Challenges and untapped potential

We'll pinpoint them together with you.


Over the past 15 years, S&Z has completed over 700 Corporate Responsibility (CR) and sustainability projects for about 200 blue chip companies, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Given our expansive expertise, our expert knowledge and our pool of proven tools and approaches, we successfully support our clients in addressing today’s current issues and future challenges and opportunities. S&Z…
  • understands the complexities of corporate responsibility and sustainability
  • recognizes the success factors and potential barriers in the integration of sustainability into a company’s core business
  • provides systematic solutions
  • possesses extensive experience in various industries addressing numerous issues
  • has an international mindset
  • maintains long-term relationships with clients given the high quality of our work, our innovative and results-driven solutions, and our uncompromising loyalty
  • contributes to the advancement of the field of sustainability through conducting research, performing market studies, and by designing and organizing events that generate new insights.

We offer a comprehensive set of solutions in five different areas of expertise:


Positioning the organization strategically, organizationally, and operatively in order to meet sustainability requirements and to ensure future-preparedness of the organization is a key area of expertise for S&Z.

Materiality analysis

S&Z supports you in conducting materiality analyses and in determining the initial need for action. Based on our expertise, from more than 120 successfully completed materiality analyses, we are able to customize our approach to the needs of mid-sized companies, as well as global corporations of all levels of experience.

Companies face a variety of CR and sustainability topics. At the same time, resources are limited. The key questions revolve around which topics should be addressed at the highest priority levels to maintain a competitive position in the market, and which topics should be set aside to free up resources.

A materiality analysis is the appropriate tool to prioritize CR and sustainability topics. It should be the foundation for both strategy development, as well as sustainability reporting.

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Gap analysis

S&Z supports you in status assessments, evaluating the sustainability performance of your organization, and in determining potential gaps.

A status assessment should be the starting point for any systematic approach concerning CR and sustainability. Companies are involved in a multitude of activities in these areas already, however, not necessarily following a systemic approach. Using competitor benchmarks and a trend analysis helps us to understand: What topics are addressed by relevant competitors and to which degree? How do companies use their leadership role in sustainability for differentiation in the market? We identify potential gaps in a joint workshop and help determine the path forward for your organization.

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Strategy development

S&Z supports you in defining strategic objectives and operational targets, measures, and metrics.

Strategically positioning a corporation successfully with regard to corporate responsibility requires a holistic approach, using a state-of-the-art methodology. The corporate strategy has to contain clearly defined aspiration levels and specific, realistic, and measurable CR objectives. These objectives have to be matched with the necessary measures for implementation. This systematic, iterative process should involve all relevant staff and line functions within the company. The results of the materiality analysis are the starting point for developing strategic objectives.

S&Z develops a company-specific process to develop strategy and objectives, as well as to determine measures. We guide you in identifying the relevant managers and employees who should be involved. We can act as a sparring partner across all project steps, if desired on-site.

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S&Z supports you in planning the strategy implementation, which includes defining roles, responsibilities, organizational structures, and reporting lines. If desired, we can support our clients throughout the entire implementation process.

Implementing strategic CR objectives consistently calls for certain requirements in organizational structures and processes to be fulfilled.

In the medium term, every employee should understand CR measures as part of their area of responsibility and not as a voluntary add-on that can be dealt with at lower priority. In order to reach this, specific CR objectives and measures should be integrated in established work flow and planning processes. The degree of target fulfillment should be checked periodically by a suitable corporate function. This level of integration typically requires time in order to reach this type of thinking across the corporation. Furthermore, the integration requires cooperation across department boundaries.

Since CR and sustainability topics often touch multiple departments in organizations, setting up a competence center (in corporations) or placing the responsibility with a specific employee (in small or mid-sized companies) can be a suitable approach. This function should report directly to the board of directors or the managing director, respectively.

The description of the roles and responsibilities covers both the development and/or refinement of the strategy, as well as management control, which determines whether operational targets have been met at each location.

Furthermore, we recommend setting up a committee, including the main business units and cross-cutting functions, with regular meetings and a pre-defined agenda.

Last but not least, successful implementation requires efficient reporting structures and processes which are capable of collecting and assessing metrics and other information at different levels of aggregation.

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Sustainable Supply Chains

Companies are increasingly expected to create transparency in upstream processes and to provide evidence that environmental, social, and anti-corruption standards are being met, even beyond operational boundaries. Considering the complexity of today’s global supply chains and the high number of (direct) suppliers, a systematic and effective management approach is essential.

Using a management approach for responsible sourcing enables companies to (better) evaluate risks and opportunities in purchasing and the sustainability performance of suppliers. The goal is to minimize risks for the company and to develop more sustainable products.

Risk analysis

The objective of S&Z’s hotspot / risk analysis is to determine, evaluate, and prioritize CR topics for a product or category of products along the entire value chain.  Based on these results, we can determine the need for action in a workshop setting.

S&Z developed our Hotspot Analysis approach in 2010 and has since applied it to more than 40 product categories covering various industries and sectors – agriculture, chemical, metal, food – for renowned national and international companies. S&Z is a global partner of the chemical company BASF SE for hotspot analyses.

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Country and sector risk analysis

The objective of S&Z’s country and sector risk analysis is to identify and evaluate sustainability topics and resulting risks at country and sector levels. Companies can use the results to assess whether their (direct) suppliers are at risk of non-compliance with sustainability standards – such as upholding human rights and anti-corruption – due to external conditions (such as the degree of law enforcement). This groundwork can allow companies to determine required measures and an effective management approach.

Human rights due diligence

Several regulatory frameworks require companies to conduct risk assessments focusing on human rights and core labor standards in supply chains and value chains: the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, the UK Modern Slavery Act, the law “Devoir de Vigilance” in France, the non-financial reporting requirements in Europe, the German National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, among others.

S&Z assesses risks regarding violations of core labor standards / human rights using hotspot analyses and country and sector risk analyses.

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Management approach

Companies can gain insight into risks and opportunities in their supply chains via the risk and hotspot analyses described above. Based on this knowledge, a systematic approach for responsible sourcing should be developed.

The S&Z management approach for responsible sourcing typically consists of the following building blocks:

  1. Identify and evaluate topics and risks in supply chains
  2. Develop and implement polices (code of conduct)
  3. Prioritize and inform suppliers
  4. Assess and monitor suppliers
  5. Develop corrective action plans
  6. Measure and report on progress

S&Z is highly experienced in developing and implementing such management systems for responsible sourcing. Please contact us if you are interested in more information regarding the individual building blocks mentioned above.

S&Z recommends defining an industry-specific approach or joining industry initiatives (e.g. BSCI, Sedex Global, or Together for Sustainability), when possible. Such an approach not only saves resources, but also prevents survey and audit fatigue due to the use of multiple codes of conduct and audits. S&C is glad to support you in the selection of such approaches and initiatives.

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Supplier code of conduct

A supplier code of conduct describes a company’s sourcing requirements. It is used to educate suppliers regarding CR standards and to ensure that these specific requirements are met.

S&Z supports you in selecting a suitable code of conduct / policy and in developing an individual code based on identified risks.

Capacity building

A key success factor regarding responsible sourcing and sustainability in supply chains is appropriate communication. It is important to consider one’s suppliers as partners.

For one thing it is necessary to educate one’s own purchasing team, including clarifying goals, measures, and processes. On the other hand, companies should convince their (direct) suppliers that following CR standards is not a competitive disadvantage, but rather the precondition for business relationships in the future, and thus necessary for a supplier’s future readiness. This is often the more challenging task.

S&Z has considerable experience regarding training workshops for purchasing teams as well as raising awareness among suppliers and training them worldwide. Our services range from the conception and development of workshops on specific topics to internal training sessions of purchasing teams or suppliers in a certain region.

You can find further details regarding planned workshops and business meetings at Events and at Knowledge & Innovation.

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Reporting and Communications

Including stakeholders’ interests and expectations in decision-making processes and communication is relevant for every organization. In a dynamic environment, interests can change and it is essential to establish a structured and active dialog with all relevant stakeholders.


Transparent and credible reporting on CR and sustainability performance is expected, not only from expert stakeholders, but also from clients, consumers, suppliers, and employees.

The pressure on (public-interest) companies to systematically address sustainability issues and to regularly report on targets and progress has increased for a variety of reasons, one of them being non-financial reporting that is required by law (such as the EU non-financial reporting Directive).

S&Z has aided in the preparation of approximately 170 CR, CSR, and sustainability reports. A number of these reports have won prizes. Reference projects can be viewed here.

We support you in the preparation of:

  • CR/CSR/Sustainability reports according to GRI, IR, or SASB guidelines
  • Environmental statements
  • The UN Global Compact progress report (CoP/Communication on Progress)
  • Progress reports for CDP, Detox, etc.
  • Non-financial statements that fulfill the reporting obligations under current non-financial disclosure requirements in Europe
  • The German Sustainability Code declaration of conformity

We provide you with all the necessary services to create your report. If needed, we collaborate with your service providers or our long-standing partners – excellent copywriters, graphic and online agencies, editors and translators. We have the structures in place and possess extensive (project management) experience to successfully manage complex and time-critical report projects with multiple partners.

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Responding to questionnaires

Alongside their own sustainability reporting, increasingly more companies are required to report specific data, facts, and targets to organizations such as CDP, EcoVadis, Oekom, RobecoSAM (for the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, DJSI), or Vigeo EIRIS.

There are also specific questionnaires from banks, insurance companies, and institutional investors. ESG aspects (environmental, social, governance) are increasingly being integrated into investment decisions, for lending and the calculation of interest and insurance policies.

In addition to the challenge of answering the large number of diverse questions, the quality of the answers determines, for example, if the EcoVadis Gold-Standard is achieved, or if a company can maintain its position in indices such as the DJSI or the FTSE4Good.

Do you need support in the preparation of information or would you like to improve your rating? S&Z can support you.

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Stakeholder survey

Conducting stakeholder surveys is an effective tool to gain insight into the knowledge and opinion of stakeholders regarding the organization, as well as their need for additional information. Furthermore, surveys can be useful in learning about new CR topics that are on stakeholders’ minds and to evaluate stakeholders’ interests in a continuous dialog. Regular and systematic stakeholder surveys are a key element of any established approach to stakeholder management.

S&Z supports you with designing, conducting, and evaluating stakeholder surveys.

In the past years, S&Z has designed and conducted over 200 stakeholder surveys for small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as stock-exchange listed companies with a total of more than 10,000 participants.

Global surveys are our specialty. Besides English surveys, we can carry out surveys in German, French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish, and Spanish. Through our global partner network, interviews and surveys in many other languages are also possible.

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Stakeholder events

S&Z supports companies in many other areas of stakeholder communication and dialog, for example, in the planning and implementation of stakeholder roundtables or stakeholder days.

Assistance in investor relations

S&Z supports IR in answering ESG questionnaires, as well as in designing Roadshows.

Communication concept

Every successful communication strategy requires a solid plan. Which stakeholders should be reached and with what message? Which communication channels should be used; what medium is the best and how often should stakeholders be informed?

S&Z supports you with analyses of relevant stakeholders and their specific questions and expectations, as well as defining the need for action. Subsequently, we develop a tailor-made communication concept and will gladly support you in its implementation.

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Climate Action

Since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, climate change has become one of the most dominant sustainability issues. Its impacts are being felt across large parts of society, including companies of all sizes. For example, the effects of extreme weather events and failure to implement climate protection measures are once again named as the most serious global risks by the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report.

This poses various challenges for companies, including the management of their own GHG footprint, as well as specific climate risks and opportunities that can directly affect their business. In addition, the ever evolving world of sustainability reporting standards (e.g. TCFD, CDP, SEC, GRI, SASB) challenges companies to show continuous improvement.

Developing a comprehensive climate protection strategy requires companies to identify all relevant sources of greenhouse gases, set ambitious and realistic reduction targets, and implement measures to achieve such targets. The climate protection strategy must be part of the corporate strategy. At the same time, it is increasingly important for companies to examine their own sites and supply chains with regard to their vulnerability to climate risks, for example, to ensure security of supply, to contribute to occupational health and safety and to prevent production interruptions.

Climate mitigation strategy

Organizations should contribute to climate protection by reducing or avoiding process- and product-specific emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. This requires the calculation of the GHG footprint, the development of a climate protection strategy, as well as ongoing target achievement monitoring and reporting.

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol) of the WBCSD and WRI is the most widely used standard for these steps. It divides the emission sources into three scopes: direct emissions that occur within the company itself (Scope 1), indirect emissions that result from the purchase of electricity, heat and steam (Scope 2) and indirect emissions that result from activities in the upstream and downstream value chain (Scope 3). The scope of a climate strategy depends largely on which emission sources are to be taken into account. Considering this complexity, S&Z recommends an iterative approach to developing a climate strategy.

For companies that are just beginning to deal with climate-relevant requirements, it is useful to first determine the Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions and set targets and measures for these. In the second step, selected Scope 3 emission sources are prioritized before all relevant Scope 3 emissions are considered in the third step. Reporting should be done according to common reporting standards such as CDP and GRI. It may also make sense to consider other reporting channels, such as ESG ratings.

S&Z supports you throughout the entire process, including:

  • data collection
  • prioritization of emission sources
  • calculating the GHG footprin
  • setting targets taking into account the competitors
  • planning of emission reduction measures
  • Continuous monitoring of target achievement
  • GHG reporting

When working with S&Z, you benefit from a close exchange throughout the entire process. By subdividing the project phases into individual work steps, we can tailor our approach to your company’s unique needs and context. In addition, all documents and templates are made available to you.

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Climate adaption strategy

Extreme weather events, such as storms or heavy precipitation, have increasingly led to production interruptions and caused disruptions in supply chains in recent years. In addition, the transition to a low-carbon society creates opportunities and risks for businesses.

Recommendations for addressing climate change risks were developed by the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD), which requires a careful analysis of corporate sites and supply chains to create a company-specific risk profile. The profile can then be used to develop an appropriate climate adaptation strategy. In addition to a description of potential risks and opportunities, these recommendations also call for scenario analyses to be carried out, with which plausible medium- and long-term climate opportunities and risks can be considered in strategic decisions.

The analysis of climate models for calculating and investigating different emission scenarios requires access to data, as well as the appropriate technical solutions and specific know-how. Together with our partners, we are able to examine climate scenarios to identify the specific impacts on your company and strengthen the process of developing strategies and measures.

S&Z provides a comprehensive presentation of this very complex topic, allowing you to directly derive measures to protect against climate risks and benefit from opportunities. Additionally, we can provide a detailed findings of our analysis, including an explanation of the procedures and approach to comply with various reporting requirements, such as CDP or TCFD.

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