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TfS Supplier Academy

The supplier academy provides plenty of information and educational material about TfS, its tools and processes. The Academy contains eLearning, good practice examples, fact sheets, brochure and detailed FAQs about the TfS program, TfS Assessments and TfS Audits.

Sharing of Assessment and Audit Results

A shared infrastructure for a collaborative approach to build more sustainable supply chains

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Frequently Asked Questions

The purpose of the TfS Initiative is to develop and implement a global audit program to assess and improve sustainability practices within the supply chains of the chemical industry. The initiative was founded by six multinational chemical companies: BASF, Bayer, Evonik Industries, Henkel, Lanxess and Solvay. To date, AkzoNobel, Arkema, Borealis, Brenntag, Clariant, Covestro, DSM, Eastman, ICL, IFF, Merck, Sanofi, Syngenta, UPM, Wacker and Wanhua have joined the initiative.

In January 2015, the TfS Initiative was incorporated as an International Non-Profit Association according to Belgian law.

TfS aims at developing and implementing a global supplier engagement program that assesses and improves sustainability sourcing practices, including ecological and social aspects. Technically, suppliers now only have to complete one form instead of multiple questionnaires. Additionally, buyers can access the information through a shared platform.

TfS has the following objectives:
• Join forces to create standards for sustainable supply chains
• Share sustainability assessments and audit results
• Raise awareness and initiate continuous improvements
• Exchange and promote best practices
• Use resources more efficiently and follow the principle of:
“An audit for one is an audit for all”.

Technically, suppliers now only have to complete one form instead of multiple questionnaires. Additionally, buyers can access the information through a shared platform.

TfS provides the following benefits:

TfS member companies
• TfS members show that they take responsibility for their own operations and in the sphere of their influence for their supply chains to support adherence to existing regulations and to respond to the needs and expectations of consumers and society.
• TfS members join forces to harmonize requirements and to manage complexity and risk in their global value chains for the benefit of all stakeholders.
• TfS members engage in open and constructive dialogue with their suppliers and relevant stakeholders with the aim to improve the working and environmental conditions in the global supply chains and to shape sustainable business models.
• TfS members use resources more efficiently and reduce the bureaucratic burden for both, buyers and suppliers; they share supplier sustainability a ssessment and audit data.
• TfS provides its members with a platform to demonstrate that they operate in transparency and continuously monitor compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

• Towards one voice: Suppliers benefit through better aligned information requests on sustainability requirements by customers.
• Increase the value of information: The number of sustainability questionnaires will be reduced. Assessments shall support suppliers in identifying strength and weaknesses.
• Dialog and capability building: Sharing of pre-competitive information, resources, and tools to support suppliers understanding of sustainable sourcing standards.
• An audit for one is an audit for all: Suppliers only need to engage in one sustainability audit and share the report with all members of the initiative.
• Improve efficiency in sustainable certifications and audits: with less time inversion they’ll be able to respond better their clients and general public demands.
• Learning tool: Assessments shall support suppliers in identifying strength and weaknesses. Suppliers will be able to compare themselves and their processes to their peers’.

Its membership has more than tripled in the five years since it was founded, from six up to 21 (as of June 2018). Have a look at our our current member list.

The objectives of the member companies of Together for Sustainability are to

• join forces to create standards for sustainable supply chains,
• share supplier sustainability assessments and audit findings,
• raise awareness and initiate continuous improvements,
• exchange and promote best practices.

Sustainable procurement representatives, appointed by the member companies, work on a number of work streams. Each work stream is chaired by one sustainable procurement representative.

The TfS initiative has currently defined the following four work streams:
• Governance and Mutual Recognition
• Supplier Sustainability Assessments
• Supplier Sustainability Audits
• Communication and Awareness Raising

TfS is a global initiative of the chemical industry. In addition to the six founding members, TfS has welcomed members from Europe and the United States. Hence, membership is open to chemical companies, i.e. companies with a significant share of business operations in chemical production (including performing chemical or biochemical synthesis) or trading/distributing of chemicals from all over the world. The vast majority of sustainability assessments and audits is conducted outside Europe.

The term CSR refers to Sustainable Development issues applied to business.  Different terms are used for a similar understanding of CSR, e.g. sustainability, corporate responsibility, or sustainable development.

The ISO 26000 standard defines CSR as an organization’s responsibility for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment, through transparent and ethical behavior that:

• contributes to Sustainable Development, including health and the welfare of society;
• takes into account the expectations of stakeholders;
• is in compliance with applicable law and consistent with international norms of behavior;
• and is integrated throughout the organization and implemented in its relations.

The six core subjects listed by ISO 26000 are:
• Human rights
• Labor practices
• The environment
• Fair operating practices
• Consumer issues
• Community involvement and development

Together for Sustainability supports and promotes the principles of the UN Global Compact and Responsible Care on sustainable development and continuous improvement. The initiative builds on established standards developed by the International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Standardization Organization (ISO), Social Accountability International (SAI) and other established frameworks.

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Sustainable sourcing means to incorporate environmental, social and ethical aspects into spending decisions alongside the conventional procurement criteria of price and quality by selecting a supplier or evaluating a supplier relationship. The purpose of the Together for Sustainability Initiative is to develop and implement a global supplier engagement program to assess and improve sustainability practices within the supply chain of companies from the chemical sector. The supplier engagement program covers the following areas: Management, Environment, Health & Safety, Labor & Human Rights, Ethics and Governance. TfS members have committed themselves to various sustainability standards, like the UN Global Compact.
With business activities becoming more global and supply chains more complex, companies need to look beyond the sustainability impact of their own operations. Companies need to understand the environmental and social impacts associated with a product’s entire value chain, from raw materials extraction to final consumption and recycling.

TfS audits will cover management, environment, health and safety, labor and human rights as well as governance issues. A supplier’s sustainability performance will be assessed based on a defined set of audit criteria with regard to these five topics.

Management: A company’s policies and procedures as well as measures to raise employee awareness about company practices.
Environment: For example, a company’s system to handle and dispose of hazardous chemicals.
Health & Safety: Provision of personal protective equipment, the existence of an emergency plan, or whether the supplier’s site conducts fire drills on a regular basis.
Labor & Human Rights: A company’s practices regarding topics like working hours and non-discrimination.
Governance: For example, fair business and anti-corruption practices.

Responsible Care is the chemical industry’s unique global initiative that drives continuous improvement in health, safety and environmental (HSE) performance, together with open and transparent communication with stakeholders. Responsible Care embraces the development and application of sustainable chemistry, helping the chemical industry contribute to sustainable development while allowing to meet the world’s growing need for essential chemicals and the products those chemicals make possible.

For more information please visit:

The UN Global Compact’s ten principles in the areas of human rights, labor, the environment and anti-corruption enjoy universal consensus and are derived from:

•  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
•  The  International Labor Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
•  The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
•  The United Nations Convention against Corruption

The UN Global Compact asks companies to embrace, support and enact, within their sphere of influence, a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labor standards, the environment and anti-corruption:

Human Rights:
Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
Principle 2: Make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.

Labor Standards:
Principle 3: Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
Principle 4: The elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labor;
Principle 5: The effective abolition of child labor; and
Principle 6: The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;
Principle 8: Undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and
Principle 9: Encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.

Principle 10: Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.

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ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations which deals with labor issues, particularly international labor standards and decent work. The ILO’s Governing Body has identified eight conventions as “fundamental”, covering subjects that are considered as fundamental principles and rights at work: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor; the effective abolition of child labor; and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
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Social Accountability International (SAI) is a non-governmental, multi-stakeholder organization whose mission is to advance the human rights of workers around the world. It partners to advance the human rights of workers and to eliminate sweatshops by promoting ethical working conditions, labor rights, corporate social responsibility and social dialogue.
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ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world’s largest developer of voluntary International Standards. International Standards give state of the art specifications for products, services and good practices, helping to make industries more efficient and effective. Developed through global consensus, they help to break down barriers to international trade.
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The TfS approach consists of two elements: the TfS assessment conducted by EcoVadis and the TfS audit conducted by independent audit companies.

Starting point for a collaborative engagement between TfS members and suppliers are ssessments and audits. Both elements can be applied separately or combined:

• Assessments: TfS selected EcoVadis, a global leader for Corporate Social Responsibility assessments, as its partner. EcoVadis provides assessment results and scorecard ratings on a shared,  web-based collaborative platform. As a prerequisite to become a member of the TfS initiative, all TfS member companies have undergone the rating procedure which can be shared with their respective customers.
• Audits: TfS works with independent audit companies to assess a supplier’s sustainability performance against a pre-defined set of audit criteria tailored to the requirements of the chemical industry. Audit criteria include management, environment, health & safety, labor & human rights, and governance topics. Audits comprise on-site visits covering, for example, production facilities, warehouses and office buildings.

The main difference between EcoVadis assessments and TfS audits is that the EcoVadis assessment is based on document analysis and publicly available sources of information  while  TfS audits are based on on-site inspections by an independent auditor, interviews and document review.

The advantage for suppliers to undergo a TfS assessment or audit is that they will not have  to complete other sustainability  assessments or audits since assessment and audit results are shared among all TfS members.

The TfS program is neither a certification scheme nor a simple comply-or-fail exercise. On the contrary, it offers instruments for buyers and suppliers to assess sustainability performance and identify opportunities for improvement. As such, suppliers which do not meet all assessment or audit criteria are expected to set-up a corrective action plan (CAP) to document targets and improvements over time.
The experts of the TfS members play an important role in defining the TfS sustainability criteria. Experts from various functions such as environment, health & safety, security, compliance, sustainability or human resources have been and still are involved in the development and continuous improvement of the TfS program. As it is almost impossible to monitor the entire supplier base and the complex supply chain of a company alone, TfS offers a platform to join forces and pool efforts to increase their impact and scope of activities. By sharing assessment and audit results, the sustainability performance is measured once thus related costs and resources are optimized.

Suppliers who have previously been assessed and/or audited can discuss with their customers their results before embarking on a TfS Assessment/Audit.

No, it is an individual decision of each TfS member company whether to invite suppliers to an EcoVadis assessment, a TfS audit, or both.
Criteria are not identical but quite comparable. The four assessment areas are: environment, social, ethics, supply chain. The TfS audit criteria refer to five areas, including management, environment, health & safety, labor & human rights and governance. The main difference between EcoVadis assessments and TfS audits is that the EcoVadis assessment is based on document analysis and publicly available sources of information while TfS audits are based on on-site inspections by an independent auditor, interviews and document review.
The harmonized TfS program has advantages for both suppliers and buyers. About 100 suppliers, which participated in the TfS pilot audit program in 2013, were invited to provide feedback via a standardized online questionnaire. As a result of this feedback process, TfS received answers from 21 suppliers:
• 91% of suppliers who participated in the TfS audit program responded that the audit added value.
• 86% of suppliers think that the audit report is easy to understand.
• 67% of suppliers rate auditor competence as “highly professional”.
In general, suppliers highlighted that for them the TfS approach saves scare resources by avoiding redundant assessments and audits.
There are several benefits for suppliers participating in the TfS audit process:
• By sharing audit information with multiple customers, time and costs caused if several audits were conducted separately are reduced.
• Participating in the TfS audit program will allow suppliers to reduce the number of audits.
• Suppliers will have the opportunity to discuss sustainability requirements and challenges with customers.
• Suppliers will lay the foundation for long-term customer relationships.
• Knowing the sustainability score will help suppliers to improve sustainability
• Suppliers will mitigate risks associated with sustainability requirements.
Assessments are valid for three years but TfS members may ask suppliers to go through a more regular assessment to show continuous improvement. The frequency may also depend on the result of the assessment.
The validity of an audit depends on the audit results. In case of no or minor findings the audit is valid for 36 months.

TfS offers four online training tools which can be accessed through the TfS website at

Module 1 explains the concept of sustainability and sustainable sourcing as well as the advantages for suppliers.
Module 2 provides background information on Together for Sustainability.
Module 3 describes in detail the asessment process and introduces TfS partner and service provider EcoVadis.
Module 4 describes in detail the audit process and the supplier’s role in preparing and assisting in the audit process.

The Data Sharing Agreement (DSA) has to be completed, signed, and returned to the audit firm prior to the audit. The DSA specifies the sharing of the TfS Audit Report and Corrective Action Plan with all TfS member companies.
The Data Sharing Agreement must be signed by a representatives of the supplier. The signatory need to be authorized to represent the supplier company individually or as a team. A company stamp is required in some countries according to local regulation.
TfS audit reports and assessment are only disclosed to TfS members. Data sharing will take place in accordance with the signed Data Sharing Agreement. With new members joining the TfS initiative, suppliers will increasingly benefit from sharing their audit results with a larger community. Have a look at the current member list of TfS.
After the ten-day comment period, the auditor will send the audit report to the TfS Office for quality review. As defined in the signed Data Sharing Agreement, the audit report will be uploaded to a web-based platform where it can be accessed by all TfS members.
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