There is no overall Act covering sustainable development in Germany, but rather a sustainability strategy. This covers 21 topics, mapped to 35 goals (e.g. energy and resource productivity, maintenance of biodiversity, land use, ecological farming, etc.). In order to be able to measure progress, indicators are assigned to the goals. The implementation and development of the sustainability strategy is the responsibility of the whole federal government.
A number of other initiatives and strategies contribute directly or indirectly to sustainable development and to the implementation of the sustainability strategy.
There are many support measures in place for a sustainable, energy-saving power supply, as well as export initiatives. Independently of these, there are a large number of different support programmes run by the federal states (Länder).
The rules of procedure of the Federal Government stipulate that all new Acts must be reviewed in terms of sustainability in the course of the legislative process (sustainability review included in the impact assessment of the Act).
Specifically to assure sustainable production of liquid biomass, compensation for electricity generated from liquid biomass is linked to compliance with certain sustainability requirements defined by the Renewable Energy Act (EEG).
Corporate social responsibility
The behaviour of businesses also has a crucial bearing on the future chances of individuals and whether the potential to shape a viable society for the future can be best exploited. Corporate behaviour thus bears a very great responsibility for social development. This responsibility is more than a mere shareholder value. Companies are part of society, and their actions must address social challenges as a whole. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) can forge an intelligent link between viable economic development with social responsibility and safeguarding environmental resources.
The federal government approved the National Strategy for the Corporate Responsibility of Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility – CSR) and the ‘CSR – Action Plan’ on 6 October 2010. With the ‘CSR Action Plan’, the federal government intends to strengthen and develop the corporate responsibility of companies and public institutions in Germany. The objective is to increase the role of responsible companies as leading examples. Voluntary CSR activities by companies in Germany are at a comparatively high level, something that is dictated by the statutory social and environmental standards and/or collective agreements. The details of the action plan are present in the following:
The Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is a voluntary European environmental management system based on an EC Regulation. EMAS means systematic operational environmental protection at a high level and reflects the ambition to constantly improve individual environmental performance. Participation in EMAS shows how good a company is when it comes to environmental protection. Certification is awarded to businesses that go beyond the statutory minimum requirements in their efforts to protect the environment. All EMAS companies are entered in a register.
The participating companies issue an environmental declaration covering the environmental impact and performance of their business. The environmental declaration is publicly available. All details are reviewed by a state-approved environmental auditor, who also confirms compliance with statutory provisions.
The law requires businesses to comply with minimum social and environmental rules.
Showing corporate social responsibility
Businesses and economic associations may file voluntary agreements, i.e. one-sided declarations on the implementation of specific environmental objectives. In return, the expectation is that the State will forego imposing environmental rules upon them.
Certification of standards
Environmental management standards
The implementation of EMAS in Germany is covered by the Environmental Audit Act and supplementary provisions. The German federal states also have a number of environmental management approaches that may not reach the high level of EMAS but are tailored to the needs of certain industries and so help to identify potential for initial savings. They also provide an opportunity to introduce a comprehensive environmental management system step by step.
The following web site, which is regularly updated, provides information on the Environmental Innovation Programme (a demonstration programme to promote investment in reducing environmental impact).
Support is given to measures to use renewable energy sources in heat and power generation. In the field of heat generation, small plants are supported with investment grants, while large plants may receive redemption loans worth up to 30% of their eligible net investment costs. Eligible investments include plants to generate heat from solar energy, solid biomass and geothermal energy, and the construction of biogas processing plants, local heating networks and large-scale heat storage facilities. The following web site contains details of support options and the relevant legal provisions:
The aim of the export initiative for renewable energies is to support businesses by providing information on the export of renewable energy technologies.
The aim of the Recycling and Efficiency Technology (ReTech) Initiative is to stimulate and establish a transfer and export campaign, bringing the groups involved in the recycling and disposal field (politicians, economic associations, companies and financial institutions) together under a common strategy.
The German Water Partnership is a joint initiative of the German water sector, combining the water industry, water research institutions and water-related associations. The organisation founded in May 2008 now has approx. 280 members and is supported by five federal ministries (BMU, BMBF, BMWi, BMZ and AA). The German Water Partnership is both an operational headquarters for companies and research institutes of the German water sector and a contact point for international enquiries. It also presents the wide range of products, services and innovations offered by the German water industry.