6 May 2020

Together for Sustainability: Initiative for more sustainable supply chains

May 6, 2020

Tom Witzel, Head of Global Purchasing for Raw Materials and Logistics, BASF SE

This year's Annual Meeting of "Together for Sustainability" (TfS) was supposed to take place yesterday at BASF in Ludwigshafen - due to the current corona situation, this meeting was also held virtually for the first time. We spoke with Tom Witzel on the occasion of the TfS Annual Meeting. He heads Global Purchasing for Raw Materials and Logistics at BASF and has been a member of the TfS Steering Committee since 2019.



For all those who are not familiar with it: What is TfS?

Tom Witzel: TfS is an initiative of leading chemical companies to improve sustainability in the supply chains of the chemical industry. The aim is to improve the environmental and social standards of suppliers. This industry initiative was launched in 2011 - BASF was one of the six founding members, along with Bayer, Evonik, Henkel, Lanxess and Solvay. There are now 26 member companies from Europe, Asia and the USA. Together we have developed tools for the sustainability assessment of suppliers, such as online assessments and on-site audits, and created a platform where we can share the results of these assessments.

What are the sustainability challenges in chemical company purchasing?

BASF has more than 75,000 very different suppliers worldwide - of course we cannot evaluate them all individually. We therefore have to cluster them and assess which industries and countries have particularly high sustainability risks in certain areas. We focus on five key issues: management, environment, health and safety, labor and human rights, and ethical business practices. For example, in the case of raw materials from mining, there may be a risk in human rights, or in the case of suppliers in developing countries in the areas of environment and safety. Once we have identified such a potential sustainability risk for a supplier, TfS assessments are carried out and the supplier is thoroughly audited.

BASF has been a member of TfS since 2011. What are the advantages of membership?

The main advantage is that we don't have to do everything ourselves. All member companies are committed to improving the sustainability awareness and performance of suppliers. That's why, for example, training and measures to empower suppliers take place within TfS. In addition, we want to analyze the issues where suppliers have potential for improvement and address them together with them. This could, for example, concern compliance with working hours, EHS standards and payment. Creating sustainable chemical supply chains requires joint efforts. As an individual company, none of the TfS members will be able to achieve much, but together we can make an impact.

To what extent does TfS support BASF's sustainability goals in the supply chain?

Our BASF goal is to assess 90% of the relevant purchasing volume with regard to its sustainability risk. We can only achieve this by conducting TfS assessments and using the TfS platform. The second goal is that 80% of suppliers have improved upon re-evaluation. After an on-site audit, for example, our suppliers receive an action plan containing concrete measures for improvement. We expect them to implement these improvements and we also check whether this has been done. 

What do you expect from the strategic development of TfS?

With the jointly used assessment tools and our platform, we have created a good basis for taking measures to further improve the working conditions and EHS standards at our suppliers. This is also anchored in the new TfS "Grow and Deliver" strategy, which was unanimously approved at yesterday's Annual General Meeting. Our aim is to grow strategically, especially where TfS can make the most impact, namely in China and India.

Birgit Hellmann
Global Sustainability Communications
Last Update 6 May 2020