Passing with Sustainability Management System SAQ 5.0


Companies use a Sustainability Management System to document and monitor the implementation of its sustainability goals. This is how SMEs pass the Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ 4.0) of the automotive industry. A prerequisite is of course the successful introduction and implementation of the sustainability goals.

Definition: What is a Sustainability Management System?

With a Sustainability Management System, a company documents that it pursues a sustainable corporate policy. It also functions as a monitoring system for further implementation and compliance after introduction. Sustainable development means that a company fulfills its Corporate Social Responsibility. This includes living the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in the workplace. These contain sustainability goals in the areas of peacebuilding, poverty reduction, human and labor rights, as well as environmental protection and resource conservation. Ideally, a Sustainability Management System also includes certified management systems according to the standards of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Perhaps you’re wondering: “What do I have to do to introduce a Sustainability Management System in my company?” Our response: Take advantage of sustainability management consulting by Memex Consulting GmbH from Munich. This way, your company will also pass the SAQ 4.0 certification of the automotive industry. Arrange your free initial consultation on sustainability management by Memex Consulting today.

What Sustainability Management Systems are there?

There are many different Sustainability Management Systems because every company is different. The task of a Sustainability Management System is to define rules and processes for the employees and the organization to ensure sustainable business processes as well as sustainable production on a permanent basis. What a Sustainability Management System contains and how it is implemented must be developed by each company itself. A good orientation is provided by ISO 26000. It describes a Sustainability Management System. It guides companies to find a good balance between economy, ecology, and social aspects for themselves. ISO 26000 places emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It cannot replace the application of other management systems often recommended for SAQ 4.0, such as environmental and energy management (ISO 14001), information security (ISO 27001), work safety (ISO 45001), and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

What does a Sustainability Management System include?

A Sustainability Management System is based on the principles of the Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) described therein, and the principles of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). CSR stands for responsible behavior in the market. CSR makes ecological risks manageable. CSR ensures good relations with employees, customers, and suppliers.

Read more about Corporate Social Responsibility here.

How is a Sustainability Management System structured?

You can imagine the structure of a Sustainability Management System like a pyramid. At the bottom, the sustainability strategy is a strong foundation that can sturdily support the building mass above it. Above this, in a sustainability pyramid, are the goals and measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) with which the achievement of goals can be measured. This is followed by implementation. This consists of guidelines, contracts, and voluntary commitments that every employee must sign. For the technical implementation, it is advisable to introduce suitable management systems for the company according to ISO standards.

The conception and implementation of a Sustainability Management System must be initiated by the executive board and top management. They usually appoint a sustainability manager for the introduction and monitoring.

Here you can read more about the tasks of a sustainability manager.

How is a Sustainability Management System introduced?

The first step is the analysis, as is usually the case with management systems. Where are the strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and risks of a company from a sustainability perspective? The sustainability manager systematically records all areas and compares them with the sustainability strategy and goals of the company. Together with the departments, they then develop measures on how the goals can be achieved in the future. They develop guidelines and introduce management systems for monitoring targets in accordance with ISO standards if necessary. These work according to the “Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle.” Planning, implementing, monitoring, and acting on deviations from targets form a cycle that never ends. With this principle, the sustainability manager controls and monitors the change process, ensuring a continuous improvement process through regular reviews.

Examples of guidelines include:

  • Compliance guideline for management
  • Ethical standards and combating corruption
  • Occupational health and safety
  • Anti-discrimination
  • Sustainability guidelines for suppliers and service providers
  • Guidelines for implementing legal provisions
  • Environmental guideline

Examples of management systems:

  • ISO 9001 for Quality Management
  • ISO 14001 Environmental Management
  • ISO 26001 CSR and Sustainability Management
  • ISO 27001 and TISAX Information Security
  • ISO 45001 Occupational Safety
  • ISO 50001 Energy Management

What are the requirements of the automotive industry when introducing a Sustainability Management System?

In the case of environmental and climate protection, this could, for example, be a certificate of an Environmental Management System according to ISO 14001 standards. Similarly, certifications according to ISO standards 27001 (information security with TISAX) and GDPR (data protection) and 9001 ff (quality management) fulfill some requirements of SAQ 4.0. Specifically for quality management in the automotive industry, the IATF 16949 also harmonizes the requirements with ISO 9001. For occupational health and safety, companies should establish a policy that translates national legislation into specific handling instructions for their company. For the issues of business ethics and anti-corruption, the management board should formulate a code of conduct that automatically becomes part of the employment contracts. The topics of human and labor rights, as well as anti-discrimination, can be documented by companies in a voluntary commitment that employees must acknowledge by signing. Additionally, the sustainability manager should conduct regular training sessions for employees and document them.

Read more about SAQ 4.0 as prescribed by the automotive industry here.

How does SAQ 4.0 certification work?

The car manufacturers have commissioned the organization NQC Ltd. with the preliminary assessment of SAQ 4.0 certification. It operates an internet platform through which an audit must be applied for. Depending on the size of a company and the products and services it offers, the automotive industry requires more than a sustainability declaration in the SAQ. Documents with the certification are also to be uploaded via this portal. After the preliminary audit, the group decides whether to certify the company. They may also conduct an on-site audit, which includes a site visit and discussions with the employees. The group auditors often analyze the submitted documents again. If necessary, they create a plan for final corrections (Corrective Action Plan).

Read more about SAQ 4.0 certification here.

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