Sustainability is now an integral part of the strategy of a growing number of companies. Beyond striving for sustainability in a company’s own operations, it is also important to understand and improve sustainability in the supply chain.
How do suppliers perform with regards to sustainability? Is the supply chain sustainable, resilient and prepared for the challenges of the future? To address these questions, companies in the chemicals sector founded Together for Sustainability – The Chemical Industry Initiative for Sustainable Supply Chains (TfS) in 2011.
The initiative’s purpose is to implement a global supplier engagement programme to assess, audit and improve sustainability practices within the chemical industry’s supply chains. The approach is built on established principles such as, for example, the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). Through TfS assessments and on-site audits, suppliers’ sustainability performances are verified against pre-defined criteria tailored to the requirements of the chemicals industry.
The TfS approach consists of two core activities: TfS assessments conducted by EcoVadis, an external service provider for CSR assessments; and TfS audits conducted by independent audit companies approved by TfS. The advantage for suppliers of undergoing a TfS assessment or audit is the TfS principle that “an audit/assessment for one is an audit/assessment for all”. This implies that the results of sustainability assessments and audits of one TfS member are – with the supplier’s consent – shared amongst all members.
The TfS programme is more than a simple certification scheme, or a pass or fail exercise for suppliers. It is a starting point for a constructive dialogue between the TfS member’s purchasing organisation and its suppliers. It offers instruments for both the supplier and the buyer to identify areas and opportunities for improvement. Suppliers can document their improvement through re-assessments, with 72% of those who underwent a re-assessment improving their score, illustrating their willingness to actively engage in implementing improvements.
Since its inception, TfS has grown to 19 member companies and reached out to thousands of suppliers.
Current TfS members representing about 313 bn turnover* and 219 bn spend** (*published/**estimated)
Meanwhile, the sustainability performance of 6,383 suppliers has been rated within the TfS initiative based on EcoVadis assessments, and 724 TfS audits have been carried out. In 2016 alone, 241 new TfS audits were conducted through the TfS Audit Programme and 1,773 new supplier assessments were conducted through EcoVadis.