Germany is one of the world’s most sustainable industrialised nations. This is the conclusion reached by an international comparative study of the 34 OECD member states conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation in 2015. Against the backdrop of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the countries were systematically analysed for the first time on the basis of 34 indicators ranging from environmental protection and growth to the quality of the welfare systems. Germany was in sixth place, doing well in particular with regard to growth, employment and social security.
A growing number of companies in Germany are making a commitment to society as part of conducting sustainable business. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) primarily hinges on each company’s core business, which by dint of globalisation impacts on economic, social and environmental conditions. Most DAX-listed companies such as BASF, Daimler, and Deutsche Bank, as well as many SMEs, institutes and non-governmental organisations in Germany are members of the United Nations’ Global Compact Initiative, founded in 1999. The latter, together with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the International Labour Organisation’s Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, form the bedrock of principles on which companies base their CSR efforts. Worldwide, over 8,000 companies and 4,000 organisations are members of the voluntary Global Compact Initiative.
At the European level, Germany in particular supports the EU’s far-reaching CSR initiative. The strategy is updated regularly and from 2016 envisages the introduction of obligatory reporting on CSR measures for certain companies. During Germany’s presidency of the G7 in 2015, the Federal Government put CSR topics such as labour, welfare and environmental standards on the agenda.
The fact that social and ecological responsibility go hand in hand also becomes evident in the “Alliance for Sustainable Textiles“, which seeks to achieve improvements on both counts for those employed in the textile and clothing industry. More than 100 German textile manufacturers, including the big players, have joined the initiative launched by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in 2014. Through the Alliance, Germany aims to document its pioneering role with regard to international efforts for fair standards in global delivery chains.
For the purpose of formulating a CSR strategy, in 2009 the Federal Government convened a German CSR Forum and in 2010 the “National Strategy for Corporate Social Responsibility – CSR Action Plan” was concluded. One of its focal points is the successful implementation of CSR in small and medium-sized enterprises.