Understanding SAQ 5.0: sustainability requirements of the automotive industry

SAQ 4.0
SAQ 4.0 stands for Self-Assessment Questionnaire. It is a test procedure in the automotive industry to qualify suppliers. To do this, they must complete the “Self-disclosure questionnaire on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)/sustainability for suppliers in the automotive industry”. The corporate companies thereby request the measures of their partners to implement social and environmental sustainability, compliance, occupational health and safety and sustainable supply chains.

What does SAQ 5.0 mean?

The Self Assessment Questionnaire was developed in 2014 by car manufacturers and suppliers in the Drive Sustainability Initiative. The BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Scania CV AB, Toyota Motor Europe, the Volkswagen Group, Volvo Cars, and the Volvo Group have joined together in this initiative. In the Drive Sustainability Initiative, the companies in the automotive industry formulated mutual guidelines with minimum requirements for their suppliers and partners. The initiative aims to achieve sustainable supply chains and an ethically responsible value chain in the automotive industry. Ultimately, it is a path that the industry is preparing for its CO2 neutrality. For this purpose, they defined the guidelines for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with SAQ 5.0. CSR encompasses sustainability as well as human rights, working conditions, occupational health and safety, and the environment and corporate ethics.

Read more information in the text about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

The principles of SAQ 5.0

The principles of SAQ 5.0 are based on an idealized management model. Companies are encouraged to set binding goals for a sustainable supply chain on the path to carbon neutrality. To achieve this, they should establish an individual Sustainability Management System along the automotive industry’s value chain. This allows them to integrate environmental and social sustainability goals into their business model. Through the management system, they monitor and improve their guidelines and systems to meet their sustainability goals. Suppliers and those aspiring to become suppliers must align their corporate governance practices and operational processes with the principles of SAQ 5.0, using this Sustainability Management System along the automotive industry’s value chain.

Read more about the principles of SAQ 5.0 in the text on Sustainability Management Systems.

What topics does SAQ 5.0 cover?

The SAQ 5.0 questionnaire covers many topics defined in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda with the 17 Social Development Goals (SDGs). According to SAQ 5.0, sustainability in the automotive industry includes:

  1. Social sustainability
    1. Anti-discrimination
    2. Prohibition of child labor and protection of minors
    3. Human rights
    4. Employee well-being
  2. Ecological sustainability
    1. Environmental and energy management
    2. Compliance with the REACH regulation on chemical handling
    3. Compliance with RoHS, the directive on the use of hazardous substances
    4. Use of sustainable raw materials and circular economy
    5. Energy efficiency and prevention of environmental damage
  3. Compliance and code of conduct
    1. Avoidance of conflicts of interest
    2. Respect for intellectual property and prohibition of plagiarism
    3. Fighting corruption
    4. Fair competition
    5. CSR sustainability report according to GRI, SASB, or similar standards
  4. Employee rights
    1. Respect for the rights of association and collective bargaining
    2. Fair wages and social benefits
    3. Regulated working hours
  5. Occupational health and safety
    1. Occupational health and safety policies and health prevention
    2. Accident prevention and protective equipment
    3. Employee training

However, it is not sufficient for SAQ 5.0 to provide general explanations on these topics in the questionnaire. It is integral to SAQ 5.0 that future partners also provide evidence of implementation. This can include certificates of their management systems, guidelines, and CSR reports.

Read more about the topics of SAQ 5.0 in the text on Sustainability Management.

Preparation for SAQ 5.0

SAQ 5.0 uses the self-assessment questionnaire to inquire how potential suppliers ensure compliance with sustainability principles throughout the entire supply chain. To successfully pass the audit by the automotive industry, a company must first define its own standards that meet the requirements of SAQ 5.0 in the automotive industry. This requires standards for business ethics, energy and environmental management, occupational safety, anti-corruption, compliance, and sustainability in the supply chain. The company’s management is responsible for a Sustainability Management System and usually appoints a sustainability manager for preparation, conception, planning, implementation, introduction, and monitoring. The sustainability manager creates an action plan for the preparation of SAQ 5.0, formulates guidelines and a code of conduct, and implements certified management systems to monitor sustainability goals.

Read more in the text on the roles of a sustainability manager.

Certified management systems excel in SAQ 5.0

Management systems based on the standards of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) are particularly suitable for potential suppliers to successfully pass an SAQ 5.0 audit by the automotive industry. The following briefly outlined management systems are especially convincing in SAQ 5.0:

  1. Quality management according to ISO 9001 ff. and IATF 16949 (specific requirements of the automotive industry for quality management)
  2. Environment and sustainability management according to ISO 14001
  3. CSR according to ISO 26000
  4. Occupational safety according to OHSAS 18001 or ISO 45001
  5. Energy management according to ISO 50001
  6. Information security according to ISO 27001
  7. Data protection according to GDPR and TISAX (Trusted Information Security Assessment Exchange; specific provisions of the automotive industry on data protection)

After successful implementation of such management systems, an independent auditing organization certifies compliance with the ISO standard. A time-limited certificate is issued as proof. Following the initial certification of a management system, regular recertifications ensue to ensure continued application of the system. These certificates demonstrate to SAQ 5.0 auditors that the management systems are continuously updated in line with technological developments.

Read more in the text on SAQ 5.0 certification.

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