with foundations/NGOs around the world specialized in tree planting and forestry, working with local communities. The Ecomatcher App then allows the recipients to see their trees grow via satellite imagery, to see and chat with the farmer in charge of the trees, to see how much CO2 has been captured by the tree so far, and so many other cool features around trees, carbon footprint and Sustainability.

Note that Ecomatcher is not an “official” offsetting program (with offset certification, etc…) and does not want to be as the end game is elsewhere. Of course, all the trees planted by Ecomatcher do natural carbon sequestration in large quantities, which is the most important and no need of a certificate for that, but Ecomatcher goes way beyond just the offsetting. The App enables an emotional attachment between the recipients and their trees, creates interactivity between them and delivers good fun for the user. So, in the end, with such a great experience around trees and forests, we really want to change people's mindset and have them think about trees as a gift for any occasion.  

What would be your top 3 pieces of advice to The Matcha Initiative (TMI) users?
  • Identify a cross functional team with goodwill and commitment to start small Sustainability initiatives, but start somewhere
  • Influence the Senior Leadership on the benefits of Sustainability projects (business, HR, financials, etc..) in line with company objectives
  • Do not hesitate to ask help and advice around, there are lots of passionate people willing to support
How could you help The Matcha Initiative (TMI) users?

I can help TMI users, organizations and leaders who do not know where to start their Sustainability journey and want to make quick wins, especially on the Environment or Social pillars where I have several experiences.

I also can assist with the Ecovadis certification and its link to the business.

Finally, I can offer Ecomatcher solutions for any company that wants to make a visible Sustainable initiative for their clients or employees.

Sam kindly accepts to answer your questions.

If you need additional insights, you can send him a message.