FAQs

About The Sustainability Consortium (TSC)

What is The Sustainability Consortium or TSC?
The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) is an organization of diverse, global participants that work collaboratively to build a scientific foundation that drives innovation to improve consumer product sustainability. We develop transparent methodologies, tools, and strategies to support a new generation of products and supply networks that address environmental, social, and economic imperatives.
When was The Sustainability Consortium formed?
The Sustainability Consortium was founded in 2009.
Is The Sustainability Consortium® a US organization and why?
The mission and scope of TSC is global. Two U.S.-based universities (Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas) legally administer TSC, but there are also offices in Europe and China and we have members and partners in every continent.
How is The Sustainability Consortium governed?
TSC is governed by an elected Board of Directors with corporate, civil society, and academic representatives and is managed by a global executive team.
Where does The Sustainability Consortium get its funds?
The Sustainability Consortium is a member-based organization that receives financial and inkind contributions from our corporate, civil society, and academic members and also from the licensing of our tools and services.
How does The Sustainability Consortium ensure that conflicts of interest are managed?
The Sustainability Consortium uses a multi-stakeholder approach to ensure that no single voice be allowed to dominate and to manage any conflicts of interest. All our work and decisions are shared transparently with our members, who help to monitor all our activities. TSC uses published research as its basis for evidence and conclusions and employs a variety of processes to ensure effective and appropriate stakeholder engagement.
What is The Sustainability Consortium’s relationship to Walmart?
The Sustainability Consortium is an independent organization jointly administered by Arizona State University and University of Arkansas. Walmart, which was one of the founding members of TSC, is one of a number of retail organizations that are corporate members of the organization. Walmart was also elected into one of the corporate seats on the TSC Board.
How do I become a member of The Sustainability Consortium?
Information on becoming a member of The Sustainability Consortium can be found at: http://www.sustainabilityconsortium.org/join-tsc/.
What are the benefits of membership in The Sustainability Consortium?
TSC provides opportunities to learn about the issues and opportunities in consumer product sustainability, to network with industry sustainability leaders, and to improve corporate social responsibility. For more information see the TSC website: http://www.sustainabilityconsortium.org/join-tsc/.
Is The Sustainability Consortium providing consulting services?
TSC does not provide a consulting service itself but it offers training and other targeted support to members and other organizations. Many TSC members and partners provide consulting services closely related to the work of TSC.
 

About TSC Product Sustainability Toolkits

What is a TSC Product Sustainability Toolkit?
A TSC Product Sustainability Toolkit includes:
  • A Category Sustainability Profile (CSP): A summary of the environmental and social hotspots and opportunities associated with a particular product category (e.g., computers, bananas, or plastic toys) and includes Key Performance Indicators, which can be used to assess progress in addressing materially relevant issues.
  • A Sustainability Insight: A short summary of relevant issues, hotspots and improvement opportunities for a product category in an accessible overview. You can download the Sustainability Insights from our webpage by clicking on the tile of the desired product category.
  • Supply Chain Diagram: Currently available to TSC Members and licensees by request, supply chain diagrams are graphic representations of product life cycles that illustrate the hotspots and key performance indicators detailed in the CSP.
Where can I get access to TSC Product Sustainability Toolkits?
You can access TSC Product Sustainability Toolkits by purchasing or renewing your license on SAP Product Stewardship Network (PSN), which is necessary to ensure your license is activated on PSN if completing a survey requested by a retailer. If you are not completing a survey, but want to utilize the Toolkits in PDF format, you can purchase directly from TSC. Finally, TSC members can access the Toolkits, free of charge, on the Member Portal.
Why not charge the licensing fees to the retailers?
Retailers utilizing TSC Toolkits and the SAP Product Stewardship Network do pay a fee as well. We have arranged the business model so that fees paid by suppliers are minimized.
How can I download copies of the Category Sustainability Profile (CSP) and Sustainability Insight to share with my internal teams?
You can download copies of the Category Sustainability Profile (CSP), which contain Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and supporting information within the Product Stewardship Network after purchasing or renewing your Toolkit license on the SAP Product Stewardship Network Store. Please contact SAP if you have additional questions at psn-support@sap.com.

You can download the Sustainability Insights directly from TSC’s website by clicking on the desired product category icon: https://www.sustainabilityconsortium.org/product-categories/.

Where can I learn more about The Sustainability Consortium and TSC Product Sustainability Toolkits?
You can learn more about The Sustainability Consortium and TSC Product Sustainability Toolkits by visiting https://www.sustainabilityconsortium.org/product-sustainability-toolkits/ or contacting TSC helpdesk at sustainabilityconsortium@walton.uark.edu to request introductory information..
Is TSC Product Sustainability Toolkit available in languages other than English?
TSC Product Sustainability Toolkits are currently only available in English.
What is a hotspot, and what is the difference between a hotspot, additional issue, and stakeholder concern?
Hotspots, additional issues, and stakeholder concerns are activities in a product life cycle that have documented environmental or social impacts supported by different levels of scientific evidence. A hotspot is supported by significant, high-quality, non-conflicting evidence. An additional issue is supported by medium-quality or conflicting evidence. A stakeholder concern reflects low-quality evidence.
What is an improvement opportunity (IO), and what is the difference between improvement opportunities designated among different supply chain stages e.g., Product Attributes, Consumer Engagement, etc?
An improvement opportunity (IO) is a practice that improves a product’s environmental and/or social performance relative to one or more hotspots, additional issues, and/or stakeholder concerns. IOs are embedded among different supply chain stages to clarify who would be the major actors to implement such practices.
Are we required to purchase a license to participate in a sustainability survey requested by a customer?
Yes, you will need to purchase the license through the SAP store at http://www.sap.com/buytsctoolkits to access and complete surveys requested by your customers utilizing TSC Toolkits.
How do I learn if my company has an account on the SAP Product Stewardship Network and has an active TSC Toolkit license?
The quickest way is to email psn-support@sap.com to inquire if there is an account for your company. Each company should have only one account they use to communicate with all of their customers. The Toolkit licenses are valid for 12 months so you can also request a confirmation regarding whether or not your license is active.
What is difference between gaining access to TSC Product Sustainability Toolkits via TSC membership versus purchasing the Toolkits directly from SAP on the Product Stewardship Network (PSN)?
The Toolkit content is the same whether it is accessed via SAP’s Product Stewardship Network or direct from TSC. TSC members can access and use the Toolkits free of charge from the TSC Member Portal. New versions of the Toolkits are typically available on the Member Portal before they are launched on SAP’s Product Stewardship Network. Non-TSC members can purchase a Toolkit license for $699 on SAP’s Product Stewardship Network at www.sap.com/buytsctoolkits. Please contact SAP if you have additional questions at psn-support@sap.com.
Who will have access to the data that I input into the PSN?
The data you enter into PSN is only shared with organizations that you explicitly specify and you can change those preferences at any time. TSC research staff are provided with aggregated, anonymized data (i.e., no company-level scores or company names identified, only the distribution of responses) from SAP.
 

About the Issues Covered by the TSC Product Sustainability Toolkit Back To Top

What kind of sustainability issues does a Product Sustainability Toolkit address?
A Product Sustainability Toolkit addresses a wide range of environmental impacts such as pollution, climate change, water quality, and resource depletion as well as social impacts such as worker health and safety, labor issues, and community rights.
Why is a key hotspot in the category missing?
TSC only includes issues and opportunities that are materially significant and actionable, as is defined by the quality and quantity of supporting (or conflicting) scientific evidence. TSC uses a structured research process to identify published research studies and then checks the interpretation of that evidence through a multi-stakeholder review.
How are certifications and ecolabels considered in Key Performance Indicators?
The Consortium does not typically endorse specific certifications or ecolabels, but if their criteria are scientifically founded (i.e., based on studies that are publicly accessible & independently reviewed) and if they were developed in a multi-stakeholder context, then specific criteria can be adopted as improvement opportunities and Key Performance Indicators.
What is the geographic scope of the assessment, and how are differences between global markets and regions being considered?
TSC Toolkits are designed to be applicable globally but we recognize different impacts are more or less important in different markets. The geographic scope of a Product Sustainability Toolkit, either global or regional, is specifically clarified in the beginning section of each product category documents. When data and research are being collected, TSC makes special note of assumptions and limitations concerning geographic applicability and includes experts who have knowledge of geo-specific impacts in the discussion.
What if a Key Performance Indicator is only applicable for certain geographies and only pertains to part of our supply chain?
Even if a KPI only pertains to part of your supply chain, you should still answer the KPI related to the portion that is relevant. Many KPIs also include a “Not applicable” response to handle such situations.
How do TSC Key Performance Indicators map to other sustainability surveys?
TSC Key Performance Indicators (KPI) measure performance at a product category level, which is different from sustainability measurement systems that focus at an organizational, factory, farm, or product level. While TSC has not performed widespread comparison to other systems, the Category Sustainability Profile indicates any such linkages that have been identified.
 

About Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Questions and Response Options Back To Top

What if I can answer more than one response option, which one should I answer?
Answer the highest applicable answer, e.g., if both (B) and (C) are applicable, you can choose answer (C); otherwise, you can only choose (B).
Why are there questions about issues that are already regulated or controlled by everyone?
Key Performance Indicators are developed based on research and stakeholder participant input. Issues that may not seem differentiating for one organization or region but may be differentiating in other markets.
How should I answer the question if I can’t find a response option that matches what our organization is doing?
If no response options are applicable, answer response option (A).
What is going to happen with the answers I submit? How are different retailers going to use it?
If you respond to TSC KPIs via SAP’s Product Stewardship Network, you have the choice with whom to share your responses. TSC does not have details about specific retail programs. If you share data with a retailer they will have the details of how they intend to use the data.
Does anyone check or verify our responses?
TSC does not do any audits and it is up to the retailer if they would like to. To date that has not been done, but we cannot speak to future intentions of the retailers. The survey is the start of the process. Once you have completed the survey, all of that information goes to your customer and each merchant gets a summary of their suppliers overall and a breakdown of what each supplier responded for each KPI. They have that information when they meet with you and it is potentially a topic of conversation in the buying room. Our advice is keep record of how you have done the calculations and information about improvements you have made or improvements you have planned for the future.
Your calculation should cover your entire global business, not just the portion for which you have data. Therefore, the maximum percentage response you could enter would be the percentage of your global business for which you have data.
Your calculation should be relative to your entire global business, not just the portion for which you have data. Therefore, the maximum percentage response you could enter would be the percentage of your business for which you have data.
Do questions regarding supply chains apply to my company since our organization is vertically integrated and we don’t have external partners?
Yes, a vertically integrated organization still needs to understand the impacts of the different divisions that interact to create a product. For example, third-party audits for worker health and safety or labor rights would happen at the company-owned facilities the same way they would take place at a contracted manufacturing facility.
How do we know if the initiative we participate in qualifies for a particular response option?
The guidance associated with the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) identifies examples of certifications, standards, and tools that are applicable. The KPI Guidance may be viewed in the Category Sustainability Profile available for download in each Product Sustainability Toolkit and is also in a pop-up box linked to each KPI when completing a questionnaire on the PSN.
Some questions ask for percentages. How do I calculate these?
The guidance associated with the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) question provides a “Calculation and Scope” section that describes how the percentage should be calculated. The KPI Guidance may be viewed in the Category Sustainability Profile available for download in each Product Sustainability Toolkit and is also in a pop-up box linked to each KPI when completing a questionnaire.
Should calculations for product or material mass include the mass of the packaging?
No. Exclude packaging from any calculations involving the mass of product or material produced or purchased. Separate packaging KPIs are included where relevant.
Do we complete a separate questionnaire for each factory?
No. The KPIs are global in scope. You will aggregate any relevant data according to the products within the survey scope.
We collected data from our factories or suppliers within the last twelve months, but the data reported actually reflects an earlier window of time outside of the twelve month window. Can we still answer the KPI legitimately?
Yes, data should have been reported to you within the last twelve month period, but there’s recognition that the data may reflect operations previous to that time period.
We did a risk assessment of social related risks in our supply chain, but we have not performed corrective action on some of the supplier facilities that were indicated as medium or high risk. Can we include these facilities as being positively assessed in our percentage response?
No, if a supplier facility is assessed as medium or high risk, it can only be included in the percentage response as a “positive” if corrective action has been taken to reduce the risk to a low level.
Can the quantitative data being collected (e.g., GHG emissions, water use, accident data) be used to compare suppliers’ performance?
No, the Additional Guidance rules for these quantitative KPIs does not have sufficient detail and controls to allow for supplier-to-supplier comparison of the reported outcomes. This is why TSC has recommended scoring these KPIs based on the completeness of data collected rather than the value of the outcome metric itself. However, the quantitative outcome data can be used to compare within a single supplier over time, assuming data is collected in a consistent manner.
I'm not familiar with some of the terms in the Key Performance Indicator. Where can I find those definitions?
Every Key Performance Indicator (KPI) has an associated guidance with four sections, one being “Definitions” where you can review key terms within the KPI that may need clarity. The KPI guidance may be viewed in the Category Sustainability Profile available for download in each Product Sustainability Toolkit and is also in a pop-up box linked to each KPI when completing a questionnaire.
When calculating an answer in the units suggested, the correct answer requires more than 2 decimal points the response field accepts. How do I respond?
You may find that the number you calculate is too small to be accepted by the response field, which allows for two decimal places. If this is the case, you may round up to 0.01 or down to zero as appropriate.
What do I enter if the number I’ve calculated is too small to be accepted by PSN?
Check your calculations to ensure that you have used the correct units. If you are sure that you have performed the calculation correctly and the number is still too small to be accepted by PSN, you may enter zero as your response.
Is primary data required to answer numerical questions, or can regional averages or samples be used?

KPIs that ask for quantitative responses in physical units usually require the use of primary data—data that are directly related to the activities in question and specific to your supply chain, as opposed to data based on industry or regional averages. An example of a calculation that requires primary data is:

Calculate B1 as the average of the most recent irrigation water use intensity estimates from the growing operations that produced your crop supply, weighted by the mass supplied by each growing operation.

Primary data should always be used unless the Calculation & Scope guidance states otherwise. In some agricultural supply chains, where the collection of primary data has been estimated to be too difficult or costly, the KPI guidance allows the use of regional estimates. However, your calculation should not combine regional and primary data. Rather, calculate your response using what primary data do have and only use regional data if you have no primary data available. Because regional data is not equivalent to primary data, the supporting percentage is always reported as 0%. A statement like the one below will be included in the Calculation & Scope if regional data may be used:

If primary farm data are unavailable for any of your crop supply, you may use a regional estimate to answer B1. Do not combine primary data and regional estimates…If you have reported a regional estimate for B1, then report 0% for B2.

How do I respond to the % supply of high risk supply with a site-based management program (C2) when our third-party verification determined there is 100% low risk for violating tradition/civil rights in our wood supply (C1)?
The question is designed to give credit to businesses that are conducting both risk assessments and site-based management programs. In the case where a risk assessment indicates 100% low-risk supply (C1), then in C2 you can enter the percent of your supply that is covered by a site-base management program, whether low or high risk.
The Hotspots or Additional Issues in this KPI only refer to sugarcane. Do I answer the KPI for my beet sugar supply as well?
If sugarcane is the only supply chain identified with Hotspots and Additional Issues within a KPI, answer the KPI only for your sugarcane supply and not for your beet sugar supply.
Do I provide responses just for the facilities my company owns?
No. You provide response for all facilities that perform the actives described in the KPI, regardless of ownership. For example, if you use contract manufacturing and the KPIs concerns greenhouse gas emissions during manufacturing, you need to calculate your response for both your facilities and those that you contract. Data from contracted facilities may be more difficult to obtain and this should be reflected in the percent completeness response options.
How would a new company that may not have the data/history respond to this survey?
Not all companies have the systems in place to collect the data necessary to respond to the KPIs. However, because addressing sustainability requires measurement and monitoring, this is reflected in the design of the KPIs. Putting data collection systems in place will allow you to respond to the KPIs in the future.
Is the survey taken each year to look for improvements?
Every retailer has different goals. The overall goal is continual improvement with their suppliers, recognizing the opportunities for improvement, and working with suppliers to make those improvements. We have also seen retailers who use the questionnaire to pinpoint potential risk and bringing those conversations to the buying room.
 

About Research and Stakeholder Engagement in TSC Back To Top

What is the process for producing a Product Sustainability Toolkit?
First, TSC research staff and stakeholders define the boundaries of the product category and identify published research about impacts and improvement opportunities. The Consortium summarizes the pertinent information into a Category Sustainability Profile using established rules that examine the quality and quantity of evidence about the issue or opportunity. Finally, Key Performance Indicators are developed that link hotspots and improvement opportunities to specific metrics. From there, Sustainability Snapshots are developed by mapping hotspots to business objectives and sustainability issues to create a one-page summary of the Category Sustainability Profile.
How are stakeholders involved in the process of developing the Product Sustainability Toolkits?
The Sustainability Consortium engages corporate, academic, government, and nongovernmental organizations as stakeholders. Stakeholders bring expertise and industry insight to the development of the TSC Product Sustainability Toolkit throughout the entire process. In addition to attending workshops, stakeholders submit written feedback and input to the drafts of documents that are created.
Who can participate in the review of TSC Product Sustainability Toolkit?
TSC members and other selected stakeholders provide input to TSC to help identify possible hotspots and improvement opportunities associated with a product category and they review and provide feedback on Category Sustainability Profiles and Key Performance Indicators to help make them accurate and actionable.
How can experts who are not part of TSC membership engage?
TSC researchers and members reach out to external stakeholders when we start work on a new product category, and experts can provide input to the research process.
 

About TSC Product Sustainability Toolkit Categories Back To Top

How is it decided what product categories will get a TSC Product Sustainability Toolkit?
TSC chooses the product categories to work on based on their estimated impacts, which is related to their impacts per product and the volume of products sold.
When do revisions of TSC Product Sustainability Toolkits occur?
Each TSC Product Sustainability Toolkit is revised within one or two years of initial development, unless otherwise determined by TSC staff and participants. Subsequent revisions are considered as needed.
When will additional product categories be added to the system?
TSC develops Toolkits for new products every year. A list of completed product categories can be found at the following link: http://www.sustainabilityconsortium.org/product-categories/
How do I choose between the Plastic Product, Metal Product, or Metal and Plastic Product Sustainability Toolkit?
These categories are used for manufactured goods that do not currently fall under one of the sector-specific categories. The Metal Products toolkit is appropriate if any product from your company contains more than 2% metal by weight; the same is true for Plastic Products. If you have products in the category that contain more than 2% metal and plastic, then use the Metal and Plastic Product Category.