Path:
Periodical volume

Full text: German almanac of sustainability Issue 2017

German
Almanac of Sustainability
Initiatives and impressions on the social reality of sustainability

TEXT

NO 5 2
03.2017

© Photo on the right: Microgen / Shutterstock.com; Photo on the left: André Wagenzik

2017

WHAT IS
SUSTAINABILITY?
Sus|tain|a’bil|ity
Sustainable development is development that meets
the needs of the present without compromising
the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. […]
In essence, sustainable development is a process of change
in which the exploitation of resources, the direction
of investments, the orientation of technological
development and institutional change are all in harmony
and enhance both current and future potential
to meet human needs and aspirations.
BRUNDTLAND COMMISSION 1987

CONTENT

Foreword	__________________________________________________________ 	4
Sigmar Gabriel, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs

How we see the world ______________________________________________ 	 5
An introduction to this Almanac by Marlehn Thieme 

The German Sustainable Development Strategy____________________ 	 6
How is Germany implementing the 2030 Agenda? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 	7
Sustainability as a social process  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 	 14

What is the German Council for Sustainable
Development and what does it do?__________________________________ 	 19
The first Open SDGclub.Berlin _____________________________________ 	 21
Social justice in Germany___________________________________________ 	 27
Part of the sustainability agenda

Changing the way we plan _________________________________________ 	 43
New challenges for our cities

Changing our habits of consumption _______________________________ 	 65
Our decisions for a globally sustainable consumer society

Changing the economy_____________________________________________ 	 83
New coordinates for the economic system

The energy transition ______________________________________________ 	 101
Future lab Germany – a joint effort

The Anthropocene concept_________________________________________ 	 122
Conflict and consensus ____________________________________________ 	 131
On the road to a green innovation location _________________________ 	 138
Imprint 	___________________________________________________________ 	 145

FOREWORD

Sigmar Gabriel
Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs

This Almanac contains concrete examples
of sustainable thinking and action,
which is ever more important for our societies.
Dear readers,
There are countless impressive examples of
sustainable action in our country. Moreover,
German companies operate sustainably abroad.
With their products and services, they are successfully mastering the economic, ecological
and social challenges of our time, thus showing
that sustainable development offers our business community and society great opportunities.
This Almanac contains concrete examples of
sustainable thinking and action, which is ever
more important for our societies. Over the
years, this awareness has become the political
guiding principle in Germany. This is made
evident, for example, by the 2030 Agenda
for Sustainable Development as well as the
2016 National Sustainable Development
Strategy. Sustainable development has become
the focus of attention. This is the only way to
ensure the well being of future generations.

4

Various crises in our world stem from the lack
of sustainability when it comes to concrete
action. That is why all three pillars of sustainable
development – economic, ecological and
social – are fundamental principles of German
foreign policy. We can only achieve lasting peace
and security if we safeguard the basic economic
conditions in which people live, protect our
environment and strengthen social cohesion.
However, no one will be able to master alone
the transformation which the international
community has decided to carry out on the
basis of the 2030 Agenda: we all have to work
together as partners on this.
The 2017 German Almanac of Sustainability
sets out model procedures from which we
can all learn and be inspired. This work contains
information about outstanding initiatives
and projects which serve as examples of
sustainable development “made in Germany”.

HOW WE SEE THE WORLD

How we see the world
An introduction to this Almanac by MARLEHN THIEME
Chairwoman of the German Council for Sustainable Development

We can look at the world from different perspectives.
Depending on the perspective and focus, we see different things.
When we look at the short term, we see refugees
and displacement, nationalism and populism,
societies with many old or many young people.
When we take a longer-term perspective, overuse of nature, heating of the atmosphere, social
segregation between poor and rich and north
and south come into focus, as does dead-end
growth searching within itself for a purpose.
However, we also see the opportunities of
change offered by the concept of sustainable
development. Many people in Germany now
consider this change important.
Sustainability: fulfilling the needs of people
living today in a way that gives future gen­erations a fair chance at an intact world,
a healthy life, the beauty of nature and
positive coexistence.

© Photo Thieme: German Council for Sustainable Development

Old thought patterns must yield to efforts to
find solutions in partnership. The sustainability
of traditional concepts of economy and society
must be re-evaluated. This is the starting point
for giving sustainability the necessary vitality.
A purely superficial, fashionable and sensationalist communication of the concept of sustainable
development can be damaging. Such communication must be opposed. However, there is
another communication deficit.

5

“Sustainability – Made in Germany” is still not
well enough known outside of Germany. That
we are more tolerant and cosmopolitan than
ever might be appreciated by many, as are
the buzzwords transition to a new energy
system, resource productivity, sustainability
strategy. But too little is known about what
is behind it and makes it possible. That is why
we made this Almanac. With practical examples
and threads, it shows how society as a whole
in Germany is responding to the topic of
sustainability. The government’s actions
and responsibilities remain highly important,
but are not the main subject of this book.
How we manage our economy, how we consume,
and how we live and do business in Germany and
with our international partners, not only affects
us and our prosperity, it also affects the lives of
people in many parts of this world, and affects
nature and resources. Our responsibility does not
end at our national borders. To reach the goal of
sustainable development in Germany, we must
also actively take on global responsibility.
The process of sustainable development has
led to a great response by society, that goes
beyond mere government responsibility.
The Almanac aims to present this clearly,
in depth and critically. By no means claiming
to be exhaustive, it tells concrete and tangible
stories. The goals of sustainable development
are an opportunity for everyone.

© trabantos / Shutterstock.com

THE GERMAN
SUSTAINABLE
DEVELOPMENT
STRATEGY

G E R M A N S U S TA I N A B L E D E V E LO P M E N T S T R AT E G Y

How is Germany implementing
the 2030 Agenda?
The German Sustainable Development Strategy

The strategy brings together sustainability
contributions by various policy areas, encourages greater coherence and resolves the
conflicting goals that arise from the large
number of systemic interdependencies.
In this way, the strategy provides guidance
for globally responsible, intergenerationally
fair and socially integrative policies.

What is the German Sustainable
Development Strategy?
For the German Government, the promotion of sustainable development is
a fundamental goal and the yardstick of
our governance. The German Sustainable
Development Strategy defines the rele­
vance of sustain­able development to
government policies and determines
specific goals and measures across the
entire range of political issues. It thus
provides the framework for the required
long-term direction of sustainable deve­l­op­ment policies. The strategy is based
on an overarching, integrative approach:
Stable long-term solutions will not be
achieved unless the interaction between
the three sustainability dimensions
is taken into account.

Revised in 2016 – sustainability in,
by and with Germany
The Sustainability Strategy revised by
the German Federal Cabinet in 2016
provides an essential framework for the
Federal Government’s national imple­men­
tation of the 2030 Agenda. It represents
the most comprehensive advancement
of the Strategy since its inception in 2002
and shows Germany’s commitment to the
ambitious, far-reaching imple­mentation
of the 2030 Agenda and its constituent
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The 2016 German Sustainable Development
Strategy details the measures taken to
implement the 17 SDGs at three levels:
Measures with a national impact in
Germany are joined by measures with
an international impact effected by
Germany as well as Germany’s support
of other countries in the form of bilateral
cooperation (measures imple­mented
in conjunction with Germany).

Sustainability is the yardstick
of our governance.
The Sustainability Strategy aims to pro­
mote efficient economic, socially balanced
and ecologically compatible development,
with the planetary boundaries of the earth
and the principle of human dignity pro­
viding unconditional guidelines for all
political decisions.

7

G E R M A N S U S TA I N A B L E D E V E LO P M E N T S T R AT E G Y

SUSTAINABILITY – A JOINT PROCESS

MANAGEMENT RULES

The Federal Government’s revised Strategy
edition focuses on dialogue and cooperation.
Between autumn 2015 and spring 2016,
five public conferences took place,
which were attended by high-ranking
representatives of the Federal Government,
the state and municipal governments,
a variety of non-governmental groups and
the general public. At the end of May 2016,
the German Chancellor launched the
second phase of the dialogue discussing
the draft strategy that had been published
online. The subsequent consultation event
at the Federal Chancellery was attended
by representatives of over 40 associations
and numerous statements were made.
A number of suggestions submitted
during the dialogue process provided
valuable suggestions.

The general requirements applying to
all sustainable policy action are defined
by twelve management rules.
ACCORDING TO THE FIRST BASIC RULE OF THE STRATEGY

Each generation must resolve their own
problems and must not postpone such solutions
to coming generations. At the same time,
they must provide against any foreseeable
future liabilities.
RESULT ANALYSIS THROUGH
TARGETS AND INDICATORS

The Sustainability Strategy comprises
63 so-called key indicators. In most cases,
the indicators are associated with
quantified targets. At least one indicatorbased target has been defined for each
of the 17 SDGs. Frequently, the public
associates sustainable development
primarily with environmental issues
or international cooperation. However,
in actual fact, the sustainability principle
concerns all policy areas. Aside from climate
protection, biodiversity, resource efficiency,
mobility, etc., the political goals of the
Sustainability Strategy also include poverty
reduction, education, health, equality, solid
government finances, fair distribution
and the combating of corruption. In line
with the contents of the 2030 Agenda,
an addi­tional 13 subject areas and
30 indicators have been included in
the Sustainability Strategy.

Sustainability management
The centrepiece of the German Sustainable
Development Strategy is a sustainability
manage­ment system involving specific
imple­mentation objectives and schedules,
indi­cators facilitating continuous moni­
toring, control regulations and institutional
implementation regulations.

8

G E R M A N S U S TA I N A B L E D E V E LO P M E N T S T R AT E G Y

REGULAR MONITORING: HOW CAN
SUSTAINABILITY BE QUANTIFIED?

SUSTAINABILITY IMPACT ASSESSMENT

The guiding principle of sustainability
is to be included in all laws and statutory
regulations right from the beginning.
In the Joint Rules of Procedure of the
Federal Ministries, sustainability has
therefore been established as a binding
criterion in the impact assessment
of all proposed laws and regulations.

Successes and failures in the achievement
of the strategic goals can be controlled
through transparent, regular monitoring.
Aside from serving as a basis for controlling
sustainable policies and making necessary
readjustments, such monitoring also
provides a transparent source of
information for democratic decisionmaking and discussion. Every two years,
the Federal Statistical Office publishes
a report on the current status of the indi­
cators, while the Strategy itself is refined
every four years. Independent specialized
statisticians analyze the indicators on their
own authority. The indicator report uses
weather symbols to signal whether the
sustainability targets will be achieved if
current developments continue. According
to current analysis by the Federal Statistical
Office, 27 indicators have a predominantly
positive status or trend, juxtaposed with
29 indicators with a predominantly
negative status or trend; for seven indi­
cators, status or trend statements are
currently not possible. Even though
numerous targets show positive develop­
ments, some areas show little or no progress.

SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAMME OF MEASURES

‘Setting a good example’ is the motto of
a comprehensive programme of measures
promoting sustainable administrative
action that was passed by the Federal
Government in 2015. Among others,
the programme comprises targets and
measures for reduced energy consumption
in government buildings, procurement
standards, sustainable event management
and an improved compatibility of family,
or home care and work.
SUSTAINABILITY –
A TOP MANAGEMENT PRIORITY INVOLVING
ALL GOVERNMENT MINISTRIES

Sustainability concerns all policy areas.
Owing to the cross-departmental character
and special importance of the subject,
responsibility for the German Sustainable
Development Strategy is in the hands of the
Federal Chancellery. In Germany, sustain­
able development is thus a top management
priority. The design and implementation
of the strategy requires close cooperation
and inclusion of all ministries. To further
coherence between political measures,
sustainable development coordinators
will be introduced as central contacts
in all ministries.

9

G E R M A N S U S TA I N A B L E D E V E LO P M E N T S T R AT E G Y

Sustainability Management
Federal Statistical
Office

German Council
for Sustainable
Development

Parliamentary Advisory
Council on Sustainable
Development

German federal
states

Central municipal
associations

Where appropriate attendance of meetings and contributions to reports by invitation

Office
(Federal Chancellery)

Preparation
Sustainable Development
working group
Management
Participation

Department reports

Department

Decisions

Department

Department

Department

Department

Department

Sustainability assessment

Impact assessment of laws

ment has been advising the government
on national and European sustainability
strategy. It also reviews the evaluation of
the sustainability impact assessments
(when the regulatory impacts) of proposed
legislation (are assessed).

THE COORDINATION:
THE STATE SECRETARIES‘ COMMITTEE

Chaired by the Chief of the Federal
Chancellery, the Committee of State
Secretaries serves as the central coordinator
for the Sustainable Development Strategy.
The Committee is tasked with ensuring
that the strategy is a central theme which
applies in all policy areas. The committee
meetings are also attended by external
experts in the fields of business, civil
society, associations, state governments,
local authorities and the EU Commission.
In addition, the ministries present their
sustainability reports.

GERMAN COUNCIL FOR
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

The German Council for Sustainable
Development has been advising the Fed­eral Government in all questions relating
to sustainability since 2001 and brings
the issue to the attention of the public.
The professional and personal back­grounds
of the current 15 members, who were ap­pointed by the German Chan­cellor on the
26th October 2016 for a period of three years,
reflect the three dimensions of sustain­ability. The independent Council publishes
statements and suggestions regarding
the advancement of the Strategy.

PARLIAMENTARY ADVISORY COUNCIL
ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

The principle of sustainability was
established in the German Bundestag
in 2004. Since then the Parliamentary
Advisory Council on Sustainable Develop­
10

Source: Federal Government of Germany

Committee of State Secretaries
for Sustainable Development

G E R M A N S U S TA I N A B L E D E V E LO P M E N T S T R AT E G Y

Regional Hubs for Sustainability Strategies
Implementation of the global sustainability targets requires new forms
of cooperation between governmental and non-governmental players.
To cope with this approach and to the regional and local relevance of the global sustainability targets,
the “Regional Hubs for Sustainability Strategies” (RENN) project has been initiated by the German Council for
Sustainable Development in 2016. Coordinated by the Council’s central office, four Regional Network Centres have
been established across the German federal states. The Network Centers link existing sustainable development
projects and initiatives, promote the exchange of experience and encourage social transformation. This extends
the reach of complex sustainability issues across regions and state borders.
For further information:
www.renn-netzwerk.de

11

G E R M A N S U S TA I N A B L E D E V E LO P M E N T S T R AT E G Y

its intention to integrate civil society
players even further in the ongoing work
on the strategy and its implementation.
This is to be achieved via the introduction
of a regular dialogue format and closer
integration of civil society players in the
preparation of meetings of the Committee
of State Secretaries. The scientific commu­
nity has launched various initiatives sup­
porting the implementation of the SDGs.
The Federal Government has stated its
intention to incorporate these initiatives
and offer a platform that pools all form of
scientific support for SDG implementation.

CLOSE COOPERATION AT FEDERAL,
STATE AND MUNICIPAL LEVELS

The legislative and executive competence
regarding important sustainable develop­
ment aspects is held by the state and
municipal governments. The Sustain­ability
Strategy creates mechanisms and a frame­
work for the enhanced coordination of
sustainable development measures among
the Federal Government, the state and
municipal governments. The Federal
Govern­ment is working closely with the
state governments and supports the muni­
cipalities in their efforts to contribute
to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
This involves various activ­ities, among
them the Mayors’ Sustainability Network
initiated and supported by the German
Council for Sustainable Development or the
new Regional Network Centres initiative.

WELL ON THE WAY

From the Federal Government’s perspec­­tive, the revised German Sustainable
Develop­ment Strategy is an important
first step on the path to implementing
the 2030 Agenda, which it declares to
continue consistently in the future. All
govern­mental and non-governmen­tal
institutions, social groups and individuals
are invited to participate actively.

Sustainability – well-established
in politics and society
The strategy supports dialogue and
cooperation between civic groups pursuing
sustainability goals and promotes know­l­
edge, skills and opportunities for involve­
ment. In the Sustainability Strategy 2016,
the Federal Government announces

The German Strategy for Sustainability 2016
(full text, only in German)
English Summary

Other publications of the German Council for Sustainable Development
·  For bolder, not just moderate changes! The government’s draft on sustainable development falls short of the requirements.
	 Statement on the government’s draft of 31 May 2016 on the German Sustainable Development Strategy
·  More courage! Sustainability must prove it is politically relevant. Expectations and recommendations for the Federal Government
·  Sustainability – Made in Germany. The Second Review by a Group of International Peers, commissioned by the German Federal Chancellery

12

G E R M A N S U S TA I N A B L E D E V E LO P M E N T S T R AT E G Y

What is sustainability?

The 2030 Agenda and the “Five P’s”¹
People
We are determined to end poverty
and hunger, in all their forms and
dimensions, and to ensure that all
human beings can fulfil their potential
in dignity and equality and in a healthy
environment.

Peace
We are determined to foster peaceful,
just and inclusive societies which are
free from fear and violence. There can
be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without
sustainable development.

Planet
We are determined to protect the
planet from degradation, including
through sustainable consumption
and production, sustainably managing
its natural resources and taking urgent
action on climate change, so that it
can support the needs of the present
and future generations.

Partnership
We are determined to mobilize the
means required to implement this
Agenda through a revitalized Global
Partnership for Sustainable Development,
based on a spirit of strengthened global
solidarity, focussed in particular on the
needs of the poorest and most vulnerable
and with the participation of all countries,
all stakeholders and all people.

© Pexels

Prosperity
We are determined to ensure that all
human beings can enjoy prosperous
and fulfilling lives and that economic,
social and technological progress
occurs in harmony with nature.

1  Source: “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”

13

G E R M A N S U S TA I N A B L E D E V E LO P M E N T S T R AT E G Y

Sustainability as a social process
The German Council for Sustainable Development’s contribution to the German Sustainable Development Strategy

What is new

In Germany, sustainability policies go
far beyond what governments (can) do.

We are in a position today no generation
before us has ever been in. We have never
been more capable of inflicting harm on
nature. The foundation of all human life
has never been so precariously dependent
on the anthropogenous influence on the
climate. Financial crises have never thrown
more people off their economic course
than today. Digital data worlds have
never before let us conjure up a so-called
singularity of man and machine. And
we have never had more reason for using
the term Anthropocene.

The German Council for Sustainable Develop­ment raises
awareness of the sustainability concept among businesses
and society as a whole. The German Sustainable Development
Strategy acknowledges this important responsibility. Based
on this comprehensive understanding, the Sustainability
Strategy has brought the three-pronged approach to the
attention of politics and the public. It gives a clear impression
of the measures required:
a) in Germany (for example to reduce the ecological footprint),
b) by Germany (through peacekeeping, joint development work 	
	 and international cooperation) and – as a new element –
c) with Germany (by creating possible solutions
	 at a national level, which are also useful in other countries,

On the other hand, there has never been
such an intensive search for sustainable
options. Prosperity and a good life for all
have never been as attainable as they are
today. Never before have key terms like
universal sustainability goals, decarboni­
zation or damage neutrality of land
use formed part of political obligations
at the highest level.

	 such as in photovoltaics).

and mutually with all others. The universal
nature of the matter brings with it a new
quality; global and republican thinking
close ranks. Accordingly, the political
understanding of the Sustain­ability
Strategy must be restructured and reshaped.
In order to do so, we recommended ap­proaches and reform solutions to the
Federal Government in a timely and
comprehensive analysis. In particular, the
German sustain­ability targets should
structurally meet global targets and take
the three-pronged approach (measures

The question is: How do we proceed with
the simultaneous presence of risk and
opportunity? Global diplomats have
set the agenda in Addis Ababa, Paris
and New York in 2015. Germany, too, has
committed to making ambitious and
significant contributions to sustainability
and climate protection, both internally

14

G E R M A N S U S TA I N A B L E D E V E LO P M E N T S T R AT E G Y

in Germany, a positive effect on the world
via domestic measures and with German
aid in partner countries).

The power
Germany has had a Sustainability Strategy
since 2002, but the broader public is hardly
aware of it. This is a serious political
short­coming, as sustain­ability strategies
proved their usefulness and innovative
power to interested parties and experts
years ago.

These paper-based approaches must now
be put into practice, transforming them
from a good idea to a guiding force. However,
this results in conflicting goals. That is an
argument for sustainability strategies, not
against them. Whether in the government,
in municipalities or in companies, they
must be coordinated and managed in a
learning process. That affects all action
levels in the country – in their respective
spheres. Politically, this entails managing
public affairs, while it entails everyday
decisions at an individual level. Everyone
makes decisions.

Our dialogues with experts and target
groups like the 100 youngest municipal
politicians, with mayors, young people,
universities and scientists from social
and ecological research projects, but in
particular with companies and business
sectors are proof of this.
The grass-roots initiatives in particular
have triggered a positive trend. Some of
them, as the tip of an immense iceberg,
we acknowledge every year as Workshop N
projects and document their initiatives.
They underline how sustainability has
be­come part of everyday reality and
provides orientation for the creative
political culture.

Everyone is part of a generation
that is responsible for its own future
and all life on earth, by respecting
ecological limits.
Social and financial resources must be
handled with dignity and fairness, strain
and risks must be avoided, and opportunities and freedom must be in­­creased
in a global context. Where strains on the
future are inevitable, they should be minimized as a precaution, and innovations
and improvements should be used to create
future alternative solutions. This must be
a fundamental principle of sustainability.

It is an encouraging response when more
and more people in companies, munici­
palities and in the sciences set course for
sustainability. Of course, more is both
necessary and possible. However, their
participation, for example in the German
Sustainability Award, points out that they
can no longer be ignored.

15

G E R M A N S U S TA I N A B L E D E V E LO P M E N T S T R AT E G Y

Altogether, there is still room for improve­
ment. That is why we are establishing
Regional Hubs for Sustainability Strategies.
We are working to establish sustainability
strategies in municipalities, companies and
the sciences, to encourage industry sectors
and non-governmental organizations to
adopt further and more ambitious sustain­
ability strategies in value chains such as
in the coffee, textiles, palm oil, cocoa, soya,
biomass sectors etc. We support new
concepts for avoiding food waste, for a
sustainable circular economy and
for sustainable manage­ment.

Recent projects by the Sustainability Council
(selection)
The Sustainability Code
Mayors’ dialogue “Sustainable City“
German Sustainability Campaigns
Project N Award
University and Sustainability Dialogue
Future Vision 2050 Dialogue
“Generation Carlowitz” Dialogue
Municipal Sustainability Dialogue Project

The goal of sustainable cities and
settle­ments is a key requirement
for dedicated climate and resource
protection and aims to combine
it with a democratic and openly
accessible public service.

The Sustainable Shopping Basket
RENN, Regional Hubs for Sustainability Strategies
Cherish the Land with DB
Support for the German Sustainability Award
Wettbewerb BodenWertSchätzen
(Competition for soil conservation in cooperation with the DBU)

All of the more than 30 mayors involved
in the “Sustainable City” dialogue have
committed to this.
We have continued the “Sustainable
Shopping Basket” as a project since 2001,
most recently in a Turkish version. This
clear decision guidance for product labels
appeals to us all as consumers. We update
it on an ongoing basis. For politicians,
this means that measuring sustainability
in consumption via indicators is possible
and feasible.

it has a good reputation and there are many
renowned users in business and politics.
In spite of all this success, the main
challenge has not been tackled yet: There
is still a long way to go before sustainability
will be a natural part of decision-making
processes and actions. Sustainability
profiles of clients and contractors,
financiers and investors are to be the
basis for future financial transactions.
That would mini­mize risks and increase
opportunities for sustainable business.

The Sustainability Council has successfully
positioned the “Sustainability Code”. It is
a great opportunity to integrate sus­tainable
management in the market. As a new
and practical transparency initiative,

16

G E R M A N S U S TA I N A B L E D E V E LO P M E N T S T R AT E G Y

Will it drive innovation and reforms or will
it be buried by bureaucracy? Will sustain­
ability really receive the constitutional
priority it deserves as a guiding principle
for the future? Will we be able to develop
our institutional beginnings?

After 15 years
This year marks 15 years of the German
Council for Sustainable Development.
That inspires both amazement and
impatience. The term sustainability has
been adopted by society. That will amaze
those who 15 years ago said that we were
focusing on an artificial word and were
no better than an alibi for government
inaction. Environmental activists feared
that they would get a raw deal in the
balance of interests with social and economic goals. Practical actions have dis­
proved these reservations and prejudices.
Today, the sustainability debate addresses
specific goals, planetary limits, the Anthro­­pocene and the global sustainability
agenda as a matter of course.

Now, of all times, the political power
of the term is starting to flag.
Now of all times when sustainability
and climate protection must be advanced
globally, the political momentum is
mystifying us. What is the political significance when many volun­tarily avoid using
plastic bags when shopping, but every book
sold is individ­ually shrink-wrapped and
packaged foods are preferred to unpackaged
items? When the fear of poverty has more
political weight than the actual fight against
poverty? When the energy transition has
broad public support but we do not even
take first steps to transform other
important fields?

At the time, we were among the first
attempting to introduce quantifiable goals
and indicators to the world of politics.
Politicians fought back with fundamental
reservations. Today, the principle has been
accepted and is a more or less recognized
political format, even at a global level.

Neither satisfaction nor a simple waitand-see policy are advisable based on
the wave of relative successes. Now is
the time for a detailed assessment of the
status quo and to think deeply about
what will and should result.

More and more people know about
sustain­ability and allow it to influence their
purchasing behaviour and lifestyle habits,
or at least try to do so.
However, has sustainability really reached
the cross-party consensus that everyone
is talking about? And is it already an
established social consensus? How will it
influence the formation of government
when the next German Federal Government
is elected in 2017?

17

G E R M A N S U S TA I N A B L E D E V E LO P M E N T S T R AT E G Y

In our country, the political effect
of every value consensus is to unite the
disheartened and frightened with in­fluencers and the courageous. The defence
and preservation reflexes are met with
a willingness to change and the need for
structural stimuli, such as in automobile
construction or coal-fired power generation.

and pension systems focused on public wel­
fare, sustainable construction in existing
building stock and for local public transport.
In an exemplary manner, this points the way
forward for a sharing economy and digital
agenda, competitiveness and prosperity.

Of course, we cannot simply go back
to “business as usual.”

In sustainable development, a more
equitable distribution should be achieved.

It is good that many are committed to this.
However, the phrase is meaningless without a clear definition of the terms “usual”
and “business”. We certainly have a long way
to go. Our federal constitutional order must
empower democracy and the market for
integration and ambition. In spite of
the basically good conditions, some things
will be challenging. However, there will also
be opportunities, both those that are
already apparent, and far more that will
surprise us. Let us be prepared and make
the most of what is offered to us.

However, it must be even more important
for us to tackle the roots of crises, unease
and despondency in Europe.
To achieve this, we need inspirational ideas
for transforming the energy system to
renewable energy sources, for building
a waste-free circular economy, for care

Sustainable development means placing environmental aspects
on an equal footing with social and economic aspects.
Sustainable management thus means that we must leave sound ecological,
social and economic structures behind for our children and grandchildren.
None of the three is possible without the other two.
GERMAN COUNCIL FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

18

WHAT IS THE GERMAN COUNCIL FOR SUS TAINABLE DE VELOPMENT AND WHAT DOE S IT DO?

What is the German Council for Sustainable
Development and what does it do?
The German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) was first established in
April 2001 by the German Federal Government. It is comprised of 15 public figures.
The Council advises the German Federal Government on its sustainability policy
and strives to contribute to the development of the Sustainability Strategy with
proposals on goals and indicators, and to propose projects to implement this strategy. Promotion of social dialogue on sustainability is another task of the German
Council for Sustainable Development. By pointing out the consequences of social
action and discussing solutions, it helps improve the specific understanding of
sustainability policy among all stakeholders and in the population as a whole.
German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel is continuing the national sustainability
strategy and appointed the RNE for a further three years on 1 November 2016.
As an independent body, the German Council for Sustainable Development
advises the Govern­ment and makes regular proposals to enhance the
German Sustainabilty Strategy.

MARLEHN THIEME
Chairwoman of the Council,
Member of the Council of the
Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD),
Chairwoman of the ZDF Television Council

OLAF TSCHIMPKE
Deputy Chairman of the Council,
President of ’NABU’ (Nature and
Biodiversity Conservation Union)

PROF. DR. ALEXANDER BASSEN
Full Professor of Capital Market and
Management at the University of Hamburg

ULLA BURCHARDT
Former Member of
the German Bundestag

KATHRIN MENGES
Executive Vice President Human Resources
and Infrastructure Services and
Chairwoman of the Sustainability Council
at Henkel AG & Co. KGaA

ALEXANDER MÜLLER
Former Assistant Director-General of
the Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) of the United Nations; Former State
Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Food
and Agriculture

KATHERINA REICHE
Managing Director of the German
Association of Local Utilities (VKU);
Former Parliamentary State Secretary

PROF. DR. LUCIA A. REISCH
Professor at Copenhagen Business School;
Chair of the German Advisory Council
for Consumer Affairs

19

DR. WERNER SCHNAPPAUF
Senior Advisor to Bank of America Merrill
Lynch in Germany / EMEA; former Minister
of State Development and Environmental
Affairs in the Government of Bavaria;
former CEO of the Federation
of the German Industry

DR. IMME SCHOLZ
Deputy Director of the German
Development Institute

PROF. DR. ULRICH SCHRAML
Forest Research Institute of
Baden-Württemberg, Freiburg

ACHIM STEINER
Director of the Oxford Martin School /
University of Oxford; former Executive
Director of the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP)

PROF. DR. HUBERT WEIGER
Chairman of Friends of the Earth Germany
(Bund für Umwelt- und Naturschutz
Deutschland, BUND)

HEIDEMARIE WIECZOREK-ZEUL
Former German Federal Minister
of Economic Cooperation and Development; Vice-Chair of Friends of the
Global Fund Europe Board for Germany

PROF. DR. GÜNTHER BACHMANN
Secretary-General of the Council

VICTORIA DIEKKAMP
Deputy Secretary-General of the Council

PROF. DR. WOLFGANG SCHUSTER
Former Mayor of Stuttgart;
Chairman of the Executive Board
of Deutsche Telekom Stiftung

Other publications by the German Council for Sustainable Development
· The Role of National Sustainable Development Councils in Europe in Implementing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

20

© Photo Bassen, Diekkamp, Menges, Schuster, Thieme, Tschimpke, Weiger: German Council for Sustainable Development; © Photo Mueller: Thomas Ecke; © Photo Burchardt: Ulla Burchardt; © Photo Wieczorek-Zeul: Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul; © Photo Steiner: Oxford Martin School;
© Photo Schraml: C. Gräber; © Photo Bachmann: Noel Tovia Matoff, Copyright German Council for Sustainable Development; © Photo Scholz: Barbara Frommann; © Photo Reiche: Verband kommunaler Unternehmen (VKU); © Photo Reisch: Sachverständigenrat für Verbraucherfragen / photothek

WHAT IS THE GERMAN COUNCIL FOR SUS TAINABLE DE VELOPMENT AND WHAT DOE S IT DO?

DON’T ASK WHAT
SUSTAINABILITY
CAN DO FOR YOU,
ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO
FOR SUSTAINABILITY!

© André Wagenzik

An essay on the first
Open SDGclub.Berlin

The first Open SDGclub.Berlin

The first Open SDGclub.Berlin
by GÜNTHER BACHMANN
Secretary-General of the German Council for Sustainable Development

There was a certain scepticism in the air.
90 people from 32 countries are standing
at the reception, many with arms crossed,
all sceptical or cautious. They have attend­ed enough conferences with overlong stage
presentations. Their hopes have been
crushed too often. Now they are arriving
at the first Open SDGclub.Berlin, organized
by the Sustainability Council in
November 2016.

© André Wagenzik

SDG refers to the Sustainable Development
Goals as part of the global 2030 Agenda,
passed by nations worldwide in 2015. They
describe the aim of tackling sustainability
universally in all nations very generally,
although with some rough edges. They
aim to halve the quantity of foodstuffs lost
during the harvest or thrown away before
consumption. They aim to combat poverty
and hunger, and also promote healthy food, a
fair economy and environmental protection,
good school education and sustainable cities.

For the first time, they make sustainability
tangible in targets and numbers.

© André Wagenzik

But first, we need to breathe life into
the diplomatic wording. That will take
imagination and bravery. It will also take
government action and those in power
to take responsibility – and broad-based
action in society as a whole.

22

The first Open SDGclub.Berlin

Our invitation takes an abstract concern
and turns it into something personal.

There is no lectern. The chairs are set up
in circles around a circular stage in the
colours of the 17 Sustainable Development
Goals. I simply hand in my typed four-page
welcome speech for the record and we
start with a free-flowing interview instead.
All of the participants soon start sharing
their ideas openly. Attendees speak from
the middle of the floor. The free word is what
counts. Whether you believe it or not, even
that is new. The enthusiasm increases.

It aims to turn conviction into inspiration.
The Open SDGclub.Berlin is open because it
is not exclusive nor held in a back room, and
because everyone is expected to contribute.
Active members of sustainability councils
or similar committees, non-governmental
organizations and business associations,
as well as from some UN sustainable
development institutions are welcome to
participate. The “dot Berlin” part highlights
the intention to copy the whole thing in
other places. Would this be just another
conference without consequences?
There are far too many of those already.
Words instead of action, feeling com­fort­able in the safe company of like-minded
people? And achieving nothing in the
end? That is what I wanted to know, too.

The debate shows that what governments
do or fail to do is still important.
However, the ideas and innovations from the
heart of society are crucial. That is easier said
than done. Where state authorities are hardly
interested in environmental protec­tion,
human rights and a fair economy, as a conse­quence, they also purposefully restrict the
political freedom of non-governmental
stakeholders. Wherever society relies on
the government unilaterally and makes it
the key to sustainability, as a con­sequence,
they also purposefully restrict the political
freedom of non-governmental stakeholders.
The same is true when people only talk about,
but not with business stakeholders. That
often even cripples the ambitious goals and
actions, leading to disappointment and
senseless fighting between communities
of specialists, lobbies and factions with
different respon­­sibilities. There is a chance
of a breakthrough and a real improvement
if the universal sustainability goals and
the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development
become issues for society as a whole. New
ideas are created in an inspiring exchange
of various experiences. The Club asks what
people themselves have done, as the total
is more than the sum of the parts.

© André Wagenzik

They all have hopes, but their experience
warns them to be prepared for disappointment. The first surprise is that very few
attendees know one another – it is not just
another “family get-together.” And then:

23

The first Open SDGclub.Berlin

In smaller laboratories and different formats,
the Club tries to approach a contemporary
interpretation of sustainability and social
impulses and movements in order to overcome gridlocked factions; in short, what
I consider the “18th SDG” (see below).

© André Wagenzik

The heading for the second Club day is
“A Space for Ideas”. We changed the venue
and moved to an old factory in a typical
Berlin courtyard. One hundred years ago,
the air here was filled with steam and
hammering sounds. Now it seems like the
graffiti and the paint on the doors and
windows are all that is holding the decaying
building together. The staircase to the third
floor is dark and damp. The next surprise
comes when we reach the top. We find a
factory loft with a warm atmosphere and
old industrial lamps, lockers, wooden
tables and stone walls. A space for ideas,
ideas which come when experience and
expectation are combined. It helps when
progressive thinking can be combined with
concepts and when you re-network things
that already exist and facilitate cooperation.

elsewhere. I talked about sustainability
campaigns in Germany and Europe.

With little effort, we can increase the political
profile of many thousand campaigns at a local
level throughout the country.

Can the host, especially a German host,
lead the way and propose solutions?
Wouldn’t it be better to moderate and
support from the back? Isn’t that more like
Germany’s traditional role? Don’t we have
to reduce our historic environmental debt
– the ecological footprint of resource
consumption and harmful emissions – first?
Good friends advised me not to make too
many suggestions of my own. What is right?

At “Actions for Tomorrow,” we showed films,
cooked together or organized a recycling
campaign. We are already open to entries
from around the world. How simple would
it be to support this actively at a broad level?
I talked about the Sustainability Code we
developed in conversation with stakeholders
and in practice. It helps companies report on
their contributions to sustainable development, and could also be used in other
countries. How simple would it be to use
the instrument outside Germany? We focus
our conferences and meetings consistently
on green matters to show that sustainability

In Space for Ideas, I described which of our
projects and experiences could be used

24

The first Open SDGclub.Berlin

The silent pressure for economic growth is
still forcing us in wrong directions – culturally and socially as well as ecologically and
even economically.

© André Wagenzik

On the third day of the Open SDGclub,
the scepticism yielded to curiosity about
our own strength. Esteem builds trust.
Trust becomes mutual strength. Attendees
start developing initial plans for their own
campaigns “at home.” There are no membership cards for the Club. It is open and
its participants are to act as multipliers.
However, people seem increasingly to want
proof of membership. Small snippets of the
stage floor, cut out by the participants themselves, will serve as admission ticket for the
invitation to the next SDGclub.Berlin, which
I announced for 2018. The biggest surprise
for me was that people were singing (where
do things like that happen?). “You’ll never
walk alone” and “What a wonderful world,”
with voices from Barcelona and St. Lucia.

is always specific and talk must be followed by action. Wouldn’t that be useful
elsewhere, too?
Of course, in Germany we are still at square
one in many ways. That becomes clear as
well. Our agricultural landscape lacks biodiversity. Land consumption, excessive
individual consumption and wastage overcast good approaches for sufficiency and
savings. Instead of transitioning to full
recycling, we still import commodities that
are produced in other parts of the world
and cause ecological and social problems
there. Of all highly developed economies,
Germany is one of the most vital. The overall debt is falling (and is still above the
Maastricht limit), and the income differences have not increased in recent times.
In spite of this, the population is growing
increasingly discontented. That cannot
be explained on a material basis alone.

The conclusions? The Open SDGclub.Berlin
met all expectations and raised hopes
for more and better multi-stakeholder
dialogues. Better in the sense of an
encouraging culture of communication
and equal participation with clarity on the
conflicts and differences. For governments
and parliaments – and thus for democracy
– this is essential to make the transition
to more sustainability. That will be hard
work and it will take more courage to accept
responsibility and provide leadership.
Traditional leadership models are no longer
convincing. Huge company headquarters
are no longer intimidating; rank and title are
less and less suitable as symbols. Of course,
25

The first Open SDGclub.Berlin

money still counts and entire governments
are constituted based on this standard.
However, their symbols of power only count
within their own, protected ranks.

To advance the transition to sustainable
development as a social force at all levels
will take different leadership qualities.

© André Wagenzik

They derive power from integrity of word
and deed. Whoever practices what they
preach also convinces others. It doesn’t
all have to work out one hundred percent –
conflicting goals don’t just disappear.
It is important to tackle them consciously
and openly. The people with the greatest
influence on the future are those who
behave as though it were already here.
Hope is nothing for people who are not
informed well enough.

© André Wagenzik

© André Wagenzik

Many thanks to Verónica Tomei and Isolde Magin-Konietzka
for the technical preparation and careful organization
and the entire club for their dedicated participation.

Learn more
·  www.nachhaltigkeitsrat.de/en/opensdgclub

26

Social justice
in Germany

© Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.com

Part of the sustainability agenda

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GERMANY
SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GERMANY

Human rights, equal opportunities,

Population pyramid in Germany

rule of law, access to education,

in 2014
www.service.destatis.de/bevoelkerungspyramide/

shared prosperity – the United Nations’

100

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

95
90

1930

85

1935

ment is impossible without justice.

80

1940

75

1945

by ROBER T BÖHNK E and VERÓNIC A TOMEI

70

1950

65

1955

60

1960

As early as 1987, the Brundtland Report
by the World Commission on Environment
and Development, considered to be one
of the most important catalysts for sustain­
ability policy, based its pioneering defini­
tion on generational justice: “Sustainable
development is development that meets
the needs of the present without compro­
mising the ability of future generations
to meet their own needs.” The 1992 United
Nations Conference in Rio de Janeiro made
the principle globally valid – sustainable
development incorporates the social,
eco­logical and economic dimension. It is
also the foundation for the 2030 Agenda,
which was passed in September 2015,
and its 17 global sustainability goals.
None of the goals stands by itself, they
interact and are interrelated. The Agenda
brings together the politics and debates on

55

1965

50

1970

45

1975

40

1980

35

1985

30

1990

25

1995

20

2000
2005
2010

5

2015

700 600 500 400 300 200 100
Men (thousand)

15
10

0

0

0

100 200 300 400 500 600 700
Women (thousand)

classic development policy
30 and global
sustainability policy. All United Nations
members have committed to reaching
these goals by 2030. Sustainable develop­
ment can only succeed if justice and free­
dom allow people to use their potential.

1987

The vision of sustainable development in
Germany can be traced back to the 18th century.
It also has long roots reaching far back into the
past in other countries and economic regions.
In Germany, the vision has been boosted in
particular within the past 20 years.

The World Commission on Environment and
Development defines the concept of sustainable
development in the Brundtland Report.

28

Source: Destatis

makes it clear that sustainable develop-

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GERMANY

Reliable framework conditions, common
values, equal opportunities, trustworthy
institutions or a transparent and inde­
pendent jurisdiction are essential for
long-term positive and sustainable eco­
nomic development according to the
“2015 Report on the Human Development”
by the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP). Germany has the
right framework conditions.

BEST PRACTICE

Kiron Open
Higher Education:
Higher education
for refugees
Kiron Open Higher Education was founded by students as
a crowdfunding project in 2015. The goal of the social
startup is to reduce the bureaucratic barriers facing
refugees when beginning higher education in Germany.
Students complete a two-year online course, followed
by a one-year programme at a partner university. Kiron
also supports the students with advice and equipment.

The goal of social justice has
a long tradition in Germany
The debate on the social dimension of sus­
tainability has also been enhanced by the
international 2030 Agenda process in Ger­
many. We can look back on a tradition initi­
ated as early as the end of the 19th century
in the socially enlightened Rhine capitalism,
and in particular with Bismarck’s social
legislation: Early forms of health insurance,
accident insurance and invalidity and oldage insurance for labourers took shape, and
have now matured to the concept of social
market economy and ecosocial responsibil­
ity today. Justice is not merely the responsi­
bility of the government and legislature.
Germany is characterized by inclusion at
all levels of society: From the government
to trade unions, employer associations,
non-governmental organizations to civic

Unlike public higher education institutions, this programme does not require a specific residency status
and location, and students do not have to provide
certificates. The bachelor degree programme is free
of charge. The 1500 current students can choose from
courses in IT, social studies, business studies and
engineering. Kiron has already succeeded in partnering
with 24 higher education institutions in Germany,
France, Jordan and Italy.

© Photo: Kiron

Kiron Open Higher Education is supported by the
German Federal Ministry of Education and Research
and a network of foundations and companies.
www.kiron.ngo/about

International developments

1992

2000

The UN Global Summit in
Rio de Janeiro passes Agenda 21.

Development in Germany

The United Nations pass the eight Millennium Development Goals,
including combating poverty worldwide.

June 26th, 1998

The final report of the commission of inquiry “Protecting mankind
and the environment – Goals and framework conditions of a sustainably
future-safe development” by the German Parliament calls on the
German Federal Government to develop a Sustainability Strategy.

29

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GERMANY

initiatives, there is a comprehensive net­
work of institutions and laws that is to
ensure that everyone has access to the
fundamental requirements for a dignified
life. Accordingly, in Germany, the free

have developed well-established proce­
dures. Consensus and dialogue, balance
and justice are key values. However, justice
is not a state, it is an on­going process.
The 2030 Agenda also imposes respon­
sibilities on Germany.

Once general awareness returns that social wellbeing is not measured by rising GDP alone but
primarily by society‘s treatment of its weakest
members, the measures necessary to transform
the welfare state will meet with success.
HEINRICH BEDFORD STROHM

© Photo Bedford-Strohm: ELKB / mck

Chair of the Evangelical Church in Germany

market forces are complemented by social
balancing. Self-organization of society is
a valuable commodity and guarantees
important functions of social life. Over
20 million people volunteer in sports clubs,
educational and cultural institutions,
among others. Without volunteer work, it
would have been more difficult to cope with
the many arriving refugees in recent years.
Cooperatives and charitable organizations
are important pillars of society and the
economy, too. The dual vocational education
system ensures well-trained young people
and a low youth unemployment level com­
pared with other countries. In addition to
this, there is a system of free education from
primary school to higher education, for
which the federal states are responsible.
The government, economy and society

International developments

2001

The European Union passes its first
sustainable development strategy.

Development in Germany

30

What is the status quo in Germany?
The right to education, equal rights, free­
dom of opinion, creation of equal living
conditions – fundamental rights are crucial.
The German Sustainable Development
Strategy explicitly mentions the challenges
and goals of social justice in many areas.
According to the OECD (Organisation for
Economic Cooperation and Development),
the average income equality in Germany
is contrasted with a highly uneven distribu­
tion of wealth compared with other coun­
tries. The major differences between the
federal states reflect the regional economic
development – over 25 years after reunifi­
cation, income in the new federal states
of the former East Germany remains
20 percent lower than that in the former
West Germany, and there are significant
regional differences there, too. In a global
comparison, income inequality in Germany
is only moderately serious, given that the
German export surplus has a mitigating
effect. However, that hardly affects the
debate within Germany.

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GERMANY

In Germany, anyone with a need-weighted
income below 60 percent of the median
income is considered “at risk of poverty”.
Keeping the number of people in this group
as low as possible is a stated objective.

Higher costs of living in the cities often
place an excessive burden on household
income. Decreasing population figures
in many rural regions in turn often lead
to shortages of specialists, reduced tax
revenue and financing problems for
public service.

I think people are all equal in terms
of human dignity, but not in terms
of their opportunities in life. There are
terrible discrepancies. The purpose of
politics is to balance these discrepancies
as much as possible. It‘s a question of
equal opportunities.
GESINE SCHWAN

© Photo Schwan: Hans-Christian Plambeck

Gesine Schwan, President and co-founder of
HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform gGmbH

In this respect, poverty is a challenge,
even for a rich nation like Germany. This is
revealed by the “German Report on Poverty
and Wealth”. According to statistical moni­
toring on sustainable development in
Germany, 10.7 percent of the population
in Germany were considered materially
deprived in 2015, with 4.4 affected by
sig­nifi­cant material hardships. This is a
slight decrease compared with 2010.
However, the strong regional differences
are also relevant: In particular, the income in big cities is often lower than
the regional average.

However, the issue of justice is more than
inequality in economic development,
income and assets. In the education sector,
over 97 percent of the population have at
least a secondary education and the level
of education is increasing continuously:
40 percent of an age group start higher
education today. In spite of this, educational
success remains highly dependent on the
socio-economic situation of the families –
a key challenge for equal opportunities
in Germany. That is also true of gender
equality: While women today have the same
education level, and in younger age groups,
even a higher level of education than men,
they still earn over 20 percent less on aver­
age than men in the same positions. In spite
of their qualifications, women account for
only 30 percent of management positions,
lower than the average in the 28 EU coun­
tries. Gender equality is one of the objec­
tives of the German Sustainable
Development Strategy.

International developments

Development in Germany

April 4th, 2001

First appointment of the German Council for Sustainable Development by German Chancellor Gerhard
Schröder. From 2005, German Chancellor Dr. Angela
Merkel upholds the appointment.

31

April 17th, 2002

National Sustainability Strategy passed
by the German Federal Government.
Continuation of the Sustainability Strategy
every four years from 2004.

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GERMANY

BEST PRACTICE

Cooperatives:
Society empowering itself

Today, there are roughly 7,700 cooperatives and cooperative companies in Germany, with over 22 million members
and roughly one million employees.

Data source & diagram source: DGRV

Cooperative models have existed in Germany since 1847. The first precursors were
benevolent societies and loan societies, which helped farmers buy seeds and fertilizer.
The loans were refinanced against the harvest yield.
Cooperatives at a glance
The cooperative group is the economic organizational
form in Germany with by far the most members. With over

Cooperatives respond to structural challenges: Cooperative village shops, village guesthouses or swimming pools
make regions more attractive places to live. Childcare
provided by family cooperatives promotes work-life balance. Some aspects of nationwide healthcare are provided by cooperative medical centres.

22 million members and almost one million employees,
the roughly 7,700 cooperatives are a driving force for business
and society. Statistically, every fourth German citizen is a
member of a cooperative. Cooperatives exist in many
different areas and sectors.
818 (Balance sheet total)

The over 2,000 building cooperatives in Germany have
more than three million members. Of a total 41 million
apartments in Germany, building cooperatives manage
over two million apartments.²

1,021

Members of building cooperatives pay reasonable rents
and make democratic decisions on their residential complexes. 90 percent of the apartments, most of which are
from the mid-20th century, have been refurbished and
modernized. New forms of living like multi-generational
houses are often organized as cooperatives.

2,000

Credit cooperatives

2,250

Raiffeisen cooperatives

Housing cooperatives

1,332

Commercial goods
and service cooperatives

854

Cooperative link:
www.dgrv.de

Energy cooperatives

332

Consumption and
service cooperatives

Entwicklung International

Number of
cooperatives

Entwicklung in Deutschland

2  Source: Statistisches Bundesamt

	 www.destatis.de/DE/ZahlenFakten/GesellschaftStaat/
	EinkommenKonsumLebensbedingungen/Wohnen/Tabellen/Wohnungsbestand.html

32

61 (Turnover)

18.3

191,544

4.5 (Investments)
122 (Turnover)

1.4

2.8

0.34

0.16

0.3
Members
(in millions)

86,250

27,900

611,100

0.2 (Turnover)
2 (Turnover)

1,200

14,000
Employees

KPIs for 2015
(in billion EUR)

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GERMANY

Sustainable social development also
means finding a way to reconcile labour
market requirements and family duties.
Non-monetary quality of life is becoming
increasingly important, as is the desire
of many women and men to work less
and be able to respond flexibly to family
challenges and requirements.

New challenges or:
Money isn’t everything
As in other countries, there are many
critics of classic economics in Germany.
New working time models, more time
for families, private priorities instead of
income goals – values and settings are
changing continuously. Non-monetary
quality of life is becoming increasingly
important in many sections of the popu­
lation. This also changes our understanding
of development, which is significantly
influenced by the industrialization of
the past 200 years.

Inequality and social justice have many
dimensions – what is considered just or
unjust varies with time and social circum­
stances. That is true in Germany, too.

It would be great if sustainability was
included in the university curriculum.
“Everyone decides”

THOMAS FINGER

Source: German Council for Sustainable Development

Proponents of the green economy criticize
conventional economics and economic
growth as an end in itself. They call for a
focus on the clear benefit for mankind and
the environment and emphasize that this
approach creates new economic stimuli
and reveals alternative entrepreneurial
concepts. These already have a significant
market share in Germany. The further
market poten­tial is enormous and the
increasing number of start-ups shows
that it is constantly expanding.

International developments

Development in Germany

January 9th, 2004

2008

The German Parliament establishes
the Parliamentary Advisory Board
for Sustainable Development.

The first German Sustainability Award is bestowed.

33

© Photo Finger: TRIAD Berlin

Founder of Bamboo Bikes

info movie
www.nachhaltigkeitsrat.de/en/medialibrary/audio-video/everyone-decides

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GERMANY

The green economy include the traditional
green technology segments, but also goes
far beyond this. The focus is not on the
industry but on the individual company.
It is important to re­structure old business
practices and establish new, innovative
business segments to combine production
and production processes with sustain­
ability concepts. This also applies for com­
panies in the housing industry, the banking
industry or the chemical industry.

BEST PRACTICE

Arbeitsstelle
WELTBILDER e. V.

Arbeitsstelle WELTBILDER is a specialist unit for global
learning and intercultural didactics as well as an experimental laboratory for innovative education on deve­
lopment policy. The work focuses on developing,
selecting and systematizing holistic methods and
didactics – including and in particular towards futureproof education for sustainable development.

Parts of the population in Germany, though,
increasingly question growth itself, in some
cases even green growth. They call for indi­
vidual sacrifice and a policy of sufficiency
(frugal lifestyles). There is still a strong
correlation between wealth, for example
the HDI (Human Development Index)
and ecological resource consumption
→ see “Ecological Footprint”.
Instead of focusing on continually increas­
ing the gross domestic product, more and
more people advocate to set the focus on
quality of life and new ways of working and
coexistence. They want to establish a prac­
tice of sharing and repairing – and thus
reach a higher quality of life without using
up more resources.

With the African Ways of Life educational project,
Arbeitsstelle Weltbilder is changing the image and/or
perspective of the common image of Africa in German
society and presents a differentiated image of Africa,
a continent of opportunities. The book published in
autumn 2016 reports on successful, unusual, surprising,
sustainable examples of an African way of life.

© Photo: Lucie Kirstein

For further information:
www.facebook.com/african.ways.of.life

International developments

Development in Germany

2009

First Peer Review of the national sustainability strategy: While Germany is attested
good preconditions for the transition to more sustainability, it is criticized for lacking
a forward-looking “grand design” for its sustainability policy.

34

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GERMANY

Ecological Footprint Per Person and HDI of Nations by World Regions (2012)

Ecological Footprint Per Person (gha)

14

High Human
Development

Africa

Very High Human
Development

Middle East/Central Asia
Asia-Pacific

12

Latin America & Caribbean
North America

10

EU
Other Europe

8

Germany

4
World Biocapacity in 1961

World Biocapacity in 2012

2

Global Sustainable Development
Quadrant

0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

A third point of criticism takes a different
approach. It sees Germany in the middle
of a secular trend of stagnation, where
demand for goods and services is chroni­
cally too low, which has been discussed
as a global threat since the 1930s. The
current welfare state concepts in Germany
and other developed industrialized coun­
tries are coming under immense pressure

International developments

U.N. Human Development Index (HDI)

1

for many reasons, according to critics.
How can the welfare state be maintained
and made future-proof without continuous
growth? This debate needs to be continued
more profoundly. The details are highly
controversial; common belief, however,
is that we cannot succeed by simply
continuing as before.

2012

At the third Rio follow-up conference, “Earth Summit,”
192 countries decide to develop global sustainability
targets based on a proposal by Columbia and Guatemala.

Development in Germany

2011

The Ethics Commission for a “Safe Energy Supply” appointed by the German Federal Government recommends
phasing out nuclear power by 2022 while retaining
ambitious climate goals: The energy transition starts.

35

2013

Second peer review of the German sustainability policy:
“Germany has good reasons to be proud of its
achievements in the transition to a more sustainable
world. But the journey is far from being over”

Source: Global Footprint Network

6

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GERMANY

Also, sustainable cities cannot be planned
on paper, they need the innovative power
and active participation of the local people
→ see topic “ Changing the way we plan”.
Our actions have effects and an impact –
the 2030 Agenda requires us to fulfil
our global responsibility at a local level.
For sustain­able development, many
companies are already taking “better”
approaches to business → see topic
“Changing the economy”. As consumers,
everybody makes decisions every day –
and sustainability is becoming an in­creas­
ingly important influence → see topic
“Changing our habits of consumption”.

New paths
Sustainable development creates
opportunities for an open, pluralist and
just society – it is anthropocentric and
needs universal active participation.
As a result, it is also a common solution
to frustration and isolation.
I want to be socially responsible.
That‘s why my flatmates and I are
actively involved in refugee relief.
FELIX DUNKL
Trainee

© Photo Dunkl: TRIAD Berlin

The almanac is exemplary for the challenges
and the social force and dynamics of the pro­­cesses of change towards greater sustain­
abil­ity in Germany. The success of the
energy transition in Germany would not be
possible without the broad popular par­tici­
pation → see topic “Energy transition”.

Other publications of the German Council for Sustainable Development
·  Sustainable Development Goals and Integration:
	 Achieving a better balance between the economic, social and environmental dimensions
·  Global and National Sustainable Development Goals and Expectations
	 of Germany‘s Institutions and Procedures

International developments

2015

The United Nations pass the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
Development with 17 Global Sustainable Development
Goals that apply universally for all countries;
the Climate Agreement is passed in Paris.

Development in Germany

2015

The Sustainability Council recommends realigning
the sustainability policy on the basis of the
Sustainable Development Goals.

36

2016

Ban Ki-moon receives
the German Sustainability Award.

2017

New Edition of the
German Sustainable
Development Strategy.

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GERMANY

Thomas Krüger
PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL AGENCY FOR CIVIC EDUCATION

© TRIAD Berlin

Inequality gap
is widening.

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GERMANY

INTERVIEW

THOMAS KRÜGER
PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL
AGENCY FOR CIVIC EDUCATION

The 2016 Data Report published by
the Federal Agency for Civic Education
presents a comprehensive overview
of living conditions in Germany.
What is the overall picture? Do we live
in a fair and just society?
To begin with, statistical data are not selfanalytical and need to be interpreted.
Each individual must form their own opinion.
Nevertheless, the Data Report presents
clear facts that can be put into context:
For instance, managers in Germany earn
three times as much as normal workers,
women earn on average remarkably less
than men, or the hourly wage in the service
industry is 22 euros in Bavaria and 15 euros
in Thuringia. These are considerable differences, which require interpretation and
leave room for everyone to draw their
own conclusions.

Inequalities are cemented or opened up
as a consequence of the low-wage sector.
Which conclusions do you draw
from the Data Report?
To me it is clear that the inequality gap
in Germany is widening. The Data Report
supports this thesis. We need to take
measures in the economic field and in the
education sector to stop social inequality
from growing worse. In democratic societies,
the aim is not enforced conformity but
equal or equivalent access to opportunities.
We must keep this in mind.

38

Nevertheless, social standards in Germany
are seen as high. Where do we have
deficits and how can we remedy them?
In terms of social services, we do indeed
have high standards, but only in certain
areas. According to the OECD, Germany
is somewhere in the middle field since
the concepts applied in reaction to globalization and the dissolution of boundaries
are also taken into account. Inequalities are
cemented or opened up as a consequence
of the low-wage sector. This background
puts social standards into perspective.
We actually have a need to catch up, both
where social standards are concerned and
generally in terms of our economic order.
Policies must create more equality in society.
How does our social market economy
encourage sustainable development?
Which factors are positive, which
act as barriers?
This is, of course, a very controversial subject.
It depends from which perspective you
approach this challenge. In our bpb:magazin
issue of October 2016, sociologist Stephan
Lessenich illustrates the significance of
the instruments employed in a social market
economy. He posits that government welfare measures tend to favour and stabilize
sustainable social development. In contrast,
business journalist Rainer Hank is of the
opinion that government welfare measures
do not contribute to the reduction of inequality. Hank therefore calls the principle
of government welfare instruments
into question.

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GERMANY

INTERVIEW

THOMAS KRÜGER
PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL
AGENCY FOR CIVIC EDUCATION

I personally support Stephan Lessenich‘s
opinion. If one considers the stability
Germany has achieved over time, it is clear
that the social market economy as economic
and social order has given Germany a high
level of stability.
At the same time, we observe a social
division at the micro level that manifests
itself, for instance, in wealth inequality.
How can we create more equal living
conditions?
Equality should not be mistaken for‚
“sameness” in the sense of conformity.
Equality in society means that the
differences in development opportunities
and income structures cannot be defined
out of existence. We are all different
and follow different paths through the
education system. Some exploit the
potential more actively than others.
We must make sure that the inequalities
in society do not grow too big and social
cohesion remains possible. Of course,
this will not work if society is drifting
further apart and inequality becomes an
intrinsic feature of the economic order,
i.e. a small number of people earn a lot
of money and a large number of people are
left behind. I believe that this is the crux
of the matter, the point we need to discuss.
Everybody should be clear about the degree
of inequality an open, democratic society
can handle. I therefore strongly advise
that we place the term “equality” at the
heart of the debate, keep opportunities
equal and improve the access to oppor­tunities where needed.

39

How closely is equality connected with
education and democracy? Is education
a key resource of our democracy?
Education is undoubtedly a key resource
in general. Thanks to Germany‘s mandatory
schooling laws, everybody has access to
the education system. Nevertheless, the
German system focuses on selection and
places certain groups in society at a severe
disadvantage. One could even say that

Education is undoubtedly
a key resource in general.
poverty is handed down through the
education system. Children from working-class backgrounds are six times less
likely to graduate from high school and
gain access to university education than
children from privileged families. Given
that education is indeed a key resource
in the 21st century, the system must be
adjusted to prevent further inequality
of opportunities. Education offers everybody an opportunity to participate in
economic growth and prosperity. However,
this only works if everybody makes full use
of the available opportunities and potential.
This requires strong family and community
ties, it requires social solidarity and, of
course, the willingness and motivation
to make the best of one‘s educational career.

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GERMANY

INTERVIEW

THOMAS KRÜGER
PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL
AGENCY FOR CIVIC EDUCATION

How can we raise awareness of a
complex subject such as sustainability?
How can sustainability be communicated
more effectively?
Sustainability must not become an issue
of responsibility. Sustainability is an interdisciplinary subject that pushes boundaries
and goes beyond environmental and energy
issues. In my opinion, sustainability can
also be reflected in the education sector.
Sustainable education is education that
provides general access and focuses on the
educational potential of the general masses,
not on cognitive standards and IQs.

I believe that sustainability
is a bracket which allows for tolerance
of differences in this society and facilitates
the building of a common future.
Instead, it concentrates on the contribution
to society that people can make in accordance with their potential. I believe that
sustainability is a bracket which allows for
tolerance of differences in this society and
facilitates the building of a common future.

bpb itself is very active in promoting
education among the educationally
marginalized. You have, for instance,
set up the “Zusammenhalt durch Teilhabe” ¹ programme and are working
with programmes such as “Berlin – Tag
und Nacht.” What motivates you?
The “Zusammenhalt durch Teilhabe” programme focuses on democratic deficits
in rural areas. This is a highly underestimated trend that must be brought to the
attention of policy-makers. Massive migration from the countryside to the cities
leads to substantial deficits in rural areas,
including democratic deficits. We are
observing the dismantling of public infrastructure, with educationally marginalized
people being left behind. Those who are
successful in the educational field follow
the brain drain to the cities. This requires
adjustment, or stabilization, of democratic
potential in rural areas. We have therefore
implemented a democracy teacher training
programme that has been completed
by over 700 people.
The second point has to do with the principle that civic education is for everyone.
If we want to get through to people who no
longer read or attend classic instruments,
such as seminars in educational institutions,
we have to find other ways of reaching them.

1  cohesion through participation

40

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GERMANY

INTERVIEW

THOMAS KRÜGER
PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL
AGENCY FOR CIVIC EDUCATION

Of course, the best way is in their daily environment using popular media. Given our
observation that educationally marginalized
target groups tend to watch private TV
channels and online web video formats,
we are not shying away from contacting
any potential cooperation partner active
in these formats. “Berlin – Tag und Nacht”
is an entertainment programme that is not
associated with any political affiliation.
But there‘s no reason why such a format
shouldn‘t carry some political content.
Before the last Bundestag elections, we
set up a competition to focus discussions
on the election. The option we were most
comfortable with was the Wahl-O-Mat
(election meter). During the hour the WahlO-Mat appeared in the programme, retrieval
numbers shot up. Such formats give us
low-threshold access to political issues.
A second option are web video formats.
Just recently, we addressed the concept
worlds of Islam. On this subject, we worked

If it strives to be universally
accessible, it must open up
and follow innovative paths.
with influencers, in this case YouTube stars
like Hatice Schmidt. Hatice is a beauty
blogger who is married to a German husband and encourages her audience, especially young Muslim women, to engage with
beauty issues. This cooperation was very
successful because people don‘t only talk
about lipsticks but also about religious and
secular life issues: There were several
hundred-thousands of downloads and
countless comments.

41

Even the Salafists tried to get their message
in. But we were prepared and had female
scholars of Islam at hand to comment and
launch a critical and controversial discussion.
These are new civic education formats which
allow us to address people who are otherwise unreachable. Any tax-financed education must ask the question whether it is
really accessible to everyone. If it strives to
be universally accessible, it must open up
and follow innovative paths.
Which opportunities and challenges are
associated with demographic change
and migration to Germany?
This is a complex subject. Many consider
migration as a major risk and believe that
homogeneity and closing the borders is
the answer. Economic trends and the globalization process have shown us that this is
not the case – on the contrary. We now have
to find ways of presenting migration as
an opportunity. It is important to point out
the success achieved by the children and
grandchildren of former migrants who no
longer identify entirely with their original
culture but consider themselves Germans
with different roots. There are various new
associations, so-called “New German Associations,” which we work together with.

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GERMANY

These New German Associations show that
their members stand by this country while
offering a different perspective to society.
Unfortunately, this perspective also includes the experience of discrimination,
which is something we have to address.

It is a very good sign that lots of people
with entirely different biographies
are committed to Germany.
There is a lot we can learn from these
associations. My favourite one is called
“Deutscher Soldat e. V.” ² and is represented
by a German-Lebanese man and a GermanAfghan woman. Both are in the German
army, serving in crisis regions and assuming
international responsibility on behalf of
Germany. I think it is a very good sign that
lots of people with entirely different bio­
graphies are committed to Germany.
Migration should therefore be described
as a gain for society that creates prospects.
Demographic change is not a risk, it is
an opportunity for this country.

2  German soldier association

42

To conclude, could you give us a personal
statement: For me, sustainability is …
… primarily creating an education system
that is accessible to everyone and provides
everyone with opportunities to position
themselves in our society. An open and
democratic society that leaves no one
behind, but nevertheless strives to
uphold the democratic society as a
fundamental principle.

Changing the
way we plan

© superburo/Shutterstock.com

New challenges for our cities

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

Cities worldwide are growing –
especially in African and Asian
countries. In Germany, three quarters
of the population already live in cities.
Instead of planning new cities, we are
faced with the challenge of making
existing cities, buildings and infra­
structures sustainable. How sustain­able are German cities today and what
specific measures are being taken?

By contrast, shrinking communities are
confronted with the often difficult task of
increasing the quality of life of the people
and using the decreasing population to
help create new forms of urban culture.
Of course they have to learn to adapt their
infrastructure, which is often over-sized.
The new influx is not only beneficial to the
so-called “Schwarmstädte” ¹: Its undesirable
consequences include rising rents, housing
shortages and a lack of childcare facilities,
as well as urban sprawl, noise and pollution,
or overloaded transportation systems –
problems that in turn lead to questions
of social justice and participation.

by SUSANNE EHLERDING and ROY FABIAN

In July 2000, the UN Secretary-General
at the time General Kofi Annan saw a new
age coming. “We have entered the urban
millennium,” he said during a speech in
Berlin. His statement still holds true today:
Over half of the world population current­ly lives in urban areas. By 2050, this
figure will probably be over two thirds.

Foreign observers praise German cities
for their committed citizens and vital
urban communities, for cleanliness,
a dense and reliable public transport
network and the rather unique form of
municipal company. “At the same time,
German cities consume four to five times
more resources per citizen than they are
entitled to on average worldwide,” says
Stefan Kuhn from the Local Governments
for Sustainability net­work (ICLEI),
completing the picture.

In Germany, three out of four citizens live
in cities or their densely populated out­skirts. Major cities like Berlin, Hamburg
or Leipzig, as well as smaller cities like
Heidelberg, Jena or Münster are even
reporting significant growth – a trend that
will continue for the foreseeable future.
The consequences are extensive. Attractive
cities offer better opportunities for
education and careers, culture and care.

1  swarm cities – cities that attract large numbers

	 of young people between the age of 20 and 34

44

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

Given this overall situation, the United
Nations’ goal for sustainable development
is therefore also relevant in Germany:
“Make cities and human settlements
inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”

City of short distances: Mobility
Envisioned is the city or region of short
distances, where everyday destinations are
accessible reliably and quickly in what is
called the environmental alliance – i.e.
on foot, by bicycle or public and generally
accessible transport.

Conceptual approaches for this exist.
“German urban and land-use planning
have long entailed the core concept
of using resources efficiently and also
facilitating developments in all regions,”
says Rainer Danielzyk, a professor at
the University of Hanover, referring
to spatial planning and construction
law that expressly includes sustain­able development.

The aim is to break up the dominance
of the automobile. Almost three-quarters
of the journeys in personal transport in
Germany are completed by car. The effects
on the environment are significant:
Especially conurbations struggle with
polluted air and street noise. As a result,
over 50 German cities already have low
emission zones where only vehicles with
specific emission standard are permitted.
In some places, such as Freiburg or Cologne,
there are even entire districts that more
or less exclude cars.

Mobility in rural and urban areas

4.3 %
1.8 %

42.4 %
13.4 %

7.7 %
6.9 %

Berlin
On foot 		

4.3 %

Bicycle 		

7.7 %

Motorized individual transport	 45.3 %
Public transport 	

2.4 %

Lemwerder
On foot		

1.8 %

Bicycle		

6.9 %

Motorized individual transport	 77.8 %
Public transport	

13.4 %

Lem
we r de r

Be r l i n

45

45.3 %
77.8 %

Source: Mobilität in Städten – SrV 2013, TU Dresden

The fact that this requirement is not
translated directly into practice can be
shown based on the land use for new
settlements and industrial estates.
Another subject of ongoing discussions
is urban mobility.

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

In addition to this, the German Federal
Government aims to reduce the contribution of motor traffic to climate change:
It currently causes roughly 100 million
tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents, one
tenth of overall emissions. These figures
are to decrease by roughly 40 percent by
2030 and even to zero by 2050.

For example, the tram network in Karlsruhe
was connected to railway routes in the
surrounding area, to make it easier for
commuters to travel into the city – a model
called “Tram-Train” that is now operating,
among others, in Saarbrücken and Kassel.
I fly as little as possible, instead
I use other means of transport
or take the bike.

To achieve this goal, cities and municipalities will have to make major efforts – far
beyond the necessary technical innovations.
To date, technical efficiency improvements
in energy consumption and exhaust
emissions are regularly offset by the fact
that people are driving more and more
often – in ever larger and heavier cars.

HARALD WANGER
Student

Sustainable mobility in Germany has many
facets: Cities like Hanover, Dresden, Leipzig
or Berlin are making definite progress,
while others are lacking – besides the
financial resources – detailed provisions for
future mobility. On the other hand, Jürgen
Gies, mobility expert at the German
Institute of Urban Affairs, believes that they
are important. “The less freedom there is for
interpretation, the more pressure there is
to act.” However, he continues: “It is still
more convenient for many to drive to work
by car than to squeeze into an overcrowded
regional or underground train.” In addition,
expansion of public transport capacities
is urgently needed.

As a result, specialists agree that the
following two measures are necessary:
Cars must become climate-neutral and
switch to renewable energy sources.
Unfortunately we have not achieved what is
necessary and is required per political
stipulation (1 million electric cars in 2020).
Moreover public transport must be en­hanced, as its per-capita emissions are far
lower; in addition to this, trams or urban
trains take at least three times less space per
passenger compared with cars.
Already today, buses, underground and
suburban railways and trams often replace
private cars. In major cities, almost every
second inhabitant uses them at least once
a week. What now needs to happen is to
combine public transport with walking
and cycling as well as bike and car sharing.
A look across the borders of municipalities
is encouraging.

46

© Photo Wanger: TRIAD Berlin

Promoting walking and cycling as
modes of transport is equally important.
That means not only expanding corresponding route networks, but also coordinating
transport and settlement planning. New
forms of buildings and housing can create
multifunctional quarters – and keep
distances short.

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

The residential space per person continues
to increase. Many elderly people justifiably
want to stay in the homes they once built
for a whole family. The number of single
households in major cities is also growing,
which statistically increases the residential
space per capita. The detached home in
the countryside remains the dream of many
Germans. This results in even more estates
of new buildings on greenfield, industrial
estates are also included in agricultural
spaces. As a result, urban sprawl is increasing – far less than years ago, but clearly
in the wrong direction. The German Federal
Government aims to change that and
decided in its Sustainability Strategy
to reduce the expansion of built-up area
and transport infrastructure to under
30 hectares per day by 2030. In 2002, it
was 129 hectares per day, and is currently
70 hectares per day.

The compact city:
Sustainable construction and housing
Medieval cities in Germany show how
attractive sustainable construction can
be. The beautiful half-timbered houses,
once built of just wood and clay, have
survived for centuries.
Of course, most German cities do not look
like these doll’s houses – many buildings
were constructed after the Second World
War. Urban life itself has also changed:
While in the past people could walk every­where, the distances have become greater
today. This is due to the sheer size of the
cities, as well as the division of living and
working, that was considered as modern
urban development internationally in
accordance with the Athens Charter from
1933, but pointed in the wrong direction
altogether. Today, the attractiveness of cities
is often revealed in the mixture of usages
and in closely-meshed diversity.

Rise in residential areas and public thoroughfares

Developed and undeveloped area, factory area ¹

in hectares per day

Recreational area, cemetery
Public thoroughfare

120

120

Rolling four-year average

80
69
63
40

Target:  
under 30

0
1993 – 1996

2000

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

1  Excluding mining land

47

08

09

10

11

12

13

14

2030

Source: Federal Statistical Office, 2015

120

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

Accordingly, it is complying with a
recommendation of the Sustainability
Council. The 30 hectare target symbolizes
the city of the future: more colourful, compact, attractive, sustainable.
This target affects all spheres.

alongside the property. The roofs are
covered with a layer of earth so thick that
even trees can grow on them, and there is
a strip of green behind the buildings
that links the local park with green spaces
in the neighbourhood.

Anyone implementing this well in their
city is protecting the environment, is
enhancing financial self-determination
of the municipality, is promoting social
cohesion, facilitates flexible forms of
living, is improving inner cities and
makes the municipality more attractive.

In rapidly growing cities, the key question
is how to create space for housing. In this
context, we must pay particular attention
to socially responsible development of
existing buildings, combat gentrification
and find good, modern and cost-effective
solutions. Preservation and creation of
socially acceptable structures is anything
but a no-brainer, it takes a lot of negotiating
– with citizens and investors.

Amendments to construction law also
serve this goal. The German Federal
Government aims to create a new category,
“urban areas.” Denser and higher construction is to be permitted there. The noise
protection requirements were also lowered
to bring working and living closer together.

DR. ULRICH MALY

1.1 million additional apartments could
also be built by adding storeys to roofs,
as determined recently by the Technical
University of Darmstadt. Repurposing
old buildings instead of building new
ones would be in line with the thinking
of architects like Daniel Fuhrhop. He caused
quite a stir with his book “Verbietet das
Bauen” (Ban Building). Fuhrhop argues that
“grey” energy is built into new buildings
in the form of concrete. However, to ban
things in a pluralist and federal society
with municipal planning sovereignty,
an extremely broad consensus is needed –
especially since sustainability also means
that things should be socially consisting.

“Densification,” building on undeveloped land within the city limits, is the
goal. Wastelands or former military
sites can be recycled in this way. From a
purely mathematical perspective, over
100,000 hectares are available for this
purpose nationwide. However, supply and
demand do not always match up: Wherever
people want to live, i.e. in major cities, the
spaces are often already almost used up.
A model residential area is being built
on a wasteland in the heart of Berlin:
In the Bautzener Straße district, the apartments are small and use state-of-the-art
forms of renewable energy. For example,
a good part of the energy for heating is
obtained from a sewage canal that runs
48

© Photo Maly: Stadt Nürnberg / Ludwig Olah

Mayor of Nuremberg

© Dietmar Strauß

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

All nominees for this year’s DGNB Award
are united by sustainability, innovation
and design quality and demonstrate in an
exemplary fashion how buildings of different
use types can put people first and contribute
to their quality of life.
MARTIN HAAS

SUSTAINABILITY
AWARD FOR
BUILDING

Vice President of DGNB

General refurbishment of and adding
another storey to a residential
high-rise building in Pforzheim
An aesthetic sustainability-driven interdisciplinary
general refurbishment concept was developed for the
residential high-rise building constructed in the 1970s
in the centre of Pforzheim. Photovoltaic modules and
a small wind turbine on the roof generates renewable
electricity from in-house sources. Using recyclable
materials and foregoing composite structures reduced
the grey energy required to generally refurbish and add
an additional storey to the residential high-rise building.
The moderate rent adjustment is also impressive, and is
offset by energy costs that are 10 percent of the previous
level, with a significant increase in comfort.

The German Sustainable Building Council
– an initiative of architects, civil engineers,
project developers and buildings companies
as well as manufacturers of construction
products – is taking a new approach here.
It sets ambitious standards for new
build­ings and honours the best practical
examples – a partnership approach that
drives “Made in Germany” forward and
advances creativity and innovative thought.
The active house – a building that generates
more energy itself than its inhabitants
consume – is now a reality and these
standards are being applied more and
more in urban development. Particularly
forward-looking projects are recognised
each year by the German Sustainable
Building Council (DGNB).

www.dgnb.de/dgnb-ev/en

49

© Photo Haas: Holger Hill

In Germany, the existing buildings must
be fundamentally prepared for energy
efficiency and modern energy standards.
After all, housing in Central Europe means
heating for at least six months a year.
This results in roughly one quarter of all
energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

WINNER 2015

A proactive municipal information
policy in Delitzsch helps enthuse citizens
for the goals of a sustainable city
and to actively involve them in urban
development processes.
DR. MANFRED WILDE
Mayor of Delitzsch

SUSTAINABILITY
AWARD FOR
BUILDING

A lot is happening in the housing sector,
too, as is shown by the example of the
Märkisches Viertel district in Berlin.
Many companies in the housing sector
apply the “Sustainability Code” and are
modernizing their procedures in this way.

WINNER 2016

Schmuttertal-Gymnasium
Diedorf
The Schmuttertal-Gymnasium secondary school
in Diedorf is a building with a plus energy standard and
a modular design that facilitates adaptation to changing
didactic concepts. The wooden building uses a consistent
digital data chain from planning and manufacturing
through to assembly, offering an efficient and rational
manufacturing process with a very short construction
period. The wooden structure means that a renewable
construction material is used, which requires little grey
energy and facilitates a good CO₂ balance. Use of highefficiency building services equipment and a photo­
voltaic system with a rated output of 440 kWp allows
the building to generate more energy than is consumed.

Cooperatives like the Märkische Scholle
Housing Cooperative in Berlin are another
example. The non-profit cooperative
only passes part of the modernization
costs to the tenants. The remainder is crossfinanced. As a result, the residents pay
hardly more than before, but live in
excellently refurbished buildings supplied
almost exclusively with electricity and heat
from renewable energy sources.

www.schmuttertal-gymnasium.de

50

© Photo Wilde: Stadt Delitzsch

© Carolin Hirschfeld

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

By contrast, people who live in rural areas
or small cities often feel left out. They
complain about poor medical care and
a lack of educational and employment
opportunities. There are considerations
about providing rural areas in East and
West with a solidarity surcharge.

The green city:
The role of nature
Another critical area as part of the described
revolution is urban nature. The quality of
life in cities depends significantly on the
green infrastructure. Green spaces, urban
trees and urban woods prevent heat stress
in times of climate change and buffer heavy
precipitation. They also clean the air, absorb
noise and help generate new drinking water.
Urban nature is also a meeting place and
recreational area – it can even help supply
food in the form of small or shared gardens.

© Photo Messari-Becker: Sachverständigenrat für Umweltfragen (SRU)

In the age of climate change and scarce
raw materials, a circular economy
in the construction sector is not only an
ecological necessity, it is also economic
reason. Our built environment must also
fulfil sociocultural functions. For example,
besides qualities like space-efficient layouts,
pollutant-free construction materials
and energy-efficient building envelopes
and technology, housing is about homes.
A sustainable urban district is socially
and economically stable, it is popular and
offers a high quality of life. What matters
is a good infrastructure, sustainable
mobility and the social mix. In the end,
people only identify with their area
if it is a place worth living in.

As a result, Hanover and Berlin have
highlighted their value in the form of
corresponding strategies, and roughly
100 municipalities discuss nature conser­vation matters in the “Municipalities
for Biological Diversity” alliance.
The German Federal Government also
regularly promotes projects related
to urban wilderness.

PROF. DR. LAMIA MESSARI-BECKER

© kadenundpartner

© pexel

Professor of Building Technology and Building Physics,
University Siegen

51

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

In spite of this, a report by the research
project “Natural Capital Germany” finds
that many municipalities do not yet factor
in the ecosystem benefits of urban nature,
or not sufficiently enough. In order to
prevent the proliferation of cities into the
surrounding areas and to reduce traffic,
Ingo Kowarik, Professor of Ecology at the
Technical University of Berlin and
lead author of the report, sees inner city
densification as a reasonable approach.
“However, it reaches its limits when there
is no way for people to benefit from the
many positive effects of urban nature.”

biggest sewer, is being renewed naturally –
a measure that should also pay off
economically: According to analyses,
the costs of 4.5 billion euros are offset
by macro­economic effects worth more
than twice that amount.
Management of sustainable
urban development requires the
awareness and willingness to
implement sustainability seriously
and consistently in our daily activities,
in committees, at an employee level
in administration, in politics.
DR. KURT GRIBL

The flora and fauna also suffer. An
astonishing number of species have found
ecological niches in cities. In view of
increasingly stripped down landscapes,
urban nature’s role for biodiversity must
not be underestimated. The goals of the
German Sustainable Development Strategy
in this area have already been missed significantly: For example, in settled areas, the
numbers of selected bird species is almost
one third below the target figures for 2015.

Mayor of Augsburg

In addition to such major projects,
roads and buildings are being integrated
in urban nature.

Against this background, urban planners
are focusing increasingly on what is known
as double inner-city development of urban
green spaces and the built environment.
Undeveloped land is designed not only
in terms of construction, but also with
regard to the green infrastructure. In the
Ruhrgebiet region, 20 municipalities are
converting former brownfield sites to form
the Emscher landscape park. The aim is
to upgrade residential and industrial estates
by connecting them with green areas and
open spaces. At the same time, the Emscher
river system, once notorious as Europe’s

However, many are already involved in
urban gardening, community-supported
agriculture or green volunteering.
That shifts the focus to another dimension
of sustainable development
in urban spaces: civic participation.

52

© Photo Gribl: Stadt Augsburg

Accordingly, every sixth German major
city has subsidy programmes for green
roofs. The potential is immense, but has
only been partially utilized to date. Even
though no one disputes the fundamental
importance of urban nature, says Ingo
Kowarik, it is still largely perceived as
a cost factor. “The understanding from
numerous model projects that investments
in nature also generate economical returns
has not been acknowledged everywhere.”

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

Mayors‘ dialogue “Sustainable Cities”
At the invitation of the German Council for
Sustainable Development, Lord Mayors and
political representatives of various cities
in the Federal Republic of Germany convene,
and those in attendance are especially
committed to the notion of sustainability
and to dialogue on the strategic issues
facing the “Sustainable City”. In particular,
the participants swap notes on their own
approaches as local and state officials
and tackle the issue of how local sustain­
ability policy can gain in standing and
importance in federal policies.
The Lord Mayors have agreed on strategic
cornerstones for sustainable development
in municipalities ² as commitments and
recommendations as well as a basis for calls
for action by policymakers. The German
Council for Sustainable Development
has facilitated this dialogue process.

EXTRACT FROM THE STRATEGIC CORNERSTONES:
We, as Lord Mayors, hereby declare our commitment towards
assuming holistic responsibility for the following:
1.	 Sustainability must be conceived by people: concrete, spirited,
hands-on and with a perspective, and in conjunction with people
who are increasingly embracing the notion of sustainability. For
this reason, we rely on dialogue, participation and support for the
development of capacity building aimed at assuming responsibility,
and we give sustainability a face through concrete local projects.
2.	 Sustainability entails not consuming more resources – including
financial ones – than are regularly renewable. For this reason,
we advocate a balanced budget and the reduction of debt for the
benefit of generations to come, and we call for the municipalities
to be given structural relief.
3.	 Sustainable development requires integrating departments and
factual issues into a wider picture. For this reason, we give top
priority to sustainability and integrate this cross-cutting task into
policies and administration.
4.	 Sustainable development requires that all the state levels act in
concert and work hand in hand on a level playing field. The adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
and the multitude of sustainability strategies in federal concert
place new and significant demands on the consultation, coordination and participation among the various levels. We want to take
part in this and we believe that a sustainability goal for cities will
result in a crucial strengthening of the role played by the municipalities.

2  www.nachhaltigkeitsrat.de/fileadmin/user_upload/dokumente/

	publikationen/broschueren/Brochure_Strategic_Cornerstones_text_		
	No_49_August_2015.pdf

53

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

There are well-known positive examples.
The city of Ludwigsburg holds future conferences to involve citizens in decisionmaking processes. Visions are developed
together for the city, which is not only
good for the citizens, but also for the admin­istration: It learns to think beyond its own
departmental boundaries and plan and
act holistically. Berlin does not simply sell
public land to the highest bidder, it rewards
the best development concept.

City of people: Civic participation
and civic responsibility
“Democracy is based on an interaction
between citizens and politicians, so that
public institutions answer to us, so to speak.
We can reach them and they can reach us,”
said German philosopher Hartmut Rosa
recently. “But this expectation is increasingly lost. That is why citizens so often
protest against political decisions.”
Serious local participation of citizens
in their own living environment can
therefore also be a remedy for the political crisis democracies are currently
experiencing. At the same time, it can
also advance sustainable development,
according to Stefan Kuhn from the ICLEI
network of cities: “Only if it is clear at
a local level that citizens’ actions result
in visible and desirable changes, sustain­able development will become something positive and deliberate, and no
longer remain an abstract concept.”

Our intergenerational Sredzki 44
residential project involves sustainable
construction and wheelchair access.
We as occupants have taken that into
our own hands. In the future,
all houses should be built like that.
DANIELA HERR
Occupant of Sredzki 44

The city of Freiburg shows how that can
succeed. Citizens can get active on a portal
designed specifically for this purpose and
publish their ideas for the city’s future.
The associated financial and sustainability
reporting is unique throughout Germany.
It shows which urban activities contribute
to achieving the sustainability targets and
how financial resources are used. Freiburg
is also one of the municipalities with a
civic budget. Citizens can decide on part
of the finances.

54

© Photo Herr: Norbert Kriegenburg / SelbstBau e. G.

In the many hundreds of projects and
initiatives recognized by the Sustainability
Council, citizens take on responsibility:
They initiate campaigns for sustainability,
for avoiding food waste, to protect nature,
they found energy cooperatives to generate
their own electricity or join forces to make
their vision of communal living a reality.

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

BEST PRACTICE

“City of the Future” contest
Quiet cars that do not emit any exhaust fumes.
Healthy vegetables growing on rooftops. New
building concepts that gain climate-friendly
energy from waste water. There are many ideas
for the city of the future to improve life.
The “City of the Future” contest aims to discuss
them with citizens, develop joint visions
for the future and test them in pioneer cities.
The initiative of the German Federal Ministry of
Education and Research is looking for models
for the future of cities in 2030. Citizens, local politicians,
scientists, administrations and representatives of the
private sector are working on visions in three competition phases, with the finalists facing up to the test
under realistic conditions from 2018 on. Thematically,
the concepts submitted deal with matters of employment security, affordable housing, climate adjustment, sustainable mobility or power supply.
The Federal Ministry is subsidizing the competition
with 1.75 million euros via the FONA measure
(Research for Sustainable Development).

Amt Peenetal/
Loitz

www.wettbewerb-zukunftsstadt.de/
infos/english.html
ZEITZEICHEN – THE GERMAN LOCAL
SUSTAINABILITY AWARD
As part of the Netzwerk21 Congress, the award
honours outstanding local activities in the following
categories: initiatives, companies, municipalities,
youth, education for sustainable development
and communication and international partnerships.
In particular, the award recognizes work already com­pleted that will continue to have an impact in future.
The aim is to organize a new shared responsibility
and create strong stimuli for social transformation.
www.netzwerk21kongress.de
55

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

One last example of the transformative
power civic commitment can have: In
the city of Berlin, a river polluted with
wastewater is to be converted to baths.
The channelled river must be cleaned with
a natural constructed wetland, the banks
are to be turned into an urban meeting
place, permitting new uses. Ecology, social
participation and urban uses are to be
united to form a vital whole: simply
sustainability. One hundred years after
stony Berlin turned away from nature,
this civic initiative wants to restore
urban nature to its rightful status.

“Municipalities often justifiably complain
that the Federal Government and state
governments give them tasks without
providing appropriate financial and
therefore also personnel resources.”
He also warns against universal remedies.
“It always depends on regional factors.” He
believes that a lot comes down to attitude,
on the part of politicians, administrations
and the citizens. “In everyday operations,
this can be improved on.”
Municipal administrations face
long-term structural changes.
Even more than previously, we must
question what we are doing and
how we are doing it. What will be
the priority for sustainability
in future? What needs to be put to test?
Nothing must be ruled out.

Where are we now?
Achievements and required adjustments
In summary, what is the status of
sustainable urban development in
Germany? Projects and initiatives have
set many things in motion. Municipalities
compete to be Germany’s most sustainable
city. They also discuss the topic in committees like the Association of German Cities
or international networks. Leading mayors
have rooted sustainability in their leadership structures.

DR. FRANK MENTRUP
Mayor of Karlsruhe

Especially in financial matters, there is still
a significant need for adjustments between
the Federal Government, state governments
and municipalities, says Rainer Danielzyk
from the University of Hanover.

Other publications by the German Council for Sustainable Development
·  Strategic Cornerstones for Sustainable Development in Municipalities

56

© Photo Mentrup: Stadt Karlsruhe

Accordingly, sustainability must first
become the norm for municipal action.
As a result, what the international expert
group reported for German sustainability
policy overall in the 2013 peer review still
holds true: The progress is impressive
and commendable. “It would be wrong,
however, for Germany to be complacent
with what has been achieved so far.”

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

BEST PRACTICE

The world’s largest passive house settlement:
Heidelberg Bahnstadt
Since 2012, a new urban district with a high ecological quality of life
has been under construction on the grounds of the former freight
train station and shunting yard.
Apartments for roughly 5,500 people and business space for roughly
7,000 jobs are being built on a total area of 116 hectares. All of the
buildings meet passive house standards. Thermally-insulated building
envelopes ensure a comfortable indoor climate that can be regulated
by heating up or cooling down. The district is heated fully via renewable
district heating. The passive houses consume less than half as much
CO₂ as conventional buildings. The Heidelberg urban development
project is one of the largest passive house projects nationwide. The
development focuses on an urban mix and short distances within a vital
city quarter: Besides housing, playgrounds and green areas, it also includes retail outlets and restaurants, a civic centre, a school, multiple
childcare facilities, scientific institutions and cultural facilities.
www.heidelberg-bahnstadt.de/en

© Bahnstadt; Christian Buck

© Bahnstadt; Steffen Diemer

© Bahnstadt; Steffen Diemer

57

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

Population trend 2012–2030 (in %)
Rural districts and urban districts in Germany
below 10.0
–10.0 up to less than –6.0

Flensburg

–5.0 up to less than –4.0
–4.0 up to less than –1.5

Kiel

–1.5 up to less than 1.5

Stralsund

Neumünster

1.5 up to less than 4.0
1.5 and above

Hamburg

Schwerin
Neubrandenburg

Bremerhaven
Oldenburg

Greifswald

Rostock

Lübeck

Bremen

Lüneburg
Neuruppin
Eberswalde
Celle

Wolfsburg
Hanover
Brunswick
Hildesheim
Halberstadt

Cottbus

Paderborn

Essen
Duisburg

Aachen

Dessau-Roßlau

Dortmund

Göttingen

Bochum
Wuppertal

Halle

Bautzen

Kassel
Siegen

Bonn

Eisenach

Dresden

Erfurt
Jena

Marburg

Zwickau

Fulda

Plauen

Koblenz
Wiesbaden

Mainz

Frankfurt

Darmstadt

Ludwigshafen
Kaiserslautern

Hof

Coburg

Schweinfurth
Aschaffenburg

Bamberg

Würzburg

Trier

Bayreuth
Weiden

Erlangen

Mannheim

Fürth

Heidelberg

Ansbach

Heilbronn

Amberg

Nuremberg
Regensburg

Karlsruhe
Pforzheim Stuttgart

Straubing

Passau

Ingolstadt

Offenburg

Reutlingen

Ulm

Augsburg

Landshut

Munich
Freiburg

Görlitz

Chemnitz

Gera

Suhl
Gießen

Saarbrücken

Hoyerswerda

Leipzig

Nordhausen

Düsseldorf
Cologne

Frankfurt

Potsdam

Magdeburg

Bielefeld

Münster

Brandenburg

Villingen-Schwenningen

Memmingen
Rosenheim

Ravensburg

Kempten

Constance

58

Source: www.wegweiser-kommune.de

Osnabrück

Berlin

Stendal

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

Dr. Dieter Salomon
MAYOR OF FREIBURG IN BREISGAU

© Stadt Freiburg

We aim to be
climate-neutral by 2050.

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

INTERVIEW
DR. DIETER SALOMON
MAYOR OF
FREIBURG IN BREISGAU

In 2012, Freiburg was chosen as the
most sustainable large city. What are
the guidelines of sustainability policy
in Freiburg? Where is Freiburg leading
the way, and what are the greatest
deficits or barriers to implementation?
Freiburg has a long tradition of civic involvement in the environmental movement,
which influenced municipal politics at an
early stage. More recently, we signed the
Aalborg Commitments for municipalities in
2006, and agreed on 60 sustainability goals
in 12 political areas in the municipal council
in 2009. Those responsible in politics, administration and municipal companies have
therefore combined their visions for a sustainable city in a joint guideline that serves
as a basis for political action.

Less traffic, but better mobility
is also one of our sustainability goals.
Freiburg is now known beyond Europe‘s
borders as a model city for climate protection – we had an advanced climate
protection policy before the topic was even
on political and business agendas. Freiburg
is also known outside the region for its
transport policy – in particular for cyclists.
Surveys of Freiburg’s citizens reveal that
many of them are very satisfied overall with
life in Freiburg and support the city’s sustainability efforts. Freiburg is a growing city,
so we need to build more housing. It is a
challenge to do so in an environmentally
friendly and socially responsible way.

60

Which role does mobility play in
sustainable urban development and
what approaches are you taking?
Freiburg turned away from a policy
focusing on individual transport to promote environmentally friendly modes
of transport instead.
Less traffic, but better mobility is also one
of our sustainability goals. Our concept,
a city of short distances, requires strong
district centres covering all of the basic
needs in the neighbourhood and promoting
urban development at the public transport
axes. 27  percent of all journeys in the city
are made on bicycles, and our goal is to
increase this percentage to over 30 percent.
To achieve this, we are modernizing and
expanding the network of bicycle lanes.
At the same time, motorized individual
transport is to be rerouted outside residential areas with traffic calming measures
and by concentrating traffic on transport
axes. In addition to this, Freiburg has built
a public transportation network that
provides virtually all citizens with a stop
no more than 400 metres from their homes.
In the 1980s, Freiburg decided to expand
the public transportation network and
developed an “Environment Ticket“
(now “Regional Ticket”) in cooperation
with the entire region. The ticket enables
travel without restrictions from the
French border to the Black Forest.

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

INTERVIEW
DR. DIETER SALOMON
MAYOR OF
FREIBURG IN BREISGAU

The German property market is booming.
On the other hand, affordable housing
is needed more urgently than ever.
How is socially responsible and environ­
mentally friendly housing possible given
the high-priced properties and rents?
There is no question that we need more
affordable housing in Freiburg. Of course,
it is extremely difficult to implement social
housing in a high-priced situation as is
currently the case for the land prices and
rents in Freiburg. The long-term plan and
the recently established project group
for new residential building areas are two
instruments for developing new housing.
They take two different directions: First of
all, we are establishing a strategic urban
development framework plan to develop
the city of Freiburg in the next 15 years
in the long-term plan. Second, the project
group is responsible for short-to-mediumplan implementation of five specific

I personally have committed to help reach Freiburg’s
sustainability goals by founding the sustainability
management office in my department in 2011.
housing projects. As Freiburg will also continue to grow in the years to come as a
“swarm city,” according to the “Housing Study”
compiled in 2014, we will probably need
1,000 apartments a year by 2030, to meet
demand and curb the price increase. However, apartments are now also needed for
former refugees who are to be integrated
and find a place in the urban community
once their applications are approved. As a
result, the demand is probably even higher.

61

How can our cities grow sustainably?
Which challenges does Freiburg face?
Fundamentally, we will plan and build more
space-saving housing in future with a higher
construction density, but in spite of this
we now also have to build a district on new
land to meet the demand for housing.
As a strategic overall concept, the long-term
plan mentioned will still serve as a guideline
for socially responsible and environmentally
friendly sustainable urban development.
We are taking sustainable internal development, recreational space and long-term
development of Freiburg into account
in terms of built space and recreational
space. That means that we ask ourselves
questions on the city as a whole in advance.
Where can development be condensed?
How can we develop recreational spaces
more effectively? How do we integrate
new districts? This planned approach
is particularly important as few spaces
are available to us where we can actually
build due to natural restrictions such
as conservation areas and forests.

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

INTERVIEW
DR. DIETER SALOMON
MAYOR OF
FREIBURG IN BREISGAU

How do you communicate sustainability to the citizens? How do you
generate acceptance?
Incorporating citizens is our top priority
in the sustainable urban development
process. For this purpose, we are building
structures and creating an appropriate
culture, for example using events,
workshops, councils or working groups.
We have the Sustainability Council established in 2008, comprising 40 representatives from science, society, business
and politics to bring together as broad
a spectrum of Freiburg’s society as possible
in the area of sustainability. Of course,
these are multipliers in the urban
community who create acceptance.
How can civic commitment be used
for sustainable urban development?
With our sustainability goals, we aim to
involve the population in our projects
at an early stage. Decisions with the involvement of and a high acceptance among
the population are definitely more sustainable than constant government top-down
that ignores the wishes of the citizens.
For example, since 2008, we have been
giving citizens an opportunity to participate in the city‘s budget planning
in the participatory budget project.

62

In the end, participation makes citizens
feel they are being taken seriously and
get involved in urban projects of their own
accord. And civic commitment is what
holds the community together.

Incorporating citizens is our top priority in
the sustainable urban development process.
What can politics do for a sustainable city?
Of course, a defined contact is needed
in municipal administration, a department
or a coordination unit. I personally have
committed to help reach Freiburg’s sustainability goals by founding the sustainability
management office in my department
in 2011.
It is responsible for overall strategic management and ensures that the sustainability
goals are implemented both within the
administration and through external cooperation. It has now been scientifically
proven that a central foundation in administration is necessary to advance sustainable
development, for example via research
by Leuphana University Lüneburg and the
Bertelsmann Foundation.

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

INTERVIEW
DR. DIETER SALOMON
MAYOR OF
FREIBURG IN BREISGAU

What role do urban partnerships
play for sustainable development?
Global problems can only be solved globally.
Our partner cities are interested in our
strategies for climate protection, nature
conservation and sustainability. Accordingly,
we already cooperate with Isfahan (Iran)
in the solar sector, and Freiburg built the
largest photovoltaic system in Italy with
its Italian partner city of Padua. In our
partner city of Wiwili in Nicaragua, we help
with sustainable projects that promote
the people‘s belief in their own strengths
and abilities to improve their difficult living
conditions in the long term. Partnerships
are important. After all, we live in one world
and can learn a lot from one another.

The goal of sustainability is the most
important key to a positive future, for
environmental responsibility, economic
growth and quality of life in the cities.
What have you planned for the future
in sustainable urban development?
Like many other cities worldwide, Freiburg is
on the way to being a sustainable city, and
therefore has not reached its goal yet. The
goal of sustainability is the most important
key to a positive future, for environmental
responsibility, economic growth and quality
of life in the cities. Our concrete goal is to
achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

63

All of that can only succeed if politicians
incorporate active citizens and these
citizens also make the goals of sustainable
development their own goals. That is
why there is a balance between sustainable
thinking and actions, acceptance and
participation.
To conclude, we would like to end
the interview with a brief statement.
Please complete the following sentence:
For me, sustainability is …
… driving environmental, economic
and social goals forward equally and on
the basis of a generationally-appropriate
financial policy. That is why sustainability
is a cross-sectional task that affects
politics and administration and leads
to integrated action.

CHANGING T HE WAY WE PL AN

BEST PRACTICE

Essen – European Green Capital
Essen is the “Green Capital of Europe 2017”. This title
granted by the European Commission recognises the evidently
high environmental standards and ambitious goals for
further improvement of environmental protection and
sustainable development.
This was based on Essen’s status as a role model for many cities
in Europe, as well as the role of the city in the socially acceptable
transformation from a city of coal and steel to a green city.
PILOT PROJECTS OF THE CITY AND REGION:

The 100 km fast cycle lane, which will in future bring the Ruhr cities
even closer together, is a forward-looking model of sustainable
mobility in conurbations.
“Bathing in the Ruhr” is to be made possible again, and allow
citizens of Essen to swim in certain places in Lake Baldeney
and/or in the river Ruhr again.
www.ec.europa.eu/environment/europeangreencapital/
winning-cities/2017-essen

64

© Johannes Kassenberg

As part of the municipal action programme “ESSEN. New Paths to
Water,” 150 kilometres of walking and cycling paths have been built
in the past ten years. That helps the city grow together. Green urban
development drove urban development in the past ten years.
New green spaces, water spaces, walking and cycling paths have
connected the city and the region and were also the starting point
for adapting to climate change. New parks and lakes were created,
as was the university district.

© Rupert Oberhäuser

By restructuring the Emscher river system, the Emscher Society
initiated one of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe with
numerous technical innovations: The Emscher, a river with a major
influence on the region, is to be transformed from an open sewage
system to a remediated body of water by 2020.

Changing
our habits of
consumption

© Nicolas Balcazar 2015

Our decisions for a globally
sustainable consumer society

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

Sustainable consumption may be in vogue,
but sustainable consumption is far from
being a dominant force in the market.
How can citizens contribute to sustainable
Consumers’ Choice study by GfK ¹ on
behalf of BVE ² from 2013, over one quarter
of the German population prefers sustain­
able foods and pays special attention to
organic quality, regional origin, animal
welfare and fair trade. Roughly one quarter
of the largely female consumers is also
willing to spend more for organic foods.
Almost all providers have responded,
even conventional supermarket chains
and discounters offer organic lines and fair
products to benefit from the green boom.
“Organic” now includes all kinds of every­day objects, not just food.

development and what framework
conditions help them do so?
by ANJA ACHENBACH and SUSANNE WOLF

Today, consuming sustainably seems easier
than ever. The organic sector is booming in
Germany; products that used to be confined
to the bottom shelves now take up prime
shelf space in every conventional supermarket and discounter. Especially in trendy
neighbourhoods in large cities, organic
supermarket branches are popping up
all over the place, like the Market Hall
at Marheinekeplatz in Berlin-Kreuzberg:
Bio Company opened its doors right
opposite the west exit, while Alnatura
is located at the northern end and other
organic markets are nearby. They leave
nothing to be desired for sustainablyminded consumers.

Fair trade is booming
Trend in fair trade turnover in Germany
in million EUR
978

1000
827

750

Sustainable consumption is obviously
fashionable, and organic produce has
grown in popularity with consumers
in the past 15 years: According to the

654

500

400
340
267
213

250
72

110

142

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015

1  Consumer Research Society
2  Federation of German Food and Drink Industries

66

Source: Federal Ministry of Finance

533

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

“Higher incomes often finance heavier cars,
larger apartments and frequent flights –
even if the people are otherwise environmentally friendly in their everyday lives.
But these big points in particular have the
greatest influence on our ecological footprint. Buying organic food or conscientious
waste separation cannot offset it,” explains
UBA President Maria Krautzberger.

Trendy – but far from mainstream yet
When shopping, roughly 60 percent of
Germans pay attention to whether products
are sustainable. Most of them base their
de­cisions on labels, for example fair trade
or organic labels, or read the product
description.
However, sustainable consumption does
not dominate the market yet. At 4.4 percent
of the total food sales, the organic sector
in Germany is still very small. Wide ranges
of products are primarily available in cities,
and even there, they are not available
everywhere. The German population is
also divided into two halves in terms
of conscious sustainable consumption:
One half is open to at least one aspect
of sustainability, while the other half is
virtually disinterested. Of the roughly
50 percent of consumers who are at least
partially sustainability-conscious, only just
under ten percent reach a comprehensive
level, i.e. are aware of all aspects of sustainability. Even a high level of awareness won’t
be enough at times – many well-to-do
consumers simply consume too much.
A study by the Umweltbundesamt
(UBA, Germany’s main environmental
protection agency) in summer 2016 found
that people with higher incomes consume
significantly more resources and energy
than less well-off households.

I avoid buying clothes from
fast-fashion chains and try not
to follow any fast trends –
I buy what I like, good quality,
classic, preferably vegan.
BEATRICE ERNESTI
Student

67

© Photo Ernesti: TRIAD Berlin

Prof. Dr. Lucia Reisch, consumer researcher
and member of the Sustainability Council,
emphasized: “Consumption by private
households accounts for roughly one quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions in
Germany. Food, means of transportation
and energy consumption – for example for
heating – have a major influence. Anyone
who actually consumes sustainably can
significantly reduce the CO₂ emissions
in their own sphere. This includes buying
products with labels, but also a fundamentally different approach to consumption
and conscious avoidance of consumption.”

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

The annual ecological footprint in Germany
is 11.8 tonnes per capita – two tonnes would
be climate-friendly, to keep global warming
under two degrees Celsius as agreed by
194 countries in Paris.

are more expensive than conventional ones.
In fact, switching to eating less meat and
more vegetables and fruit often offsets
the additional costs from purchasing
organic groceries. And the real price we pay
for supposedly “cheaper” foods from conventional production is actually far higher:
Environmental effects like soil compaction
and erosion, pesticides, nitrate pollution
and the climate change that is further
accelerated by using fertilizer and animal
husbandry – agriculture is responsible
for significant greenhouse gas emissions –
incur high long-term costs.

According to a GfK study on behalf of the
Sustainability Council, routines and higher
prices for sustainable products are the
major barriers preventing sustainable con­
sumption. Consumers prefer to pur­chase
what they know, according to 38.6 percent
of those surveyed. 37.2 percent of respondents believe that sustainable products

CO₂ pollution by product group

Total > 9 t

Heating

Target
2t

Air travel
Food

18.1 %
7.8 %

x %
15.2 %

Other
consumption

Cars

Electricity
6.9 %

Infrastructure

Local public
transport
1.0 %

11.4 %
Furniture
3.0 %

68

Textiles
0.9 %

Paper
2.9 %

Source: Öko-Institut 2010

18.5 %

14.1 %

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

The core of the problem is that external,
medium- and long-term negative effects
are not represented in the purchase price.
Dr. Michael Bilharz from the Federal
Environment Agency (UBA) is certain:
“Sustainable consumption options must
be more attractive, more affordable and
easier to implement than non-sustainable
options.” As a result, one option currently
under intense discussion is the introduction of a global CO₂ tax that is included
in the price: According to former President
of Germany Horst Köhler, a global CO₂
price would “start a global race in the laboratories and think tanks of companies
and universities to develop the best solutions for a climate-neutral economy.”

Meat or fish – or chick peas?
When communicating on sustainable
consumption, we must focus on the major
contributors: consumption of meat and
heating, housing and mobility. Minor
changes in these areas can achieve the
greatest positive effects. For example, we
can act sustainably by sourcing electricity
from renewable energy, using intelligent
forms of mobility, flying less (and when we
fly, offsetting the climate gases caused by
donating to certified climate protection
projects). It is also sustainable to choose
certified, durable, repairable and high-grade
goods. That quickly reduces our ecological
footprint from individual consumption
to a environmentally friendly value.

I am proud of the fact
that I don‘t throw out any food
and eat everything I buy.

Consuming a lot of meat in particular
pollutes the environment and the climate.
It highlights a series of systemic connections illustrated by the example of industrial production. Germany remains a
country of meat eaters: Since 2011, the per
capita meat consumption has declined
slightly, from 61.6 kg to 60.3 kg, while nine
percent of the population are vegetarians.
The total meat consumption, including feed,
industrial use and losses, is 88.3 kg per ca­­pi­ta (2014). Factory farming not only requires
the use of antibiotics, which can lead to
resistance in humans, but also of chemical
fertilizers and pesticides. These in turn
pollute soil and water. Soil in Germany is
highly polluted with phosphorus, nitrate
and nitrogen, with negative consequences
for people and the environment – not only
in Germany, but also for the oceans.

SEBASTIAN QUIROGA
Salesman

© Photo Quiroga: TRIAD Berlin

For foodstuffs like cocoa, coffee or bananas
that are imported from countries in the
south, labour conditions must also be taken
into account in addition to the CO₂ balance:
For example, cocoa is largely grown in
Ghana and the Ivory Coast. In Ghana,
cocoa farmers earn roughly 80 cents a day,
with over two million children working
on cocoa farms in West Africa. By contrast,
fair trade products guarantee comparatively
better working conditions. Child labour
is prohibited.

69

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

Organic farming plays a key role as it
preserves natural resources. BMEL (the
German Federal Ministry of Food and
Agriculture) initiated the development
of a future strategy for organic farming
and commissioned the Thünen Institute
to coordinate the strategy process, in order
to stimulate additional growth. The goal is
to increase the percentage of organic farm­land from the current 6.3 percent to 20 percent. That is necessary as the demand for
organic food is growing every year – turn­
over rose by eleven percent in 2015 alone.

Overfishing of the oceans is also reaching
dangerous levels that threaten the ecosystem as a whole: According to the Fisheries
Report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), each person eats over 20 kg
of fish per year, almost one third of the
stocks worldwide is overfished. Initia­tives
like DNP  ³ prize winner Followfish, a Fish
& more company brand, focus on sustain­
ability and transparency: Fish & more
commits to sourcing farmed fish from
organic aquaculture and wild fish from
MSC-certified  ⁴ fishery; all suppliers and
sourcing methods are disclosed in full.

The ecological production process ensures
both species conservation and animal
welfare. Organic farms take the needs
of the animals into consideration.
Use of pesticides is prohibited. In organic
feed, the quantity of concentrated feed
(grain, corn, soya) used in the feed ration
is limited. Demeter farmers and manufacturers go far beyond the EU regulation on
organic production requirements with
their biodynamic methods, and are also
drivers of employment. If all farm animals
in Germany were kept appropriately, and
German citizens only consumed the recommended quantity of meat or sausage, prices
would only be roughly one third higher,
and it would generate a significant positive
climate effect. “If every German citizen
went without meat once a week, that could
reduce annual greenhouse emissions by
roughly nine million tonnes,” explains
Tanja Dräger de Teran, WWF Programme
Officer for Climate Protection and Food.

I try to avoid one-way coffee cups
and carry a reusable one with me.
ANNIKA TORO
Clerical worker

3  German Sustainability Award
4  Marine Stewardship Council

70

© Photo Toro: TRIAD Berlin

Our consumer behaviour also threatens
the oceans and fish stocks in an­other way.
According to a study by the Ellen MacArthur
Foundation, eight million tonnes of plastic
end up in the oceans each year. The plastic
waste is shredded by wind, weather and
tides to microplastic, ending up in the stomachs of sea birds and marine animals, who
often die miserably as a result. These plastic
particles are also to be found in many of our
products, from cosmetics to synthetic clothing. They are released when we wash them,
and enter the marine environment via our
sewers. And finally, the plastic lands on our
plates, for example when we eat fish polluted with microplastic and heavy metals.

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

More clarity and transparency

Reuse, repair, recycle

By choosing sustainable products and services, we can let our money do the talking
for us. The more often consumers choose
sustainable alternative products, the
greater the pressure on companies to offer
products and services that consistently lead
to sustainable developments. Sustainable
consumption also means taking the longterm costs and consumption into consideration. As energy and water prices rise,
products that pay off throughout their
entire service life and are more resourceefficient in production are preferable.
All in all, it shows that sustainable consumption can be worthwhile.

Thanks to the Internet and social networks,
the share economy – exchanging and
sharing products and services – is enjoying
a major comeback: Car sharing, barter clubs,
neighbourhood support groups or urban
gardening are just a few examples. The want
for more sustainability is one reason for
the new trend according to a study by the
University of Lüneburg. “It distinguishes
two types of consumption in the sharing
economy: people with a highly developed
social orientation and fundamental awareness of sustainability, and pragmatic consumers who follow the trend for practical
reasons like cost savings,” explains Harald
Heinrichs, Professor for Sustainability
and Policy at the University of Lüneburg
and author of the study.

© Christof Rieken

To ensure that consumers can really
con­sume sustainably, they need better
information and guidance. For this reason,
the German Council for Sustainable
Development initiated the “Sustainable
Shopping Basket.” This shopping guide
designed as an online magazine⁵ shows
sustainable consumption alternatives,
and provides orientation in 16 key areas
for specific consumer decisions. Particu­larly credible labels are presented as tips
for choosing food, travel and mobility,
housing and building, domestic appliances
and electronics, fashion and cosmetics.
The required social and/or eco­logical
conditions are outlined in the guide to
facilitate educated purchase decisions.
The message of the shopping guide is
that “sustainable consumption is already
possible and fun today”.

5  www.nachhaltiger-warenkorb.de

71

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

The Sustainable Shopping Basket:
Guide for sustainable consumption
Consuming sustainably today seems easier than ever: Certified products
with seals are available from retailers and many discounters. In spite of
this, consumers often find sustainable consumption confusing. The production conditions for many products are often so unclear that it is difficult to make informed decisions. The “Sustainable Shopping Basket” helps
customers make purchase decisions. The “Sustainable Shopping Basket”
provides information on consumption alternatives on its website, in
brochures and a mobile app, and provides rules of thumb for complex
consumption decisions. The shopping basket describes alternatives and
gives recommendations on food, travel, mobility, housing, building, household, electronics, financial investments, fashion and cosmetics. It evaluates
the relevant seals and product labels in a practical and useful way.

© Christof Rieken

BEST PRACTICE

www.nachhaltiger-warenkorb.de

“37 percent of those surveyed favour alternative forms of ownership and consumption.” One reason for the success of the
sharing economy is the growing awareness
of production conditions, for example in
the clothing industry: In manufacturing
countries like Bangladesh, wages below
the poverty line, child labour or 12-to-18hour days without breaks are commonplace.
The companies often have insufficient
safety pre­cautions and trade unions are
banned, as revealed by the Clean Clothes
Campaign. Added to this are the ecological
problems in cotton production:

Cotton farm land accounts for 2.5 percent
of farmland, but 25 percent of pesticides.
40,000 to 50,000 tonnes of dyes find their
way into the water system of the producing
countries due to the global textile industry
each year.
The production conditions for electronic
devices are also often inadequate: A growing percentage of consumer electronics
is manufactured in developing and emerging countries; every second electronic
device is produced in China. Studies by
makelTfair show that employees in China
and on the Philippines have to work

72

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

BEST PRACTICE

Advisory body for the public sector:
Die Kompetenzstelle für nachhaltige Beschaffung
The public sector has a procurement volume of at least 350 billion euros
annually. That is roughly 12 percent of the gross domestic product.
The “Kompetenzstelle für nachhaltige Beschaffung” (KNB; centre of expertise
for sustainable procurement) at the Ministry of the Interior’s Beschaffungsamt
(office of procurement) advises public clients on sustainability criteria.
It ensures knowledge transfer between the roughly 30,000 awarding offices
of public sector bodies throughout Germany.
It does so in training courses and by informing decision makers at events
and online. The Centre of Expertise works with experts from the industry,
NGOs and public sector clients to develop new ideas and points of view.
www.nachhaltige-beschaffung.info

Braungart explains his concept as follows:
“Products should not be disposed of at the
end of their lives, they should be designed
from the beginning to be used in another
form, or even be fully compostable.”

© Rawpixel.com / shutterstock

100 to 180 hours overtime per month without receiving additional payment above the
minimum wage of 75 to 85 euros per month.
This is in addition to the immense consumption of resources: Every mobile phone, tablet
or PC contains a variety of metals and rare
earth elements such as tantalum, gold, palladium, silver, cobalt and copper. Mining of
coltan, which is used to produce tantalum,
led to a civil war in the Congo. Recycling
rates of the raw materials at the end of the
lifecycle are still disgracefully low. At least
there are first initiatives against resource
waste and electronic scrap, for example
repair cafés, which are growing in popularity in Germany, or the circular economy
model, also known as cradle-to-cradle,
developed by the German environmental
chemist Michael Braungart together with
American architect William McDonough.
73

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

The action programme also aims to
strengthen and expand these labels.
The “Label Clarity” project has set itself
the goal of introducing further signs
and standard systems and thus highlight
groups of everyday products.

How to promote sustainable consumption
Besides the behaviour of individual consumers, the private sector and politicians in
particular are called upon to create better
conditions for sustainable consumption.
Sustainable management and production
methods are the foundation for this. Promoting these targets is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United
Nations and the German Sustainable
Development Strategy. The German Federal
Government pursues various approaches:
The “National Programme for Sustainable
Consumption” ⁶ is ground-breaking in
driving the necessary structural change
forward with its approaches for a sustain­
able consumption policy: The programme
relies primarily on voluntary self-commitments by all involved. For instance, it pools
measures and initiatives, e.g. in consumer
and health policy, agricultural policy, construction and housing policy, transport
and infrastructure policy, research and educational policy or environmental, labour,
social and economic policy. Overall, this
aims to promote debates in society and to
raise awareness among consumers. For this
purpose, it highlights information on the
causes and effects of consumer behaviours
based on specific figures and parameters,
for example (e.g. CO₂ emissions and water
consumption for the production of jeans
or a litre of milk etc.). Clarifying communication on CO₂ balances and resource consumption enhance the awareness of
sustainability.

In addition, the Federal Cabinet passed
the National Action Plan for the Economy
and Human Rights in December 2016.
The goal is to implement the guiding
economy and human rights principles
of the United Nations. This embeds the
responsibilities of German companies
to protect human rights in solid framework
for the first time by defining globally
common and verifiable standards. With
the objective of improving the human
rights situation along the global supply
and value chain, the plan pools the
strengths of the government, economy,
society and trade union stakeholders.
The German Federal Government formulates its clear expectation in the action plan:
Companies have to fulfil their duty of
care to protect human rights.

6  www.bmub.bund.de/fileadmin/Daten_BMU/Download_PDF/

	Produkte_und_Umwelt/nat_programm_konsum_bf.pdf

74

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

Key points in this area include policy statements by companies, for example, to respect
human rights. Moreover, a procedure is to
be defined to determine real and potentially
disadvantageous effects of business actions
on human rights. The German Federal
Government aims to encourage companies
to report on social and ecological standards
for their overseas transactions, and holds
international companies, in which the
Federal Republic of Germany has majority
ownership, particularly responsible.

BEST PRACTICE

Food savers
at work

From production to the end consumer, over
18 million tonnes of food is lost along the entire food
value chain. This is equivalent to almost one third
of the annual food consumption in Germany (currently
54.5 million tonnes). The Sustainability Strategy of the
German Federal Government aims to improve the avail­ability and reliability of relevant data rapidly, to avoid
food waste. Practical action is already being taken now.
Various private and public sector initiatives work to
prevent losses and demonstrate pioneering solutions.

By 2020, the German Federal Government
wants half of all large companies with over
500 employees to implement duties of care
to protect human rights – this comprises
roughly 6,000 companies. From 2018 on,
it therefore intends to assess annually
whether the private sector also meets these
expectations. If companies fail to reach the
goals set, a law could follow and the number
of companies targeted could be expanded.

DIE TAFELN (THE TABLES)
With over 900 charity associations, the “Tafeln” are one
of the largest social movements in Germany. They pool
roughly 60,000 voluntary helpers, who collect surplus
food of a certain quality standard from retailers and
manufacturers. It is distributed to financially less well-off
people free of charge or for a symbolic amount. Every
week, over 1.5 million people use the services of the Tafeln.
One third of those are children and young people. Half of
the Tafeln operate as registered associations, while the
other half are run by charity associations, church institutions and foundations.
www.tafel.de

Foodsharing e. V. is a nationwide non-profit initiative to
prevent food waste in companies. Over 20,000 honorary
members and many thousand volunteers work to prevent
food being destroyed in roughly 2,700 companies. A virtual
open-source platform shows members surplus food in their
area that is available for free.
www.foodsharing.de

© pexel

© Photo: SpeedKingz / Shutterstock.com

FOODSHARING

75

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

Fair value added

BEST PRACTICE

However, Germany’s responsibility
in the world also includes the first links
in the value chain of products that are consumed in Germany but not produced
in Germany. Therefore, the Sustainability
Strategy uses the textile chain as an
example. A new indicator focuses on the
percentage of turnover earned by the
members of the Textile Alliance on the
textile market → see topic “Economy”.
The new indicator “Market share of
products with government environmental
labels” is a first attempt to measure sustainable consumption. The current Sustain­
ability Strategy initially only refers
to “ecological” products and only takes
products with an environmental label
organised by the federal government of
Germany (i. e. Blauer Engel, german organic
product seal) into consideration. As a
contribution to the discussion on the draft
strategy, the German Council for Sustain­
able Development submitted a report by
the IMUG Institute containing a statistically
and normatively feasible way to measure
sustainable consumption and supplemented it with a “frugality indicator.”

Food savers
at work

QUERFELD
When harvesting fruit and vegetables, up to 30 percent
of the fruit does not meet the visual standards required by
retailers. It is sorted out and processed as animal feed or
destroyed. In order to avoid this, the Querfeld initiative
cooperates with organic farms. Querfeld takes the goods
rejected by companies and delivers them to schools, catering firms and other food processing organizations.
www.querfeld.bio

© Photo: SpeedKingz / Shutterstock.com

TOO GOOD FOR THE BIN!
“Too good for the bin!” provides information on the causes
and consequences of our waste and gives practical tips –
from planning your shopping to correct storage and how to
use leftovers. Teaching materials were developed specifically
for schools. Class sets can be ordered free of charge. The
“Beste-Reste” (Best Leftovers) app provides information on
the go, including many recipes and an integrated shopping
list. Since 2015, it advertizes Beste-Reste boxes in restaurants
where leftovers can be collected and taken home. The
German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL)
plans to expand the “Too good for the bin!” initiative, which
has existed since 2012, to a national strategy. All stakeholders
along the value chain can participate. Federal states, NGOs
and the hospitality trade are involved. In 2016, the BMEL
presented the first German Federal Award for Work to Prevent
Food Waste; the competition will be continued annually
in future.
www.zugutfuerdietonne.de

76

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

Less is more – but equal!

© pexel

The goal of the 2015 agreement by
Heads of State and Government in Paris
to restrict global warming to 1.5 degrees
re­quires an 80 percent reduction of CO₂
emissions. To serve as a credible example
at an international level, the Sustainability
Council believes that this calls for holistic
strategies to increase efficiency, technical
innovations, infrastructure upgrade –
and also for sufficiency.

© KREUS / shutterstock.com

A new approach is already being taken
at a wide range of levels: Consumers, politicians and producing companies are on a
good, forward-looking path – but are still
at square one. Now is the time for decisive
action. Sustainable consumption calls
for innovations, alternative products,
new ways of thinking and acting together
for all stakeholders equally – and an honest
discussion on visions for sustainable management and a transformation of our economic system. The topic of suffi­ciency must
become an integral part of this. In Germany
and worldwide, changing politi­cal conditions, incentives and stimuli for more
sustainable and sufficient production,
consumption and lifestyles are required.

Other publications of the German Council for Sustainable Development
·  The Sustainable Shopping Basket – A guide to better shopping

77

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

Klaus Müller
CHAIRMAN OF THE FEDERATION OF GERMAN CONSUMER ORGANISATIONS (VZBV)

© vzbv – Jan Zappner

We need more transparency
	 and binding minimum
standards for sustainable
production.

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

INTERVIEW

KLAUS MÜLLER
CHAIRMAN OF THE FEDERATION
OF GERMAN CONSUMER
ORGANISATIONS (VBZV)

Is consumption today more sustainable
than 20 or 30 years ago?
Of course, we can see that we are making
substantial progress, for example in energy
efficient appliances or generating electricity
from renewable resources. At the same time,
we need to consider that 20 or 30 years ago,
people consumed less in general.
Conversely, that means that fewer resources
were used. Consumer goods also used to
last longer in the past. They were more
expensive, so people treated them more
carefully and appreciated them more.
In this sense, we used to consume more
sustainably than we do now.
What role does the individual consumer
play in sustainable development? How
can consumers influence the market?
Through their demand, consumers can
indeed play an important role in sustainable
development. Unfortunately, they often
cannot consume as sustainably as they
would like to, as too few goods are produced
sustainably, the labelling is not obvious
or the price is too high. It has also been

Safeguarding human rights and
protecting our planet must become
natural standard.
found that “shopping basket politics,” which
places the full burden of responsibility
on the consumer, does not lead to success.
Consumers cannot be expected to make
key decisions on human rights, resources
and ecology in supermarkets alone.

79

We need additional, clear regulatory
requirements for businesses, stipulating
how they must produce and what responsibility for supply chains means.
In spite of this, the German Federal
Government emphasizes that consumers
are responsible for choosing the product
and using it in a socially acceptable
and environmentally friendly manner …
But how much responsibility can consumers bear? And how much responsibility are they willing to take on?
Anyone who attempts to shift social
responsibility to individual consumers
is taking the easy way out. That is a job
for politicians, manufacturers and retailers
in particular. How the goods are produced
plays an essential role: It is easier for con­sumers to act sustainably at the counter
if sustainable resources are used and
fundamental human rights, employee rights
and ecological standards are observed.
Safeguarding human rights and protecting
our planet must become natural standard.
To achieve this, consumers must be able
to make well-founded purchase decisions
and be aware of the impact of their consumption. Only then can they change their
consumer behaviour and demand political
conditions that guarantee sustainable
production. Transparency on production
and manufacturing steps is a first important
step in this process.

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

INTERVIEW

KLAUS MÜLLER
CHAIRMAN OF THE FEDERATION
OF GERMAN CONSUMER
ORGANISATIONS (VBZV)

Can individuals even realistically assess
the sustainability of products?
It is hard to assess how sustainable a
product is by looking at it, because we
in Germany have been largely immune to
the effects until now. Many negative effects
of production on humans and the environment are outsourced to other countries
and are therefore not apparent to us at
first glance. That is why we need minimum
government requirements for social and
environmentally responsible production.
All industries – whether textile, food or
electronic devices – require clear and
binding government criteria defining what
socially and environmentally responsible
production is. With support from scientists,
consumer organisations and businesses,
minimum requirements and/or criteria

Many negative effects of production
on humans and the environment are
outsourced to other countries and are
therefore not apparent to us at first glance.
(benchmarks) for ecological and social
aspects must be developed specifically
for all product groups. In that way, we
can reward the hard work of companies
that operate sustainably. For instance,
if the companies’ commitment exceeds
the government benchmark, products
can be identified with a prominent
government quality label as a logo affixed
to the products. That makes it easy for
consumers to find orientation.

80

Self-determined, critical consumers
are the ideal case. Which specific
measures is the Federation of German
Consumer Organisations taking to make
society more sustainable?
The Federation of German Consumer
Organisations calls on politics and enterprises to set the course for sus­tainable
development, for example in the transition
to sustainable energy systems, development
of electromobility or animal welfare in live­stock farming. We also promote consumer
education at schools, to develop the everyday and consumer skills of children and
young people at an early stage. For example,
our “Material Compass” gives teachers
audited teaching material on sustainable
consumption, among other topics.
Many consumers also come to our information centres with questions on warranty law
or labelling of goods produced in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible
manner. Sustainable investments and environmental and product safety are key topics.
There is a lot of confusion when it comes to
product labelling, as “sustainably produced”
is not a legally protected term.

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

INTERVIEW

KLAUS MÜLLER
CHAIRMAN OF THE FEDERATION
OF GERMAN CONSUMER
ORGANISATIONS (VBZV)

In theory, many people want to live more
sustainably – but don’t do so in their
everyday lives. How do you explain
this discrepancy?
There are several reasons for this. On one
hand, unfortunately, we don’t always act
rationally. Our everyday lives are largely
made up of practised routines that we often
adhere to. On the other hand, we are also
subject to behavioural biases. That means
we base our actions on social norms:
The more people use a coffee-to-go cup,
the more this becomes the norm. However,
I believe the main reason for our failure
to act is that we cannot see the effects
of our consumption. Raw materials are
generally farmed or mined overseas,
hidden from our view. Direct effects of
climate change are virtually imperceptible
for people in Europe. That is just as true
for the soils over-fertilized for agricultural
purposes and the labour conditions
in textile production. We need more
transparency and visibility here.
How can we motivate people to
consume sustainably nonetheless?
For example, by making consumption
and savings visible: When it comes to
domestic appliances, the EU energy consumption labels and the EU Ecodesign
requirements led to significant savings.

81

However, it is still important that consumers disconnect devices not required
from the power supply completely. There
is also a high potential for savings in
thermal insulation of buildings. To achieve
this, politicians must ex­pand tax reliefs
and financial sup­port to reduce the investment barrier for home owners.

Sustainable consumption
is also a key contributor to
intergenerational justice.
Can everyone consume sustainably?
Sustainable consumption is still quite
a small niche. However, if politicians make
sustainable production methods standard,
there will be more competition on this
market. That will reduce the prices and
permit sustainable consumption for much
of the population.
As a consumer association, we want to
en­hance the social dimension of sustainability in future. Sustainable consumption
is also a key contributor to intergenerational
justice. Political conditions should promote
an inclusive society that allows all consumer groups, including senior citizens,
children, people with disabilities, the socially
disadvantaged, migrants and refugees
to participate equally in society.

CHANGING OUR HABITS OF CONSUMPTION

INTERVIEW

KLAUS MÜLLER
CHAIRMAN OF THE FEDERATION
OF GERMAN CONSUMER
ORGANISATIONS (VBZV)

Which role do sufficiency aspects play
for consumers and companies?
Sufficiency, i.e. less or more moderate
consumption, is becoming increasingly
important for many consumers. Some
consumers even consider consumption
or property as a burden. That is why
more and more people seek to share
products instead of owning them.

Nobody needs a new
smartphone every year.
It is essential for us to ensure that we
produce high-quality and durable products
that can also be repaired. Companies
must meet this demand from consumers
and bring sustainable products to market.
I also wish companies would advertise and
market their products and services responsibly, to avoid stimulating non-sustainable
consumer desires and needs. Nobody needs
a new smartphone every year.

82

To conclude, we would like to end
the interview with a brief statement.
Please complete the following sentence:
For me, sustainability is …
…to leave a world for our children that is just
and worth living.

Changing
the economy

© hxdyl / Shutterstock.com

New coordinates for
the economic system

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

Worldwide, 836 million people live
in extreme poverty. In the 2030 Agenda,
the international community of nations

The political will has been stated, but the
success of the implementation of the 2030
Agenda in the individual countries remains
to be seen. It will take strong cooperation as
part of a new global partnership to reach
the goals. Moreover, all countries must
report on their efforts and progress.

has set itself ambitious goals: Poverty and
hunger worldwide must be overcome – and
all of this is to be done ecologically and
under the premises of climate protection.
In harmony with the 2030 Agenda, a decision

Leave no one behind.

was also made to limit global warming

BAN KI-MOON

to 1.5 degrees at the climate change

Secretary-General of the UN 2007 – 2016

conference in Paris until 2050. Everyone
who commented on it was convinced that

However, every plan is only as good as
its implementation. The objectives of the
2030 Agenda can only be achieved with
strong cooperation as part of a new global
partnership. As a result, all countries
must report on their efforts and progress –
not just nationally, but also at the High
Level Political Forum on Sustainable
Development, HLPF ¹.

the global challenges can only be solved
together. It is not the aim, but the implementation that is under discussion …
from K ATRIN MÜLLER

© Photo Ban Ki-moon: Robin Lösch

The 2030 Agenda creates a new development
paradigm. Economic progress is to be linked
with social justice and as part of the planetary boundaries worldwide. 17 ambitious
core targets were formulated for the environment, society and the economy – the
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) –
which incorporate the “5 Ps”: People, Planet,
Prosperity, Peace, Partnership. They apply
equally for developing countries, emerging
countries and industrial countries.

Industrialized countries like Germany are
among the largest producers of greenhouse
gases. Companies and consumers benefit
from the cheap raw materials and low
wages in developing countries. The wealthy
nations therefore have a special respon­
sibility in establishing sustainable economic structures globally.

1  High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, HLPF

84

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

The 2030 Agenda expressly calls for a
focus on the weakest and “most vulnerable”
nations. “We must ensure no one is left
behind,” said former Secretary-General
of the UN Ban Ki-moon. “However, the real
test is still to come, the implementation.”
Federal Chancellor Dr. Merkel therefore
called for the 2030 Agenda to be “a fixed
part of all political agendas.”

How many Earths do we need
if the world‘s population lived like …

Australia 		
5.4
U.S.A.		
4.8
Switzerland 		3.3
South Korea 		3.3

Whether solar electricity from the roof
of an industrial hall, resource efficiency
measures or investments in education
in poorer countries: An environmentally
friendly and socially responsible economy
has many facets. Many companies have
long since recognized that production
on credit, exploiting people and the en­viron­ment not only adversely affects their image,
but will also cost them dearly in the long
term. After reports of environmental
pollution scandals and inhumane labour
conditions in Asia, textile companies
promised to mend their ways and committed to a process of continuous improvement of global supply chains.

Russia 		
3.3
Germany 		
3.1
France 		
3.0

85

U.K.	

2.9

Japan 	

2.9

Italy 	

2.7

Spain 	

2.1

China 	

2.0

Brazil 	

1.8

India	

0.7

=

1.6

World 	

April

16
2016

Earth
Overshoot
Day
Germany
Source: Global Footprint Network National Footprint Account 2016

Overseas, Germany is considered a country
with a high quality of life, as revealed by
the study “Germany in the eyes of the world”
of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Inter­na­tio­
nale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) from 2015.
Germany is also described as dynamic and
efficient with the corresponding “innovation landscape”. In sustainability, too, international expectations of the Federal Republic of Germany as a trendsetter are high, not
least due to its self-proclaimed energy transition. As a result, Germany has a pioneering role in implementing the 2030 Agenda.

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

Author and innovation consultant
Anna Handschuh works for independent
think-tank “Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute”
domiciled in Switzerland. In an interview
with the Swiss Broadcasting Company (SRF),
she summarized the interaction between
trade and consumption in a single sentence:
“Bangladesh starts in our wardrobe.”

chain structures that make it impossible
to check locally where it sources its raw
materials. The key is that a company’s
sustainability strategy is rooted in its core
Bangladesh starts in our wardrobe.
ANNA HANDSCHUH
foundress Elephant Strategy

But not all efforts to improve the ecolo­gical balance are effective, and there
is a risk of green-washing in some cases.
For example, that can occur when a corporation advertizes its support of environmental projects on one hand, but on the other
builds highly complex, obscure supply

business and that the company publicly
states how and when it aims to reach its
goals. This is an important prerequisite for
the transition to a less resource-intensive
and more socially responsible economy.

Total raw material productivity
Value of the last uses relative to raw material withdrawal and imports in raw material equivalents
The total raw material productivity represents the raw material efficiency of the German macroeconomy.
The German gross domestic product and the global raw materials required for this are compared to determine
this figure. The objective of the German Resource Efficiency Programme (ProgRess) II is to further increase
this and thus disconnect economic growth and resource consumption in the context of the circular economy.

Raw material withdrawal

2000 = 100

and imports in raw material

140

equivalents ¹

130

125.5

Value of last use

120
119.6

110

Value of last use
(adjusted for price)
relative to raw material

90

withdrawal and imports

80

in raw material equivalents

70
2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

1  2001 to 2007 interpolated
2  Adjusted for price, corresponds to gross domestic product plus value of imports. Source: Federal Statistical Office

86

2010

2011

Source: Federal Statistical Office

105.0

100

© Photo Handschuh: Selina Meier

(adjusted for price) ²

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

Even listed companies like chemicals
giant BASF and the world’s third-largest
independent software supplier SAP have
taken various measures that show how
sustainable management is possible, no
matter what size and shape the company is.

Setting a good example
The winners of the annual German Sustainability Award illustrate the spectrum for
companies to optimize their production
processes and guidelines. Medium-sized
family company VAUDE for example develops, produces and sells outdoor sports
goods at very high sustainability standards.
For example, VAUDE produces clothing and
sporting equipment under the Green Shape
Label, campaigns for fair working conditions in low-wage countries as part of the
Fair Wear Foundation and is a member
of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles.
Even in the company itself, sustainability is
practiced authentically by the management,
as showcased by rules like the VAUDE
Material Policy, the packaging guidelines,
the purchasing policy for furniture and
office material or the mobility concept.
As a result, VAUDE was voted Germany’s
most sustainable brand in 2015.

Fair production and trade
In order to achieve the ambitious UN sustainability and climate protection targets,
agriculture and forestry must produce
enough healthy food for everyone, but also
focus on protection and preser­vation of soil,
water, biodiversity and air. Examples of
initiatives to make agriculture and forestry
socially responsible and environmentally
friendly include the “Future Strategy for
Organic Farming” as well as international
alliances such as the “Forum for Sustainable
Palm Oil” (FONAP) or the “German
Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa” (FNK).
In this partnership, the industry and
ministries jointly set them­selves the goal
of improving the living and working
conditions for small farmers in the pro­
ducing countries effectively and in the
long term, significantly increasing
the percentage of sustainable cocoa.

Heating technology company Vaillant
also impressed voters, who named it Germany’s most sustainable large company
in 2015. The justification was that Vaillant
offers key technologies for the energy
transition and meets its eco-social responsibility in an exemplary fashion. Here, too,
the key was that sustain­ability is deeply
rooted in every area of the heating techno­
logy company, and particularly energyefficient production and recycling-friendly
disposal set standards.

87

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

BEST PRACTICE

A contribution to economic responsibility:
The Sustainability Code
The Sustainability Code has been recommended to companies
and organizations by the German Council for Sustainable Development
(RNE) for voluntary application since the end of 2011.
As part of the Sustainability Code, project companies can undergo standardized reporting. “The Sustainability Code gives companies of all legal
forms a tool that offers transparency on sustain­ability and thus permits
quality comparisons,” said Christian Strenger, Member of the Supervisory
Board at DWS Investments.
To date, 191 companies and organizations have submitted 374 declarations
of conformity (as of March 2017). They use the standard to report to
the public on their non-financial achievements in ecology, social
matters and governance. This is often associated with company-internal
reorientation towards sustainability or strengthening the existing
company commitment.
The standard is internationally applicable and available in multiple
languages. Companies, industry associations, chambers and civic
organisations receive a comprehensive insight into practical introduction
of the Sustainability Code. The Council adds the element of “Sustainability”
to “Made in Germany” and the Sustainability Code makes it transparent
and comparable.
Accordingly, the Sustainability Code has had a powerful effect since its
introduction: The European Commission and German legislator have
praised the Code as a suitable standard for fulfilling the disclosure of
non-financial and diversity information. This reporting obligation applies
for companies with over 500 employees that are in the public interest.
For further information:
www.sustainabilitycode.org

The S us t a i na b i li t y Co d e
Ben chma rki n g
s us t a i n a ble econ omy

3rd revised edition 2016

Text no. 52, June 2016

88

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

Sustainable certification of products
helps make production more sustainable,
but is not sufficient overall to transform
consumption and production. On one
hand, certificates must gradually become
more ambitious, on the other, the government and commercial law conditions
must also be aligned as consistently
with the requirements for a sustainable
economy, to avoid corruption and
human rights violations.

In recent years, studies on the consumer
behaviour of Germans have shown that
a majority of consumers, particularly in
the food sector, are increasingly interested
in a product’s provenance, and that many
consumers are searching specifically
for information. Europe’s largest organic
dairy, Andechser Molkerei Scheitz GmbH,
and its “Andechser Natur” brand is
particularly transparent for customers,
allowing them to trace the milk from
the organic dairy farmers’ cows to the shop
shelf. Before the purchase, consumers
can use the QR code on the package to
view information on the product. In this
way, the dairy shows how a brand can
create a close relationship between the raw
material producer and the customer.

Companies tend to underestimate
the cost of social conflict.
CORALIE DAVID
OECD

The retail sector, as the link between consumers and producers of goods, will play
a key role. Consumers can purchase
fair-trade and environmentally friendly
products more easily if they are stocked
by many supermarkets and discounters,
and are presented attractively. Demand
is rising continually.

Companies like Tchibo, Henkel or Alnatura
already show how a sustainable corporate
strategy can be implemented and the
supply and value chains can be made more
socially responsible and environmentally
friendly. According to Tchibo, the company
is a market leader in Germany and other
European nations for roast coffee.

© Photo David: GIZ

At 1.14 billion euros, the total fair-trade
turnover reached a peak in 2015, as indicated by the “Fair Trade” forum in its most
recent report. However, it remains under
one percent of the overall food market.

89

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

BEST PRACTICE

Alliances for a fair economy:
From raw materials to consumers
As importers of goods and raw materials, German companies have an interest
in good economic relations. More and more companies are discussing
sustainable production and trade conditions in networks.

90 percent of the textiles sold in Germany are imported from China,
Turkey or Bangladesh. The Partnership for Sustainable Textiles was
founded in 2014, as a reaction to a collapsed building at Rana Plaza
in Bangladesh. It pools the synergies of multiple stakeholders along
the textile supply chain and aims to make production, processing
and retail of textiles more socially and ecologically sustainable.
Among other things, this includes improving labour conditions and
occupational health and safety, use of chemicals and certification
of textiles. After just one year, the number of members of the
alliance increased fivefold to 188 members. That is 55 percent
of the German textile and clothing market. According to the
Sustain­ability Strategy, this is to reach 75 percent by the end of 2017.
By joining the alliance, the members commit to a continuous im­
provement process that is audited by independent third parties.

©Textilbündnis/T. Ecke

PARTNERSHIP FOR SUSTAINABLE TEXTILE

© Cocoa bean: VKA / Shutterstock.com

THE GERMAN INITIATIVE ON SUSTAINABLE COCOA
In 2014 / 15 the total yield of raw cocoa was 4,229,600 tonnes.
Germany imports 10 percent of this total global harvest, making
it one of the largest importers worldwide. In order to make
the cocoa sector more sustainable, over 70 stake­holders from the
German cocoa and chocolate industry, food retail, the German
Federal Government and the civil society have partnered in Forum
Nachhaltiger Kakao e. V. (German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa).
Its aim is to improve the living conditions of the cocoa farmers
and their families. By importing more sustainably grown cocoa,
the bio­diversity and natural resources in the producing countries
90

© German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa

www.textilbuendnis.com/en

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

BEST PRACTICE

are to be preserved. Almost 30 percent of the cocoa sold
in Germany is now grown sustainably. The forum unites relevant
stakeholders from Germany, the producing countries and international
initiatives. Its own PRO-PLANTEURS project supports 20,000 cocoa
farmers and their families in Côte d’Ivoire. Forum Nachhaltiger Kakao
has been recognized as a pilot project for the national Sustainability
Strategy for 2016.

© German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa

Alliances for a fair economy:
From raw materials to consumers

www.kakaoforum.de/en/startseite.html

THE FORUM FOR SUSTAINABLE PALM OIL

Forum Nachhaltiges Palmöl (the Forum for Sustainable Palm Oil) works
on significantly increasing the percentage of segregated and certified
palm oil and palm kernel oil or corresponding derivatives in the DACH
region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland). The initiative of 44 companies
from the palm oil-producing industry, associations, non-government
organizations and the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture
develops proposals to improve existing certification systems.
www.forumpalmoel.org/en/fonap.html

91

© GIZ

Global consumption of palm oil in the food and cosmetics industry
is high: 65.4 million tonnes were produced in 2015. Germany’s
demand accounts for 2 percent. Indonesia and Malaysia combined
produced 85 percent of global palm oil, but production is also increasing in Africa and Latin America. Most oil palms are grown by small
farmers: In Indonesia, roughly 45 percent of the oil palm land is
farmed by small farmers, and up to 80 percent in some areas of Africa.
Oil palm farming is highly relevant in terms of development policy
and ecology. Valuable primary forests are deforested or slash-andburned in the rainforest regions of Malaysia and Indonesia for palm oil
plantations. This results in soil erosion, significant greenhouse gas
emissions and a threat to biodiversity.

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

BEST PRACTICE

Facilitating understanding –
networking knowledge:
Coordinating research projects
for a sustainable economy
in the Nawiko initiative
In the “Sustainable Economy” subsidy programme, the German
Federal Ministry of Education and Research takes the complexity
of the transition to a more sustainable economy into consideration.
The project subsidizes 30 multi-year research projects that span
a range of global and local business sectors and aspects of the sustain­
able economy. The “Scientific Coordination of Research Projects on a
Sustainable Economy” (NaWiKo) was founded to accompany the project.
Through networking and knowledge sharing, it generates synergies
between the projects and supports public relations work and putting
the results into practice.
www.nachhaltigeswirtschaften-soef.de/en

As part of its corporate social responsibility
programme, the company works to improve
living conditions in the coffee plantation
regions with its own projects, for example.
Following the principle “helping others
to help themselves,” it offers educational
and professional services for children and
young people together with local partners.
Tchibo also sells textiles. As the cotton
for this generally comes from developing
and emerging countries, the company
has joined forces with the “Aid by Trade

Foundation” to campaign for sustainable
cotton farming in Sub-Saharan Africa,
among other things. The “Partnership
for Sustainable Textiles” is considered
an important step towards non-toxic
fashion. The roughly 180 members have
undertaken to gradually replace problem
chemicals in textile production with safe
substances, and to ensure humane living
conditions in manufacturing countries, too.

92

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

Since 2002, guidelines for an ecologically
fair economy have been updated in the
German Sustainable Development Strategy.
The new 2016 edition expands it further
and also incorporates the international
supply chains into the goal and the indi­
cator for resource use.

Sustainable finances
In addition to alliances and the optimization of production processes, sustainable
growth also needs partners for sustainable
innovation. The universal global sustain­
ability goals – including the climate goals –
are challenges for the political and financial
sectors. Sustainability can and must drive
investment. It is not the easy money that
counts, it is investing in the future and in
durability. Even today, green financial assets
are playing an increasingly important role,
investments in fossil fuels are becoming
more risky. However, sustain­­able investments remain a niche. Good intentions
by investors are welcome, but it will take
policy and structures to get sustain­able investment to the level it deserves.

Some small eco labels allow you
to trace the production process back
all the way to the cotton fields.
The big textile and sports article
producers don‘t usually offer that.
MANFRED SANTEN
Greenpeace

However, the generally increasing consump­tion of space, energy and resources
remains troublesome. Government measures are still urgently needed. Science
and research must be subsidized to develop alternatives. And that is being done.
We need more strategies to increase
efficiency, but sufficiency must also play
a role – frugality and sacrifice are some­times the better solutions. New ideas
and instruments are necessary, whereas
they cannot be prescribed. Like all other
countries, Germany is still at square one.

To date, there are no minimum material
standards. As a result, services are not
comparable. Until now, there is neither
a legal framework to prompt investment
stra­tegies of the pension funds and
other public investors to observe ethical,
social and ecological aspects and be
accountable for them.

© Photo Santen: Mike Schmidt / Greenpeace

Apart from individual exceptions in Berlin
and Münster, sustainable investment
products have not played a role in the
municipalities and national pension
funds until now.

93

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

Flows of finances focused on sustainability
are needed to prevent exploitation in poorer
countries and preserve the ecosystem.
Many financial institutes continue to invest
in harmful and non-sustainable sectors
like mining and oil production, and earn
profits with obscure transactions in some
cases. In spite of the heightened bank
regulations after the financial crisis, the
management practices and business models
have hardly changed, especially in the
investment banking sector. Every year,
developing countries lose taxation income
of roughly 100 billion dollars due to
multinational offshoring, share tricks
and tax evasion transactions. Another
problem are high risk transactions due
to the activities of shadow banks. These
lenders are generally high-capital finance
companies outside the regular banking
system. They are therefore not subject
to the regulating mechanisms which
apply to banks and the resulting control
of their investments.

Established concepts must be expanded
and the financial sector overall must be
prepared for the future.
Ecological and ethical banks with transparent, sustainable investments are considered
particularly credible partners. At various
levels, they finance companies that earn
their money with renewable energy sources
and particularly fair and future-safe business models. They avoid transactions with
coal, crude oil and banned weapons, child
labour and all enterprises in which human
rights, fundamental rights and labour laws
are violated. The market share of alternative
banks is still relatively low, however, they
are becoming increasingly popular.
Germany’s largest sustainable bank GLS
recorded an increase in account deposits
by 15.3 percent to almost 3.6 billion euros
in 2015. In low interest periods, GLS reports
that more and more customers are inter­
ested in purposeful investment of their
savings.

© TomeK K / shutterstock

In order to avoid new crises, it is essential
that investors and banks fulfil their key
role and secure the capital required
with sustainable and innovative business
models. Traditional risk assessment
systems no longer work here. It is important
that in this sector, the stakeholders build on
their qualifications and develop new opportunity and risk assessment systems.

94

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

Sustainability strategies are playing
an increasing role in conventional banking
operations and for development banks.
Stress tests by the bank authorities in
Europe force banks to revise their business
models, especially to secure the required
equity ratio of eight percent. Some banks
like Deutsche Bank are also so systemrelevant that they are even monitored
directly by the European Central Bank.
There, too, sustainability plays a certain role,
even in core business.

National impulses
On one hand, the German Government
intervenes through legislature, to implement social and environmental standards.
On the other hand, it supports sustainable
management in different ways. In order
to promote sustainable products and
business processes, interdepartmental
cooperation of the ministries is essential.
The Environmental Management Report
of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia
(NRW) plays a pioneering role in this.
The analysis by the Ministry of the Environment of NRW includes an inventory of
the existing corporate environment and
the range of services in the federal state.
The report is to form the starting point
for targeted economic policy measures.
The government also leads by example.
Preserving resources is also the stated goal
of the administration. There are many
projects for this at national and state level.
The eco-social tendering guidelines of
the federal state of Berlin are one example
with a major public impact. According
to public information, the German capital
buys goods for four to five billion euros each
year, from coffee and computers to construction materials. In July 2010, a law was
passed that requires a 100 percent eco-fair
procurement policy. Public tenders from
the senate must therefore also fulfil
ecological criteria as well as the ILO core
labour standards.

The price of a T-shirt
says nothing about the conditions
in which it was produced.
MARIO DZIAMSKI
Rank a Brand

© Photo Dziamski: Mario Dziamski

A rich export country like Germany also
has a special responsibility internationally
when it comes to promoting sustainable
growth, and is well aware of this task.
Germany is the fifth-largest sponsor of
the “Green Climate Fund”. Other examples
include efforts in “Financing for Development” by the Federal Ministry for Economic
Cooperation and Development, innovative
financing mechanisms like using the revenue from auctioning emission certificates
and loans from the national development
bank KfW.

95

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

The legal minimum wage of 8.50 euros –
8.84 euros from 2017 – must be paid.
The government coalition agreed to “deduct
(divest) and reinvest sustainably” direct
and indirect financial assets of the federal
state of Berlin whose “return is based
on ethically and ecologically particularly
problematic transactions.” The fundamental
financial asset goals “security, liquidity
and return” were supplemented with
the goal “ethics and sustainability”.

For companies, sustainable management
is a great opportunity. By saving resources
like energy or water in the production
process, they also reduced their costs
in these areas. Consumers are also more
sensitive to environmental damage
caused by obscure supply chains in other
parts of the world. Many people also
want to invest their savings under ethical
and environmental aspects. However,
they often do not receive credible advice
and a reliable overview of the offers
on the market. When defined appropriately,
sustainability is a major competitive
advantage for companies.

© captainblueberry / shutterstock

The efforts of politics and business
reveal that sustainable economy, growth
and wealth are not mutually exclusive,
even though there are many conflicting
objectives in detail. Where should one
invest, and which assets should be divested?
Who can be trusted, and who is not trust­worthy? What is green-washed, and
what must be taken seriously?

Other publications by the German Council for Sustainable Development
·  The Sustainability Code – Benchmarking sustainable economy

96

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

Dr. Daniela Büchel
GROUP EXECUTIVE MANAGEMENT RETAIL GERMANY – HR AND SUSTAINABILITY DEPARTMENT AT REWE GROUP

© REWE Group

Sustainability can
exist outside its niche.

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

INTERVIEW
DR. DANIELA BÜCHEL
REWE GROUP

With its guideline for sustainable business,
the REWE Group has created a value base
for its own company. How do you translate
this guideline into everyday activities,
corporate structures and processes
in your company?
Sustainability is only seriously practised
in companies if all of the employees see
themselves as ambassadors. Managers
play a key role in this. Managers are always
points of reference for employees.

We aim to halve our specific greenhouse
gas emissions by 2022 compared
with the reference year 2006.
When employees see that managers –
whether in a REWE supermarket or at headquarters – put the guidelines into practice
even in tough and stressful times, that
has a halo effect on the whole company.
That is why we have appointed all of our
Management Board, Division Heads and
general representatives, among others,
as internal sustainability ambassadors.
The guidelines are the foundation on
which we build everything.
What challenges do you face and
where do you see opportunities
for the REWE Group?
Of course, one of the greatest challenges
is reaching every single employee in our
markets with our commitment to sus­
tainability. That is the only way we will
succeed in inspiring our customers to
more sustain­ability, and influence society
to consume more sustainably. We have
70 million customer contacts every week
in our markets, and of course each of these

98

is an opportunity to convince customers
to choose more sustainable products.
Another major challenge is the complexity
in many of the supply chains and the wide
variety of products we offer in our markets.
In many cases, one company cannot change
the hotspots on its own, an industry initiative is required. That can take a little longer,
as a lot of stakeholders have to be brought
together first.
What does the change mean specifically?
Can you give us an example of how you
are reducing environmental pollution
and improving your company’s ecoefficiency specifically?
The REWE Group set itself an ambitious
climate goal years ago: By 2015, we wanted
to reduce the CO₂ emissions per square
metre of retail space by 30 percent compared with the base year 2006. We achieved
this goal ahead of schedule at the end
of 2012. In particular, switching to green
electricity and a comprehensive energy
management system, including extensive
technical measures to increase energy
efficiency helped us do so. As a pioneer
in the industry, we were not satisfied
with this achievement, and defined a new,
even more ambitious climate goal: We
aim to halve our specific greenhouse gas
emissions by 2022 compared with the
reference year 2006.

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

INTERVIEW
DR. DANIELA BÜCHEL
REWE GROUP

However, at the same time, our value
and supply chains are long and complex.
Can an individual company even influence
international and global value and
supply chains?
For a single company, the attempt to do so
is virtually futile. That is why we strongly
support industry solutions. We want to
bring all stakeholders in the supply chain
on board, as this is the only way to influence
global supply chains.
What role do companies play
in implementing the 2030 Agenda?
The ratification of the Sustainable
Development Goals by 193 nations in
September last year was a major step
forward, in particular because the goals
were developed in a comprehensive
social dialogue, incorporating businesses.
We looked into the 2030 Agenda in great
detail and determined, with support from
internal and external experts, which of
the 17 Sustainable Development Goals
we need to work on as priorities. We are
currently implementing them in our
strategy processes.

99

What do you do specifically to make
supply chains more socially responsible
and environmentally friendly?
First of all, we are very careful when
choosing our partners. To become a REWE
supplier, companies have to overcome
many high barriers. That includes ensuring
that our partners understand that we
view ourselves as drivers of sustainability.
We also rely on internal and external
specialists to assess companies locally,
because we also want to understand where
the problems are. That is the only way
we can support our partners and improve
things together. Cooperation accomplishes
a lot more than confrontation.

Cooperation accomplishes
a lot more than confrontation.
In niches, some sustainable products
enjoy high market shares (e.g. fair-trade
cocoa), but they have not reached the
mainstream yet. Do you think it is even
possible that we will ever use sustainable
products exclusively? What extent do
you feel is realistic?
With roughly 700 PRO PLANET products,
we have shown for years that sustainability
can exist outside its niche. However, there is
still a long way to go before all of our products
will be more sustainable. On one hand that
is because products can be more or less
sustainable depending on the perspective.
For example, a product itself can be produced sustainably, but its packaging may be
less sustainable or not sustainable at all.

CHANGING THE ECONOMY

INTERVIEW
DR. DANIELA BÜCHEL
REWE GROUP

On the other hand, we will all have to
reconsider our consumption habits and
alter them in many respects. Let’s take
food waste as a simple example. Everyone
in this country knows that we throw out
way too much at home. Unfortunately,
far too few people change their behaviour
specifically based on this knowledge.
To conclude, we would like to end
the interview with a brief statement.
Please complete the following sentence:
For me, sustainability is …
… when I can tell my children with a clear
conscience that I did my best to help make
tomorrow’s world liveable.

100

The energy
transition

© Anettphoto / Shutterstock.com

Future lab Germany –
a joint effort

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

Today, the energy transition in Germany
is considered the largest economic policy
project since the reunification. The transition
from a primarily fossil-based energy industry
to a power supply from renewable energy
remaining nine plants were to be shut
down gradually. The measures passed as an
overall package also included expanding
electricity grids faster, improving building
insulation and increasing the percentage
of green electricity from 19 percent to
at least 35 percent by 2020.

sources is an immense challenge for an
industrial nation like the Federal Republic
of Germany, but also a great opportunity.
by K ATRIN MÜLLER

Since the 1990s, German energy policy
has focused largely on reducing CO₂
emissions, protecting the climate and
ensuring supply security at all times. In
addition to more efficient use of energy,
energy research and expansion of renewable energy sources, nuclear power was
also considered essential for a long time.
The political decision made in 2001 to
phase out nuclear power was controversial
and required continued operation of
plants until the 2030s and longer.

The energy transition
as a “joint project”
The report of the “Ethics Commission for
a Safe Energy Supply” appointed in 2011
by the German Federal Government after
the nuclear incident in Japan is the key
foundation for the energy transition.
It coined the joint project concept of
shutting down nuclear power ¹ within
ten years (by 2022), and taking an ambitious
approach to protect the climate. It called
for society as a whole to pull together,
from politicians, companies and environmental associations right down
to scientists and finally all citizens.

A historic turning point in German energy
policy came in summer 2011: After the
Fukushima reactor disaster, Germany was
the first major industrial nation to turn
away from nuclear power. A cross-party
majority in the German Bundestag voted
to phase out nuclear power. According
to the resolution of the Bundestag, eight
nuclear power stations were to be decommissioned immediately, and the

1  which at the time still accounted for roughly

	 one quarter of Germany’s electricity supply

102

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

At the same time, the Ethics Commission
warned against conflicts of interest that
restructuring of this kind could be expected
to entail: “A collective project on
“Germany’s Energy Future” must resolve
any conflicts of objectives that arise and
incorporate the necessary direct and indirect contributions from all participants,
i.e. from energy supplie rs and consumers,
grid operators, politics, environmental
organisations, trade unions and other
parties, such as developers of new
products.” We must not only call on others
to take on responsibility, we must also take
responsibility for the consequences of our
own actions and decisions. According to
the committee, foregoing nuclear power
is an ethical imperative, as an alternative
power supply has been made technically,
economically and culturally possible by
research, innovation and civic commitment.

The EEG was most recently reformed
in early July 2016 to enhance competition
in expansion of renewable energy sources.
As a result, operators of larger wind farms or
solar power systems as well as biogas plants
will in future no longer receive fixed, legally
stipulated compensation for the electricity
they feed in. Instead, tenders are being held
for installation of new plants. Whoever
charges the lowest rate per kilowatt hour
is awarded the contract. That promotes
competition in this relatively young market.

The challenges of the energy transition
The resolution by the Paris climate
conference in November 2015 acknowledges one of the major challenges of our
time: restricting global warming to far less
than two degrees by 2050, ideally to
less than 1.5 degrees.

The most important step for expanding
wind, biogas and solar energy in Germany
is the Renewable Energy Sources Act
(Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz – EEG),
which was passed in the 1990s and has
been reformed continuously since then.
The next fundamental change in energy
technology and the energy industry is
now already on the horizon – the restruc­turing of the energy system forces us
to think and act in new ways all the time.

We have to phase out coal,
not today or tomorrow but soon.
Renewables are being subsidized,
they have to be fed in the grid
faster and in larger volumes to
replace coal. This process must
be completed by 2035.
TOBIAS MÜNCHMEYER

103

© Photo Münchmeyer: Gordon Welters / Greenpeace

Greenpeace nuclear power expert

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

Industrialized countries like Germany are
historically among the largest producers
of harmful greenhouse gases. Their
emissions are currently being overtaken
by the emerging countries. However, that
does not change the fact that Germany
bears a special responsibility in the fight
against global warming. To reach the
ambitious climate goals, fossil fuels in the
German energy mix must be reduced
significantly and replaced with renewable
energy sources – one of the key goals of
the energy transition. According to data
from the Federal Ministry for Economic
Affairs and Energy, renewable energy
sources accounted for roughly 32 percent
of electricity production in 2015, and this
is to increase to 45 percent by 2025 with the
current political measures. It is true that
the energy transition is a process that will
take decades, as it is not possible to convert
all buildings to renewable energy and
energy saving technologies, for example.

At the same time, the court also promised
the electricity corporations compensation
in individual cases. Accordingly, it is clear
to Federal Minister for the Environment
Barbara Hendricks “that the nuclear
phase-out schedule will not be changed.”
The (nuclear) phase-out is necessary in
Germany to exclude the risks associated
with nuclear power. Lower-risk alternatives
make this feasible. In following this path,
Germany must have courage for a new
journey, confidence in its own strength and
a binding monitoring and control process.
from the REPORT OF THE ETHICS COMMISSION
FOR A SAFE ENERGY SUPPLY

In addition to the electricity corporations,
associations and politicians with private
sector-affiliations warn against finally
phasing out the supposedly cheaper nuclear
power, and also continue to fear electricity
shortages and unpredictable costs, and thus
competitive disadvantages for companies.
Farmers also complain about higher prices
due to the energy transition. The prices for
agricultural land have increased significantly in some cases, and are threatening
the continued existence of agricultural use
in some areas. Energy policy is not entirely
to blame for this.

Germany as a whole largely agrees on
the necessity of the energy transition.
However, the specific implementation is
still under debate. Some nuclear power
station operators took legal action against
the German Federal Government resolution
to revoke the phase-out extensions for
nuclear power stations after Fukushima.
In addition to lost profit, they also wanted
the costs imposed on them as part of
additional safety requirements to be
reimbursed. In its most recent judgement,
the Federal Constitutional Court decided
that the 2011 Nuclear Phase-Out Act was
constitutional.

104

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

So-called land grabbing ² plays a role,
as does the situation on the financial
markets, where the mini-interest rates
make agricultural land more attractive.
Of course, monocultural farming of
rapeseed or corn for alternative fuels
and biogas plants also increases land prices.

In addition to this, the peaks of solar energy
in the summer and wind power in the winter
months, when the wind is stronger, must
be compensated in the electricity grid.
Switching off and restarting power stations
costs millions, some of which is passed on
to consumers in their electricity bills.

By contrast, the implementation of the
environmental transition does not go far
enough for environmental associations
and green politicians. A major issue is the
distribution of the additional costs from
the expansion of renewable energy sources.
For example, energy-intensive companies
are exempt from the green electricity levy
and therefore contribute proportionally
less to the energy transition joint project
than private households.

Grid expansion is an important prerequisite
for restructuring the energy system, to
distribute the electricity from renewable
energy sources around the country. Of the
roughly 1,800 kilometres of electricity
cables stipulated in the Grid Expansion Act
passed in 2009, only roughly one third has
been implemented to date. By 2017, the
Federal Network Agency expects progress
toward the expansion goal for electricity
cables to reach 45 percent. Social resistance
is one reason for the halting expansion.
Power lines are to be built to transport wind
energy from the north to the more
industrially developed south. People who
live in the areas affected are protesting
against this development, which is why
sections of the lines are to be buried as
underground cables. However, this
underground cabling is taking longer than
planned and is also significantly more
expensive. There is similar local resistance
to construction of wind farms and solar
arrays, as the protesting groups believe they
have a negative effect on the landscape and
the systems could harm animals.

By investing billions, Germany has made
green electricity affordable and thus globally
competitive. In the second phase of the
energy transition, we must now combine
heat, mobility and electricity based
on renewable energy sources.
ALEXANDER MÜLLER

© Photo Müller: Thomas Ecke

Member of the German Council
for Sustainable Development

As a result, the matter of costs is important
to consumers in particular. With the green
electricity levy and the grid fees, electricity
customers pay a lot for the energy transition. According to the Federal Network
Agency, the compensation for renewable
power stations from the EEG levy alone is
estimated to reach 29.5 billion euros in 2017,
offset against just five billion euros in
market revenue from this electricity.

2  the still excessive conversion

	 of green fields into settlements

105

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

Accordingly, there are not only conflicts
of interest when it comes to implementing
the energy transition, there is also resistance against ambitious climate protection.
This is also apparent in federal policy,
in the debates on a climate protection
plan submitted by the Federal Ministry
of the Environment in autumn 2016.
The plan aims to show how Germany
reaches its climate goals and makes its
contribution to the Paris climate protection
agreement. The German Federal Government submitted the resolution in
November 2016 for the climate conference
in Marrakesh. It specifies how much CO₂
Germany is to save in the coming decades,
and also quantifies the contributions of the
transport, agricultural and energy
generation sectors for the first time.

Gross electricity production in Germany in 2015, in TWh¹
Renewable energy expansion – facts and figures

Hard coal
18.3 %
Nuclear
14.2 %

118
92

61
6
27

155

Natural gas
9.4 %
Mineral oil
0.9 %
Others
4.2 %

187
Lignite
24.0 %
Renewables
29.0 %

Hydro power
2.9 %
19

Wind power
12.3 %

79

45
6

Household waste²
0.9 %

How can electricity, heat
and mobility be combined?

Biomass
6.0 %

39
Photovoltaics
6.0 %

The share of renewable energy in Germany’s electricity

An initial interim assessment appears quite
positive: Since 2011, the demand for green
electricity rates with renewable energy
sources and without nuclear and coal-based
electricity has increased rapidly. In the
second half of 2012, 81 percent of new
contracts concluded were for green
electricity. However, to reach the self-imposed targets, the expansion of renewable
energy sources must be advanced in areas
other than power supply. Fossil energy
sources are to be replaced gradually
with renewable energy in heat generation,
cooling and mobility, too. For example,
heating in Germany is still largely based
on fossil fuels like oil and gas. That is to
change by linking multiple sectors with one
another. Power-to-heat is an important

production is rising every year, from barely six percent
in 2000 to over 30 percent in 2015.¹
By 2035, renewables should account for 55 to 60 percent.
The German Renewable Energy Act (EEG) remunerates
the feed-in of renewables into the grid, while other plans
and regulations govern grid extension, efficient energy use
and electricity savings. Promotion of research, which
advances renewable energy through innovation and
aside from power generation, the energy transition must
also transform our entire primary energy use. This is an area
with substantial deficits. A mere 13 percent of heating and
hot water energy is renewable; in the transport sector,
the share is even lower at just under five percent.

1  preliminary figures, some estimates
2  renewable share

106

Source: AG Energiebilanzen, as of August 2016

technical developments, is a further key aspect. However,

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

strategy for the heating sector.
These technologies use electricity to
generate heat instead of fossil fuels. The
more electricity is derived from renew­able sources, the more successfully this
area contributes to climate protection.

having inreased steadily in the previous
years. In addition to active savings, reasons
for the overall lower consumption include
improved thermal insulation of buildings
and the use of more energy-efficient devices.
The energy transition is both an emotional
and complex topic. Emotional, because in
the end it is about designing a sustainable
energy supply for our children and
grandchildren. And of course this requires
a focus on the technology, and that makes
it difficult to a certain extent. However, I am
convinced that the energy transition still
has the power to captivate.³

In Germany, roughly 80 percent of energy in
private households is used for heating and
hot water. As a result, the German Federal
Government supports energy refurbishment in particular through low-interest
loans and subsidy programmes by the KfW,
the German Development Bank. By 2050,
all buildings are to be virtually climateneutral. Among other things, citizens
receive advice on energy refurbishment
and production of an energy concept.
In addition to this, the German Federal
Government introduced the energy
performance certificate for buildings in
spring 2014. Landlords or sellers must
inform parties interested in renting or
buying a property of the building’s energy
status. However, the implementation is
faltering: Shortly after its introduction,
the German Environmental Aid Association
(Umwelthilfe) and German Tenants’
Association (Mieterbund) criticized that
many property providers were ignoring
their duty of information. They also
alleged that checks by the authorities were
insufficient. In spite of this, many citizens
are increasingly aware of their electricity
and heating consumption due to the increased prices. According to the Indicator
Report on Sustainability Strategy energy
consumption in private households
(excluding fuels) decreased almost six
percent between 2000 and 2012, after

DR. PATRICK GRAICHEN
Director of Agora Energiewende

In future, consumers shall be able to take
a more active part in the energy transition.
Civic cooperatives are given a fair chance
to participate in the expansion of renewable
energy sources: If they win a tender for a
new green electricity system, cooperatives
receive a bonus. Every year, the Renewable
Energy Agency also presents the “Energy
Municipality” label. Label holders are
listed “Atlas of Municipalities”⁴. The atlas
documents the growing engagement
in energy supply at a municipal level.

	impulse-interviews/interview-mit-dr-patrick-graichen.html
4  www.kommunal-erneuerbar.de/de/
	energie-kommunen/kommunalatlas.html

107

© Photo Graichen: Agora

3 	 www.berliner-impulse.de/aktuell/

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

BEST PRACTICE

Re-imagining a
whole district together
SUSTAINABLE REFURBISHMENT OF
THE BERLIN’S MÄRKISCHES VIERTEL DISTRICT
The Märkisches Viertel district in the north of Berlin was developed
in the 1960s as a model project of modern architecture, and has been
home to roughly 40,000 citizens in 16,400 apartments on a footprint
of 3.2 square kilometres since 1975.

In order to improve the quality of life and make the district more attractive,
housing development companies, power suppliers and the City of Berlin
have been cooperating closely since 2009. Municipal funds have been used
to refurbish social infrastructure facilities and upgrade the public space.
At the same time, the municipal housing development company GESOBAU,
which owns more than 15,000 apartments in the district, is modernizing all
of its portfolio in the area to a higher energy standard and in
a socially compatible manner. The modification of the housing
estate reduced the CO₂ emissions of the settlement from
3.17 tonnes to 0.26 tonnes. This was achieved by reducing the
primary energy by 80 percent. The current needs of families
and senior citizens are taken into account with new, modern
floor plans and barrier-free designs. In many open spaces,
the ground sealing was removed, creating new green living
and meeting spaces and as a result increasing the quality of life.

108

© GESOBAU Thomas Bruns

While architects initially praised the district as a construction project with
utmost individuality for its residents, the social problems of monofunctional
large housing developments became clear soon after completion:
Märkisches Viertel soon made a bad name for itself.

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

It contains information on the projects
of the respective municipality, the type
of energy use and the stakeholders in the
community. “Energy Municipalities” benefit
from the value-added effects of renewable
energy sources and also increase the
opportunities for citizens and companies
to participate. Based on the needs and
circumstances of their residents and
companies, a municipality can promote
the construction of solar, biogas, wind
power, geothermal or hydroelectric power
plants, and thus increase the percentage
of renewable energy technologies in the
regional electricity mix.

How can we get green electricity
onto the roads?
After electricity and heat, the transport
sector is the third largest energy consumption area in Germany. However, the energy
transition has not had a strong impact
here yet, as revealed by auditing company
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). This is
true both for energy consumption and for
greenhouse gas emission. The total energy
consumption has only decreased minimally
between 2006 and 2014. According to the
study, from the current status quo, it is
barely possible to reduce consumption by
ten percent as planned from 2020 compared
with 2005. Likewise, CO₂ emissions only
decreased slightly. According to the study,
motorized road traffic is the largest
greenhouse gas emitter and accounts
for 55 percent of CO₂ emissions alone.
One reason is that most goods are still
transported by road. The percentage
of railway companies in goods transport
decreased slightly in the past five years,
as revealed by the “Indicator Report 2016.”
According to the report, the far more
climate-friendly railway reaches a
market share of approx. 18 percent.

Incentives are also created for rental
households to participate in the energy
transition. When landlords install solar
energy systems on the roofs of their houses
and sell the electricity to their tenants, the
green electricity levy is reduced or waived
entirely. To date, it is largely home owners
who benefit from low-cost solar electricity.
However, the most recent amendment to
the law has generated increasing interest
among housing companies in the
opportunity to provide low-cost and
environmentally friendly rental electricity.
A shared solar energy system on the
building roof gives tenants many
advantages. They save money because
this type of electricity does not use the
public power grid, so no grid fees are due.
The price is also predictable for years in
advance. As a result, “tenant electricity”
is important for decentralizing the
energy transition.

109

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

BEST PRACTICE

North Sea Island
of Juist

Regional energy transition pioneers
More and more people in Germany are taking the
energy transition into their own hands. Municipalities
are developing sustainable energy strategies and
citizens are organizing themselves in cooperatives
to supply themselves with energy.

Barnstorf Administrative District
Steinfurt District

Over 800 energy cooperatives have been founded for
renewable energy sources since 2006. Accordingly,
165,000 citizens are currently decentrally working for
an environmentally-friendly energy industry with a total
member capital of approx. 655 million euros and a total
investment of approx. 1.8 billion euros (as of 12/2015).
This allows local citizens to invest in energy projects
and become co-owners of these projects.
The percentage of privately and cooperatively generated
renewable energy is high. Of 73 gigawatts of installed
capacity of renewable energy in Germany in 2012,
34 gigawatts (47 percent) is not from power suppliers or
institutional or strategic investors, but from homes,
community and participatory initiatives.

Community of Furth

© Encho Petkov / Shutterstock.com

It works on a small scale, too: The Bürgerwerke start-up
company brings together more than 12,000 citizens and
62 local energy associations from around Germany, to
supply people with renewable civic electricity from solar,
wind and hydroelectric power. They implement the vision
of a renewable, regional and autonomous energy future
in the hands of the citizens.

110

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

BEST PRACTICE

North Sea Island
of Juist

Regional energy transition pioneers
COMMUNITY OF FURTH
Barnstorf Administrative District
The Community of Furth focuses on sustainability criteria
Steinfurt District
when preparing its budget. All measures are borne by strong
civic participation. Today already, 80 percent of the electricity
and heat supply is provided by renewable energy sources –
the goal is 100 percent. Measures for this include many small
wood chip, pellet and bulk good furnaces, a biogas-fired
local heating system with combined heat and power and
a solar collector system for heating water. Germany’s densest
decentralized network of photovoltaic systems and an energy saving concept that has also decreased the energy consumption of the street lighting by 80 percent also have a
sustainable effect. The entire centre of the village is heated
with a wood chip thermal power station that is fired with cut
Community of Furth
wood from gardens collected by the citizens. This uses garden waste sustainably, preventing it simply being burned in
the open. In an additional measure, former fields and meadows were expanded naturally to flood protection plains and
planted with several thousand deciduous trees, whose wood
yield is also used for the wood chip thermal power station. A municipal company emphasizes
sustainable land management in particular. Leisure, health and educational institutions are located
intentionally to boost the quality of life for all age groups.

NORTH SEA ISLAND OF JUIST
The North Sea Island of Juist aims to be the first tourist destination to achieve climate-neutral status by 2030.
To reach this goal, the island is to be supplied with renewable energy sources. The existing buildings are to
be converted to micro-power stations and the electricity grid is to become an energy sharing grid using new
storage technologies. The island is also car-free – persons and goods are transported by horse and cart only.
The particular challenge for tourist destinations is that the number of people on the island increases to many
times the number of inhabitants in summer due to the influx of tourists. That is why Juist is focusing on
boosting tourist awareness with specific information on environmental topics.

111

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

BEST PRACTICE

North Sea Island
of Juist

Regional energy transition pioneers
STEINFURT DISTRICT: ENERGIELAND2050
Barnstorf Administrative District
The district of Steinfurt consists of 24 municipalities and is
Steinfurt District
home to more than 443,000 people. The entire district has
set itself the goal of being energy-autonomous by 2050.
To achieve this goal, an integrated climate protection
concept has been drawn up. It is subsidized by the German
Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation,
Building and Nuclear Safety through the ”100% Climate
Protection Master Plan”. Steinfurt is also a model project for
a “Globally Sustainable Community.” The goal is to reduce
the CO₂ emissions by 95 percent compared with 1990. For this
purpose, 21,000 households were supplied with green electricity, 400 energy ambassadors were appointed to share
the concept and members of 23 households were named
Community of Furth
“climate protection citizens.” Climate protection citizens
were given the opportunity to try out a sustainable way
of life for one year, reducing CO₂ emissions by 70 tonnes.
In the comprehensive energy concept, photovoltaic systems
produce roughly 170,000 megawatt hours of energy. By 2050, this figure is to rise
to 1.8 million megawatt hours. In order to promote solar energy, Steinfurt has created a free solar land registry.
For wind energy, roughly 260 wind turbines are currently installed. The bioenergy strategy includes
three existing biogas plants and two wood chip power stations.
The Climate Protection and Sustainability Office of the district of Steinfurt has focused for
many years on the areas of civic action and energy efficiency. The office is establishing interdisciplinary
networks around these areas, incorporating the municipalities in the District of Steinfurt, activating
the private sector and organizing intensive civic involvement.
BARNSTORF ADMINISTRATIVE DISTRICT
A successful example of municipal implementation of the energy transition is the Barnstorf Administrative
District, with roughly 12,000 citizens. The integrated climate protection concept of the municipality plan aims
to provide the energy it requires from renewable energy technologies by 2025. To achieve this, the public
infrastructure is being modernized: A new cooperative builds civic solar energy systems on public buildings,
lighting concepts are being implemented and school buildings are being heated with renewable energy. The
cooperative measures have been turning profits since 2013, reducing the debt by 800,000 euros each year.

112

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

In order to make the transport sector
more environmentally friendly, there are
therefore major efforts to electrify it and
make it more independent of fossil fuels.
Most trains already run on electricity.
By 2020, Deutsche Bahn AG aims to increase
the share of renewable energy sources
used for rail transport to 45 percent. The
corporation is the largest railway company
in Central Europe and aims to use carbon
neutral railway electricity by 2050.

the problem of the still realatively low
battery range in electric vehicles. Use of
overhead wiring on motorways is currently
being tested for lorries. Liquid natural gas is
also used increasingly frequently by heavy
goods vehicles. Together with bio-methane,
it helps supersede environmentally harmful
fuels. According to the Federal Ministry of
Transport, in 40 years, urban transport will
be almost completely fossil fuel-free.

Signal effect for other countries
From an international perspective, the
energy transition has become a recognized
reference. On one hand, it triggers curiosity
and genuine interest, and on the other
scepticism, as revealed in the 2015 study
“Germany in the eyes of the world” by
the “Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)”. In particular
the nuclear power phase-out and the
associated costs are met with incompre­
hension. However, the belief that the
Federal Republic of Germany will reach
its ambitious goals is great overall.
According to the study, especially countries
with a lot of potential for the generation
and use of renewable energies are willing
to learn from a success­ful German energy
transition. As Europe’s largest industrial
nation, Germany has a special responsibility.

The German energy transition and
global climate change call for political
courage to choose new ways of thinking
and lifestyles. It is not only a major
technological change, it is also a major
democratic experiment in participation
of consumers as committed citizens.
PROF. DR. FRANK TRENTMANN

© Photo Trentmann: Birckbeck Media Services 2015

Professor of History, Birkbeck College,
University of London

Politicians have created incentives to ensure
that more and more electric vehicles are
underway, not just on the rails, but also
on the roads: Buyers of electric vehicles are
subsidized with a purchase bonus, and the
charging infrastructure is to be expanded
rapidly, as electric vehicles are still quite
expensive and charging stations are not
widely available. According to the plans of
the German Federal Government, at least
one million electric vehicles are to be on
Germany’s roads by 2020. As the PwC study
shows, hybrid vehicles currently have the
best chances of succeeding on the markets,
as these vehicles in particular could bridge

113

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

The German Federal Government supports
the expansion of renewable energy systems
in over 70 partner countries. In 2014 and
2015 alone, the German Federal Ministry for
Economic Cooperation and Development
subsidized environmentally friendly energy
projects with over four billion euros.
Germany primarily supports approaches
that incorporate the entire energy system
of a partner country. In this way, one of the
largest solar farms in the world was built
in sunny Morocco with the cooperation
of the Federal Republic of Germany.
A German-Indian energy programme
is also assessing how India can better
integrate its growing electricity supply
from environmentally friendly

energy into the national grid. In addition
to this, the German Federal Government
supports developing countries in implementing their nationally determined
contributions (NDCs) to climate
protection, in accordance with the
2015 Paris climate agreement.

Projection of electricity generation costs in Germany until 2030
By the end of the next decade, electricity generation costs incurred by PV systems
will drop to between EUR 0.055 and EUR 0.094 per kWh
Euro2013 / kWh

0.22

Photovoltaics

0.20

Wind, offshore
Wind, onshore

0.18

Biogas
0.16

Lignite
Hard Coal

0.14

Cogeneration

0.12
0.10
0.08
0.06
0.04
0.02
0.80
2013

2015

2020

2025

As of Nov. 2013

114

2030

Source: Fraunhofer ISE, Stromgestehungskosten Erneuerbare Energien (electricity generation costs, renewable energy)

Greece is one example of practical aid
in restructuring the energy system. The
German Federal Government supports
Greek islands in expanding solar and biogas
systems so that they can meet their electricity requirements completely independently from the mainland with renewable energy sources. To date, these islands
still use many polluting diesel generators.

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

electricity than it consumes. In 2015,
German electricity exports reached
an all-time peak at 60.9 terawatt hours.
This is equivalent to roughly one tenth of
the electricity produced in Germany.

Is the energy transition a success?
The 2016 “Indicator Report” states that
Germany has had significant success
in meeting its climate targets. However, it
also expressly points out that the greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced
equally in all sectors and that all parts
of society must make their contribution.
The energy transition thus clearly requires
a fundamental rethinking in many areas.
Entire industrial sectors must switch to
a more sustainable business model. Some
companies will be confronted with massive
business losses. Where coal mining is
coming to an end, jobs are lost. Energyintensive industries like the chemical or
steel industry have feared competitive
disadvantages for years as a result of rising
electricity costs and a movement of
companies and labour to other countries.
However, the economic figures for 2016
point to a significant increase in turnover
and profit for key German industries.

Wind energy and in particular photovoltaics have undergone technological
developments that make them competitive
against fossil fuels and even more so against
nuclear energies. High-yield locations
already reach electricity generation costs
of three to four cents per kilowatt hour of
renewable energy today. Germany is also
approaching costs as low as these.
A virtually complete coverage of the energy
demand with renewable energy sources
is not an unrealistic utopia, it is a real
cost-effective alternative and also good
for climate protection and the economy.
More than 30 percent renewable electricity
has already been integrated successfully
into the existing grid, without the antici­pated blackout. Globally, renewable energy
sources have triggered massive investments
and thus contribute to generating the
electricity required in developing
countries with modern, cost-effective
and climate-neutral renewable energies.

Contrary to the apprehensions, expenditure
for energy in the economy and in private
households has decreased in recent years,
as shown by the 2015 “Monitoring Report
on the Energy Transition” by the German
Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs.
The declining oil and gas prices on the international markets played a major part in this,
but the Renewable Energy Sources Act
also had an impact, according to the report.
Remuneration rates decreased and the
expansion was focused on cost-effective
technologies, which led to a decline in
electricity prices overall. According to
the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs
and Energy, Germany produces more
115

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

The change is a major opportunity outside
the energy industry, too. In conjunction
with science and research, the energy
transition creates new companies that
develop innovative products and create new
jobs. “14 percent of the environmental
technology produced worldwide now comes
from Germany,” explained German Minister
for Research, Johanna Wanka. A study
commissioned by the Federal Ministry of
the Environment concluded that the macroeconomic benefit far exceeds the costs of
the measures for the Climate Protection
Action Programme 2020. In this context, the
study forecasts additional growth in the
gross domestic product of roughly one
percent. The employment effect is specified
at 430,000 additional jobs in 2020.
Federal Minister of the Environment
Barbara Hendricks explained: “The climate
action programme serves as an economic
growth package.”

The former Federal Economic Minister
Sigmar Gabriel points out that promoting green electricity acts as a “major
modernization programme” for the
German econo­my. He adds that it has
already created 300,000 jobs.

© Gyuszko-Photo / shutterstock.com

Accordingly, the energy transition seems
affordable as an investment in the future
and an important economic factor in
Germany. The course is set. The joint
venture “energy transition” is on the right
path as a joint project – but there is still
a lot to be done.

Other publications of the German Council for Sustainable Development
·  Making the Energiewende a success story thanks to strong local authorities

116

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

Prof. Klaus Töpfer
FORMER MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, NATURE CONSERVATION AND NUCLEAR SAFETY

© Dirk Enters

We must
take action now

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

INTERVIEW

PROF. KLAUS TÖPFER
FORMER MINISTER FOR
THE ENVIRONMENT,
NATURE CONSERVATION
AND NUCLEAR SAFETY

Professor Töpfer, the energy transition
is a controversial subject. In your opinion,
will the energy transition be successful?
Of course, it will be successful. We have
made great progress: At present, we are
generating over 30 percent of our electricity
from renewable sources – a massive
increase over the last ten years. The costs of
harvesting sun and wind power have come
down over time and are already competitive
at the international level. Increasingly, this
is also true for the associated systemic costs.
In regions with more sun and wind than
Germany, renewables are by far the
cheapest energy sources. According to the
International Energy Agency, global investment in renewable energy has already outstripped traditional energy in the last two
to three years. Hence, there is no reason
to doubt the success of the energy transition. However, insistent critical voices are

Of course, it will be successful.
We have made great progress.
important. The question how many grids
we need will be repeated again and again.
Actually, the real question will be: How is
decentralized electricity generation developing? All these issues are part and parcel
of major infrastructure restructuring.
After all, we are not just making marginal
modifications but fundamental changes to
the entire energy system. Of course, this
also meets with some resistance.

At present, what are the main challenges
associated with the energy transition?
The biggest challenge today is certainly
how to use fluctuating electricity volumes
in a way that their full contribution to the
energy transition can be ensured. In 2015,
we had 25 full days with negative electricity
prices. On these days, we generated so
much green electricity alongside the
must-run power stations ¹ that we ended up
with a surplus. We export over 50 terawatt
of electricity a year – that is an unbelievable
export record! Hence, the big challenge is
how to balance production and use. Of
course, this also involves combining the
energy transition with the transport transition. How can we achieve this sector linkage?
And ultimately, this is closely connected
to the important issue of a better financing
system. At present, only electricity cus­tomers pay for the development of renew­
ables while the beneficiaries will also
include those who will, hopefully, soon drive
electric cars. Sector linkage is also urgently
required in terms of financing.

1  For reasons of grid stability, such power stations

	 run whether their electricity is needed or not.

118

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

INTERVIEW

PROF. KLAUS TÖPFER
FORMER MINISTER FOR
THE ENVIRONMENT,
NATURE CONSERVATION
AND NUCLEAR SAFETY

Which structural changes has the
energy transition already brought about
in Germany?

Why do you consider the energy transition
as a ‘preventive peace policy’ at the
international level?

A large part of the German population is
once again considering energy supply as
their own sphere of activity. They are
actively involved again – this is an immense
gain for the open society and a restoration
of responsibility to the citizens. In the future,
this trend will become much stronger: We
will have a lot more self-generation and
self-sufficient households and buildings.
As this development progresses, new questions will come up: How do we design
the façades and roofs of our houses?
Extensive research into the use of roof
tiles as active solar elements shows that
this energy transition is a veritable fountain
of youth for new technologies, which has
already proved of great value. We should
not disappoint those who have taken
on responsibility, and ensure that reliable
policies will continue to implement our
essential goals. The energy transition has
developed into a highly attractive business
case – never mind that it is inevitable
for climate protection reasons alone.

With the world population set to increase
to nine billion people, we know that
economic development must progress
as a fundamental prerequisite for social
stability and peaceful coexistence. This
also includes energy. I spent eight years
at the central office of the UN Environment
Programme in Africa. Of course I experienced on a daily basis that poverty is first
and foremost a scarcity of energy.

119

The energy transition has developed
into a highly attractive business case.
Unless we overcome this scarcity, we will not
have a peaceful future. Just consider the fact
that in Germany the per capita income
according to GDP is 45,000 to 46,000 euros,
while the per capita income in some African
countries is 1,000 euros. A peaceful world
is not possible as long as there is no real
development in these countries, and energy
is a central prerequisite. In this respect,
energy sufficiency is an elementary contribution to a peaceful future. Without doubt,
our blue planet is capable of sustaining nine
billion people if we overcome existential
poverty and create a liveable future. This
requires technological progress at a broad
level, as well as a reassessment of our lifestyles combined with smart self-restraint.
Suffi­ciency, just like closed loop economy
will no longer be an alien concept.

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

INTERVIEW

PROF. KLAUS TÖPFER
FORMER MINISTER FOR
THE ENVIRONMENT,
NATURE CONSERVATION
AND NUCLEAR SAFETY

You often quote Pope Paul IV who said that
“development is the new name for peace.”
If you believe that the energy transition is
closely linked to policies of peace, why is it
such a rocky path? The phasing-out of coal,
which still accounts for 45 percent of
German electricity demand, seems to be
rather problematic, for instance in the
Lausitz region …
The government’s widely supported climate
concept is not feasible without a gradual
reduction in coal-fired electricity generation.
This development has substantial consequences for people in the Lausitz or Rhine
regions, who have been working and thriving
on coal for generations. We must do everything in our power to ensure that the
phase-out is socially acceptable, that
these regions are not left behind and that
new dynamics are initiated in these regions.
In a prosperous country like Germany, this
should not be an insurmountable problem.
But let us also consider the

I experienced on a daily basis
that poverty is first and foremost
a scarcity of energy.
geopolitical aspects: At present, we import
crude oil and natural gas worth 30 billion
euros a year from Russia. When these
imports are gradually reduced and hence
become substantially smaller, what are the
adjustments that will have to be made in the
country of origin? And what are the adjustments that will have to be made in general
in a world that has been exclusively relying
on fossil fuels? This is a subject we are not
giving enough attention to. I believe that
this subject is as important, if not more so,
for a peaceful development of the world

120

and it is this thinking that will allow us to
implement a regionally compatible transition even in the field of brown coal.
How important is international cooperation in terms of the energy transition?
Which initiatives do you consider most
promising?
Where global issues are concerned,
cooperation makes sense to everyone.
Germany contributes approx. two percent
to global greenhouse gas emissions. Even
when we arrive at zero emissions, the
problem is not resolved. We must come up
with contributions that also allow others
to pursue committed energy policies
without affecting economic development.
That’s why I consider renewable energy,
cooperation, solidarity, the Green Climate
Fund, to be crucial.
In which areas can Germany learn
from other countries?
In all areas. There is a certain worry that
we have a tendency for backslapping and
claiming that everything is clean and orderly
in Germany. If one looks at the 17 SDGs,
the Sustainable Development Goals, it is
clear that there is still a lot to be done.
We import the equivalent of approx.
60 million hectares of land via the import
of goods produced abroad, for instance
in the form of concentrated feed for animals,
which are subsequently exported. Can this
be called sustainable? We observe that this
is associated with substantial problems in
terms of liquid manure disposal and groundwater. Can this be called sustainable? And
what about consumption? Every year, we

THE ENERGY TRANSITION

INTERVIEW

PROF. KLAUS TÖPFER
FORMER MINISTER FOR
THE ENVIRONMENT,
NATURE CONSERVATION
AND NUCLEAR SAFETY

throw out up to 10 million tons of food.
Can this be called sustainable? How do
we approach these problems? In his encyclical, the Pope has aptly pointed out that
food thrown out is like food stolen from the
table of the poor. This conduct is not sustainable and there is a lot we still have to
learn: How much energy do we consume?
Over ten tons of CO₂ per capita, soon to
reach eleven. Can this

What we need to do NOW is give our best
to pay for the presumably negative impact
of our prosperity in current prices and
divest ourselves of our selfishness.
be called sustainable? I could list numerous
areas where we must learn to change.
That is why the SDGs are applicable at the
global level and are also valid for us. There
is a lot to do in Germany, with Germany
and for the world.
If you look back: What was the situation
when you were Minister of the Environment? Would you have believed that
something like the energy transition was
even possible?
I have learnt a great proverb in Africa: The
best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago.
The second best is now. Now is when we
can and must take action. In 1990, when I
was Minister of the Environment, we passed
the first grid feed-in act ². You could give
yourself a pat on the back, but what would
that achieve? NOW is the time to demonstrate that this is competitive energy. NOW
is the time to prove that we can live on a
sustainable basis, that we can de-carbonize
and that we need less material to maintain

121

prosperity, that we can close loops. All of
this started then – now it is common knowledge. Sustainability almost runs the risk of
degenerating into a fashionable article
whose substance is no longer sufficiently
questioned. All things considered, the question “Couldn’t we have done this earlier?”
becomes a purely academic one. The question NOW is: Have we actually learned
enough to avoid waiting around again? Most
likely, in ten to fifteen years, those in charge
will say that this could have all been done
much earlier. There will always be new problems to tackle. Each generation has found
itself reflected in its children’s and grand­
chil­dren’s generations who had their dreams,
their concepts of the world and who tried
to realize their dreams. That is what keeps
humanity moving. What we need to do NOW
is give our best to pay for the presumably
negative impact of our prosperity in current
prices and divest ourselves of our selfishness. This is what we need to do right now.
In Germany, too, there will always be new
problems to tackle. However, as someone
who will soon be 80, I attach great importance to the fact that my grandchildren,
who are four years old, will possibly live
in a world in which 100 is a normal age,
just like 80 is now.
To conclude, please give us a brief
statement. For me, sustainability is …
… trying my best to pay for my prosperity
at the price it actually costs. Trying my best
not to live at the expense of others.

2  statutory regulation on remunerated purchase

	 of renewable energy by public electricity supply companies

DISC US SION:

THE ANTHROPOCENE
CONCEPT
Friend or foe of sustainable thinking?

© NOAA’s climate.gov team, NASA satellite data processed by Jason Box, Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University

THE ANTHROPOCENE CONCEP T

Humans have become a geological factor: We clearly live in the
Anthropocene era – the “age of responsibility,” when everyday actions
have an impact that reaches far into the future. But why are the environmental community and the “sustainability scene” hardly involved
in this debate? Do the Anthropocene concept and the philosophy of
sustainability contradict one another? Could the Anthropocene concept
even pose real threats to sustainable thinking?

© Helder Geraldo Ribeiro /Shutterstock.com

An Essay by CHRIS TIAN SCHWÄGERL

© Vyacheslav Svetlichnyy /Shutterstock.com

In geological terms, the earth was one great
wilderness just a few moments ago. Human
civilization only populated tiny islands
in a largely untouched nature. The dark side
of the planet was black, vast quantities of
crude oil and coal lay untapped and unused
under the earth’s surface. The spread of
human civilization changed this fundamentally. After two centuries of industrial
revolution, the earth is a different one:
Today, it is the wilderness that forms
islands on an earth’s surface dominated
by people. The dark side of the earth glows
in the light of immense cities and the
atmosphere is filling with carbon dioxide,
because humans burn billions of tonnes
of coal, oil and natural gas each year.

© TTstudio /Shutterstock.com

Since 2009, scientists have been trying
to document not just individual aspects
of this upheaval, but to generate an overall
impression. In their research, the scientists
in British geologist Jan Zalasiewicz’s team
laboured over calculations that show
that global warming will cause the earth
to skip its next ice age.

123

THE ANTHROPOCENE CONCEP T

They gathered a wide range of statistics,
including the fact that enough concrete
has already been produced to unload one
kilogram of it on every square metre
of the earth’s surface, and enough plastic
to wrap the entire earth in foil.

The discovery that innocuous man-made
substances could destroy the earth’s
atmo­sphere was a great personal shock
for Crutzen. This led to the memorable
moment in 2000, when Crutzen interrupted
two colleagues talking about the Holocene,
the current official geological age, at a
scientific conference in Mexico. Geologists
estimate that the Holocene started at the
end of the last ice age almost 12,000 years
ago. “But we no longer live in the Holocene,”
said Crutzen to his colleagues, “this is the
Anthropocene.” A bold statement: Humans
are not only scratching the surface of the
earth, they are changing it fundamentally,
globally, and in particular with extremely
long-lasting effect.

Humans are not only scratching the surface of the
earth, they are changing it fundamentally, globally,
and in particular with extremely long-lasting effect.
They also studied the studied the longlasting scratch marks dragnet fishers leave
on the sea bed, and even sought to find out
where the remains of billions of chickens
and other farm animals end up.
They compiled all of this data in long
lists of environmental changes. However,
the researchers’ deliberations focused
on a special question: How long will the
after-effects of these human influences
persist? Will their tracks be wiped away
over time? Or will a researcher working
on earth in 100,000 or 100 million years
still be able to measure them?

Jan Zalasiewicz’s Anthropocene Working
Group set itself the goal of testing Crutzen’s
hypothesis. The seven-year study led to a
virtually unanimous vote by 35 scientists
in August 2016: Yes, humans have become
a geological factor; yes, what we do today
will have a lasting effect and remain measurable. The group’s message was that humans
are no longer changing the planet and its
biosphere on their own, relatively small historic scale, but on the major geological scale.

This ambitious research project was inspired by a man to whom humanity
owes a great deal: Atmospheric chemist
Paul J. Crutzen made a major contribution
to our understanding of risks to the earth’s
ozone layer from synthetic chemicals and
prohibiting the most dangerous substances
in the well-known Montreal Protocol.
For this achievement, Crutzen and
two other scientists were awarded the
Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1995.

Accordingly, what we do today will continue to have a greater effect than we can
even imagine. Concrete, isolated metals
and rare earths will be found in stone
of the future like radioactive isotopes
from the atom bomb explosions, chicken
bones will be preserved like dinosaur bones,
mobile phones and other machines will
even become “technofossils.”

124

THE ANTHROPOCENE CONCEP T

This reflects the massive decrease in
biodiversity, the fact that certain species
will no longer be found as fossils in future.
In their place, there could be new organisms
introduced by humans to foreign continents or even organisms created synthetically in laboratories.

However, it was and remains remarkable
that, unlike science and the cultural
sector, environmental associations and
the “sustainability scene” in general
have kept their distance from the Anthropocene concept. While even conservative
politicians view the Anthropocene as a
new paradigm for the relationship between
humans and the earth, the German and
international environmental community
have hardly joined in the debates on this.

However, it was and remains remarkable that,
unlike science and the cultural sector, environmental associations and the “sustainability scene”
in general have kept their distance from
the Anthropocene concept.

Why could that be? Is the geological
dimension not considered relevant for
nature conservation? Do the Anthropocene
concept and the philosophy of sustainability contradict one another? Or could
the Anthropocene concepts even pose
real threats to sustainable thinking?

After the natural scientists, cultural and
humanities researchers started around 2010
looking into the Anthropocene hypothesis.
As a result, major projects were initiated
to investigate and debate the implications
of the Anthropocene concept at the
Deutsche Museum (German Museum)
in Munich, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt,
HKW (House of Cultures of the World)
in Berlin, at multiple Max Planck Society
Institutions and at the Institute for
Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS)
in Potsdam. In a two-year period, the
“Welcome to the Anthropocene” exhibition
at the Deutsche Museum attracted
almost 200,000 visitors, while tens of
thousands also took part in the HKW’s
“Anthropocene Project.”

If we look at the phenomenon unilaterally,
we could indeed answer yes to all three
questions. At a time when we have just
a few years to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions, every year counts in combating
climate change that threatens our very
existence, a geological time scale would
initially appear irrelevant. The drama
of rising sea levels and withered harvests
will unfold in our own lifetimes, not over
millennia. In such acute danger, it cannot
actually be helpful to consider the perspective of a hypothetical geologist
in a million years. In addition to this,
environmental activists are fighting
to preserve one’s life. Stone-based geology is of secondary importance.

125

THE ANTHROPOCENE CONCEP T

© NASA / METI / AIST / Japan Space Systems,and U.S. / Japan ASTER Science Team

An American group known as the ecomodernists confirms exactly this suspicion:
They use the Anthropocene idea to call
for a “conscious decoupling” of humans
and nature with high technology.
And doesn’t Anthropocene sound like
“anthropocentric” anyway? Does this mean
that we should focus even more on our­selves and ignore the flora and fauna we
share the earth with even more effectively?
The idea, it would appear, is to make
man the measure of all things, and pursue our goals with large-scale technological solutions. It is appropriate that
Paul J. Crutzen – shortly after he coined
the term “Anthropocene” – called for
research into artificial geo-cooling technologies (geo-engineering). Anyone who views
the earth as an artificial product is going
down a dangerous road that could put an
end to any form of nature, and even mark
the introduction of human breeding.
While the sustainability concept contains ethical maxims and makes concrete
demands, the Anthropocene idea could
serve the opposite purpose. By declaring
“anthropos,” the human as such, the
master of climate change and decreasing
biodiversity, “Anthropocene” could be
responsible for removing evidence from
the crime scene and impose the greatest
possible collective liability: Whether you
are an Indian small farmer consuming
the bare minimum or an American
SUV driver pumping tonnes of CO₂
into the air – everybody is responsible
in the Anthropocene.

NASA satellite image of the Rhine
lignite mining region

A contradiction between the “Anthropocene”
and sustainability concepts appears evident.
While the normative sustainability concept
results in specific maxims for the economy,
the Anthropocene diagnosis is initially
at most descriptive, a sober characterization.
In the worst case, it could be construed as a
form of authorization: Look, the earth now
belongs to us humans, we are the masters
of its development and can do whatever
we want with it! That does not narrow
the gap between humans and nature, a basic
problem of western thought, it widens it.
126

© NASA / METI / AIST / Japan Space Systems,and U.S. / Japan ASTER Science Team

THE ANTHROPOCENE CONCEP T

NASA satellite image
of Ichkeul Lake in Tunesia
(Top: 2001; bottom: 2005)

To counter this problem, we would have
to choose another term, e. g. “Capitalocene“
or “Westocene” to name the real culprits.

These and other reasons contribute to
a deep-seated skepticism about the
Anthropocene concept. The deliberations
below do not aim to paint these reservations as unjustified. A pluralist and open
discussion of this literally epochal topic
is important. Even if scientists were to
accept the geological hypothesis, individ­
uals and society as a whole are entitled
to debate it.

The view turns entirely negative if we view
the Anthropocene solely as the sum of all
environmental problems, as something that
simply sums up the insanity of destructive
management in a single word. If that were
the case, an anti-Anthropocene movement
really would be necessary. The best option
would be returning to the Holocene!
127

THE ANTHROPOCENE CONCEP T

In January 2016, Jan Zalasiewicz’s Anthro­pocene Working Group even called for a
debate of this kind itself, when pointing
out, as though calling for help, that we
are faced with the first new geological age,
“which is a consequence of our own actions.”
According to the authors, this means
that recognition of the Anthropocene
is significant “far beyond the geological
community.” However, for each of the
criticisms mentioned, a totally different
interpretation of the Anthropocene concept
is possible – in a way that eliminates the
purported contradiction to sustainability.

scientists and those in power. By reflecting
this development, the Anthropocene
concept goes back to the roots of current
environmental problems.
The large time scale that geology covers
could also make the current environmental
problems seem worse rather than better:
Until now, many people, including many
classic environmental activists, reassured
themselves that “nature” would “recover”
if humans were to become extinct that
only superficial scratches would remain.
By contrast, the Anthropocene concept
states that our current actions have epochal
consequences, and nothing in the future
of the earth will be as it would have been
without humans. As a result, the German
Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU)
has called the Anthropocene an “Epoch
of Responsibility.” You could also call it the
age when even the most minute everyday
actions will have an impact unbelievably
far into the future. As a result, every time
we drive a car or buy a gadget, we perform
a geological act.

As the old Japanese saying goes, “If you are
in a hurry, take a detour.” Accordingly, due
to the urgency of ecological problems it
could be particularly important to consider
larger time dimensions. The focus on geology (instead of just on biology as previously) helps reach the roots of current
environmental problems. This includes
the fact that geology as a science itself has
contributed significantly to our current

By reflecting this development,
the Anthropocene concept goes back to
the roots of current environmental problems.

In no way the Anthropocene hypothesis
suggests that human egoism and major
technologies are to dominate the future.
On the contrary, in 2007, the Anthropocene
pioneers Paul Crutzen, Will Steffen and
John McNeill already described how, after
the previous destructive beginning, a third
phase of the Anthropocene will set in,
where humans will act as careful “shepherds
of the planet” and learn that their civili­zation is an integral part of the geosystem.
Crutzen has long since clarified that he is
not proponent of geo-engineering and that
it is not an excuse to forego active climate

problems: Generations of geologists were
trained to dig mines, mine ores and fossil
fuels, create landfills for waste in a close
alliance with large-scale industry. Also,
it was primarily geologists who called
global industrialization in the 18th and
19th century as the logical continuation
of the history of the earth to date. Our linear
concept of time and belief in progress have
shaped geology as a discipline just as much
as the still troublesome alliances between
128

THE ANTHROPOCENE CONCEP T

protection. He only believes that research
is required in this area, as he fears that
climate change could have catastrophic
consequences far faster than many believe
possible, and it is essential to have some
kind of back-up plan.

a greater geo-economy, i. e. a global ecology.
Economy must not be pursued as a purely
extractive principle, as is currently the case
in capitalist doctrine. The Anthropocene
is an immense challenge to economists
to develop new principles that adequately
represent the value of nature, for example,
without making ecosystems themselves
objects of speculation. The greatest as yet
unsolved problems of the Anthropocene
philosophy are in particular the social
and economic dimensions.

The German Advisory Council on Global Change
(WBGU) has called the Anthropocene an
“Epoch of Responsibility.” You could also call it
the age when even the most minute everyday
actions will have an impact unbelievably
far into the future.

Similarly, this also turns upside down
the criticism that the Anthropocene
concept separates humans and nature
to an even greater extent. The fact that
it defines humans as an integral part
of the geosystem refutes this argument.
It qualifies, not strengthens, the ancient
dualism of man and nature. Culture
and nature, two parameters that had been
distinct until now, are combined in a new
way: If a megalopolis spans hundreds
of kilometres, it must function ecologically
like nature. Untouched nature has become touched nature. The question now
is whether we will continue our brutal
attack or learn to treat nature more gently.
This is no longer primarily about the extent
of our ecological footprint, but whether
it is a beautiful footprint that could transform into a new biotope. When architects
design cities today that generate food and
renewable energy themselves, and offer
habitats for animals and plants in addition
to humans, this breathes life into the idea
of the integrated geo-system.

When ecomodernists or other groups
attempt to abuse the Anthropocene idea
for their one-sided purposes, the best way
to expose them is in a pluralist discourse.
Even Crutzen does not claim to have the
one and only valid definition. In the words
of science historian Jürgen Renn, the
Anthropocene is a “process that reflects
on itself.” There lies the real opportunity
of the new paradigm: While today, relatively
small elite powers determine the future
of the earth, the word “anthropos” could be
interpreted as an entitlement of all humans
to participate in this process, and that the
interests of future humans must also be
considered – even if this entails offering
them the broadest possible range of options
to make a decision. By naming the new
geological age, humans themselves include
all dimensions of sustainability, not just
the ecological, but also social and economic.
For the social dimension, it is important
that the universality, e. g. of human rights or
the partici­pation options mentioned above,
be reflected. For the economic dimension,
the message of the Anthropocene concept
is that every form of economy is part of
129

THE ANTHROPOCENE CONCEP T

An integrated view like this reveals
the manifold dependencies, connections
and relationships between human and
other beings. Paradoxically, the effect
of the Anthropocene idea could be that
an anthropocentric philosophy yields
to an awareness of our existential rooting
in geological, physical and biological
processes. The fiction of neo-liberal economy, that humans operate separately from
a worthless nature, is already contradicted
by the Anthropocene concept today. That,
too, makes it a partner of sustainability.

Precisely because the problems are so
massive, the sustainability concept and
the Anthropocene idea can awaken a
practical optimism in a complementary way.
If it is nothing less than a geological epoch,
then we today are the prehistoric men
of the future, and will be looked back on
in the distant future: Were they primitive
barbarians who destroyed the basis for
their own lives in spite of all the techno­
logy? Or were they clever and sensitive
predecessors, who made the right, sustainably good decisions in the moment
of crisis? Despite all of the differences,
sustainability as a normative principle
and the Anthropocene concept as a new
perspective on an earth shaped by
mankind can enhance one another.

Precisely because the problems are so great,
the sustainability concept and the Anthropocene
idea can bring to life a practical optimism
in a complementary way.
This leaves the fundamental question
of whether the Anthropocene itself
is inherently bad. The American environmental journalist Elizabeth Kolbert
warned that the words “good” and
“Anthropocene” should never be used
in the same sentence, simply because
it stands for all environmental problems.
But is that true? Does such a perspective
not mean surrendering in the face
of problems and leaving an inevitably
dark future for the younger generation?

130

CONFLICT
AND CONSENSUS
Debate is part of sustainability

MARLEHN THIEME
© Background Photo: pexel; Photo Thieme: André Wangenzik; Photo Weiger: Joerg Farys; Photo Menges: Claudia Kempf

Chairwoman of the German Council
for Sustainable Development

PROF. DR. HUBERT WEIGER
Chairman of Friends of the Earth
Germany

KATHRIN MENGES
Vice President Human Resources
and Chairwoman of the
Sustainability Council at Henkel

CONFLICT AND CONSENSUS

Are we taking the right path?

© Martin Joppen

Debate with MARLEHN THIEME, K ATHRIN MENGE S and PROF. DR . HUBER T WEIGER

Roughly 15 years ago, sustainability was still a specialist subject.
Today, almost all larger companies have committed to the vision
of sustainable development. Even discounters sell organic produce.
Can that be considered a success? Or has the term lost its meaning?
MARLEHN THIEME: We have accomplished a lot since the Brundtland

Report, published almost 30 years ago, but it is still not enough. People’s
awareness of sustainable development has grown, which is positive,
even though it was not always based on understanding and respect for
subsequent generations or the people in the one world. For example,
taste or health consciousness also might play a role in consumption of
organic products. In recent times, environmental crises and the wave of
refugees have contributed to the change in awareness.
The long-term preservation of the natural resources
worldwide must become the basis for our
social and economic development.
HUBERT WEIGER: Yes, it is good that the demand for organic products has

increased as it has, and that they are widely available – just as it is good
when more people in cities use bicycles, when more and more people
come together in repair initiatives, and environmental awareness rises.
However, taking organic farming in particular as an example, the need to
clear the political backlog by creating an appropriate framework is
obvious: In spite of the high demand for organic farming products, the
long-term aim of the Sustainability Strategy – organic cultivation of
20 percent of agricultural land – has not been reached.

132

CONFLICT AND CONSENSUS

The actual meaning of the term sustainability can be restored if we make
it clear that long-term preservation of the natural resources worldwide
must become the basis for our social and economic development. That is
the only way to account for the limited resources and the limited capacity
of our planet. Accordingly, the term sustainability must be based on
securing what the environment needs to survive, i. e. guaranteeing
biodiversity. This must be prioritized over the pillars of the economy and
society and used as a foundation to build on.
KATHRIN MENGES: In my opinion, the actual strength of the concept

© Henkel

is its integrated consideration of social, economic and ecological aspects.
This holistic perspective is not only important for economically motivated
decisions, but also when we want to achieve ecological or social goals.
Sustainability was always a broad concept, which naturally incorporates a wide range of topics in its three dimensions ecology,
economy and society. The fact that these matters are increasingly
not only discussed by experts, but also by the population, the
private sector and politics and administration at a broader level
is an important first step.
So, are we taking the right path?
KATHRIN MENGES: Of course, no one can be satisfied given that the

awareness of sustainable development is not reflected sufficiently
in the actions of the individual stakeholders. When faced with conflicting
objectives, we all tend to choose the simple, partially optimized solution,
and too rarely look for ways to reconcile short-term interests and the
longer-term perspective of a sustainable development.

133

CONFLICT AND CONSENSUS

Critics of the sustainable vision state that it only improves what goes wrong,
i.e. perfecting our excessive lifestyle. Therefore, wouldn’t it make sense
to simply consume less and produce less?

© BUND

HUBERT WEIGER: We only have one earth – and we not only

want to keep it in a good, liveable condition for our children
and grandchildren, we also have to reduce the massive imbalance
within and between the countries. In particular, that involves
striking a balance and clearing the resulting backlog in the southern
countries. The challenge is enormous – the earth’s sustainable resources
were already used up by the end of August this year. As a result, we
in the industrial countries must reduce our energy, material and land
use drastically. However, this will not succeed by way of greater efficiency
and technical solutions alone; accordingly, sufficiency is essential
to effective sustainable development. BUND advocates a policy
of sufficiency: We call on politicians to create the appropriate framework conditions and incentives for a low-resource-intensive lifestyle
and an emancipation from forced growth.
Ms Menges, would this position find a consensus in the private sector?
KATHRIN MENGES : The question is how we define sufficiency. Reducing

our consumption of raw materials and energy is one of the key global
challenges. By contrast, calls for less consumption and less production,
i.e. renunciation, are less helpful. We need a positive, worthwhile
perspective with majority appeal. The goods and services produced are
not only the economic foundation for our society, they
are also a key component of our quality of life.
However, we have to become far more efficient and significantly reduce
the resource consumption and emissions associated with our quality
of life and our value creation. Our vision must be to enable people to live
a good life in harmony with the earth’s limited resources, as formulated
By contrast, calls for less consumption and less production,
i.e. renunciation, are less helpful. We need a positive,
worthwhile perspective with majority appeal.
in Vision 2050 of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
For this we need innovations and new business models. Our lifestyles
and the associated consumption patterns will also change over time.

134

CONFLICT AND CONSENSUS

Until now, sufficiency has only played a subordinate role.
How can we promote a sufficient lifestyle?
MARLEHN THIEME: We need more clear orientation in the aspects where

we need to change course. And this change of course will need to be all
the more radical, the longer we continue with our non-sustainable lifestyle. The more effectively we attune our education and culture, the less
rigidly we can act. As a result, I advocate not focusing the discourse on
sufficiency alone, but also including the freedom of self-limitation.
I believe this can succeed if we organize mutual commitment with
growing knowledge and responsibility, and with a competitive order,
laws and potential sanctions. Then the needs of future generations
have a chance of being satisfied.
Where do we currently stand in Germany?
How sustainable is Germany in 2017?
HUBERT WEIGER: Much has been achieved in recent years – but we

Much has been achieved
in recent years – but we
still have a major backlog.

still have a major backlog. Emissions from industry and road traffic are
still too high. The same goes for land usage. Also, more and more animal
and plant species are disappearing from our cultural landscape. The
controversial trade agreements TTIP and CETA and the Federal Transport
Infrastructure Plan do not represent a sustainable government policy.

Do you have specific ideas for how to incorporate
sustainability to a greater extent in politics?
HUBERT WEIGER: A key to change could be expanding the responsibilities

of the environmental department. This is because the most important
political and economic course is set in other departments: in the
Ministries for Economy, Transport or Agriculture. The Ministry of the
Environment should be given the right to veto resolutions by other
departments if they violate the principle of sustainable development –
to ensure that maintaining our ecological basis for life actually becomes
a “conditio sine qua non.”

135

CONFLICT AND CONSENSUS

How could and should we incorporate
sustainability to a greater extent in society?

© Henkel

KATHRIN MENGES: We must mobilize the population to a greater

extent as citizens and consumers to root sustainability on a broad
base in the economy – from craft companies to large corporations –
to achieve real progress. For this, we need holistic solutions that
recognize barriers and help resolve conflicting objectives, and less
symbolic politics and bureaucracy.
We have made major advances to a shared understanding of
priorities for overall global objectives in recent years – especially
in 2015. The long-term milestones are set with the goal of global
sustainability and climate protection. Now we must honestly
discuss what the government, economy and private sector can
and must do to implement this.
Where do you see a need for action, in spite of all steps taken?
KATHRIN MENGES: Unfortunately, we are making very slow progress

in many key social issues. This includes improving the quality of our
education systems, the closely associated matters of equal opportunities
and innovation and as well as modernizing our infrastructure, especially
when it comes to mobility and energy supply. Seemingly simple solutions
and apparently unsolvable obstacles too often “enjoy” the brief attention
of politics, society and the media – which then moves on before we
have found a viable, long-term solution. Too often, we discuss measures
without creating a common understanding of objectives and priorities.
The long-term milestones are set with the goal of global sustainability
and climate protection. Now we must honestly discuss what the
government, economy and private sector can and must do to implement this.
In this area, I would wish for a more open and honest dialogue on what is
really expedient and necessary, that builds on a comprehensive and
balanced understanding of the status quo.

136

CONFLICT AND CONSENSUS

How do you think we can speed up sustainable
development in Germany?

© Frank Nürnberger

MARLEHN THIEME: Given the debate on climate change and the

planetary limits, we need a greater response for sustainable
development much faster. My concern is the new form of simplified
political discourse we have had to endure in recent times, not just
in Germany. With its social market economy, Germany has organized
social equilibrium better than other societies. We should use these
traditions, the participation concept, acceptance of responsibility
and expand processes to the matters of ecological, global and
intergenerational interests. Educational and research policy must
soon focus more on sustainability and every branch of the government
must clearly take on responsibility for sustainable development.
The German economy, dominated by medium-sized, owner-driven
companies (i.e. focused on passing on to future generations) is well
equipped to develop an innovative, sustainability-oriented
competitive model.

137

ON THE ROAD TO A
GREEN INNOVATION
LOCATION

© Christos Barbalis / StockSnap

Visions an impulses for
a sustainable future

O N T H E R OA D T O A G R E E N I N N OVAT I O N LO C AT I O N

Germany has all the prerequisites to develop into a leading green economy worldwide.
According to the Green Economy Start-up Monitor 2015, it is, after the retail industry,
the second-largest start-up sector in Germany.
As part of the Research for Sustainable
Development (FONA) framework programme, the German Federal Ministry of
Education and Research initiated the Green
Economy agenda process. The process of
change to a green economy is to be supported by practically-oriented research. It is
to become a key element for innovations
“Made in Germany” and for high-tech solutions. At the same time, German Federal
Minister of Education, Prof. Dr. Johanna
Wanka founded the National Platform of

Volume of emerging green markets in Germany
2013

2025

in billion EUR

800

740

700
600
500
400

344

300

100

176

163

200
73

146

119

100

105
53

48

53
17

31

0
Environmentally
friendly generation,
storage and
distribution
of energy

Energy efficiency

Resource
and material
efficiency

Sustainable
mobility

139

Sustainable
water
management

Circular
economy

Total

Source: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (ed.): Green Tech Atlas 4.0

Education for Sustainable Development
(BNE) in September 2015. “We want to
be the generation that makes the change
to a sustainable society,” said Wanka.
Decision makers from the fields of politics,
science, business and society meet twice
a year to develop an action plan with goals
and measures, take new paths and spread
good ideas. Successful practical examples
are promoted specifically and model
BNE initiatives are awarded. Sustain­ability
is also to be rooted structurally in com­

O N T H E R OA D T O A G R E E N I N N OVAT I O N LO C AT I O N

© Dagmara_K / Shutterstock.com

panies, research and teaching at higher education institutions. Among other things,
the HOCH N project includes a practical test
of the Sustainability Code for Higher Education Institutions. The Code for Higher
Education Institutions is intended to serve
as a first step in sustainability reporting.

© ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com

It is not least due to the cooperation
of research and young entrepreneurs that
a dynamic start-up scene has developed
in major German cities. According to
the 2015 Start-up Monitor, of the roughly
190,000 green start-ups founded in Germany between 2006 and 2014 (inclusive),
36 percent focus on renewable energy
sources and 32 focus on energy efficiency.

© Francescomoufotografo / Shutterstock.com

As a result, these two green economy fields
combined account for roughly two thirds
of all green start-ups. The green tech market
is growing in particular: According to
the Federal Ministry of the Environment,
the green tech sector market volume in
2013 was 344 billion euros and is forecast
to grow to 740 billion euros by 2025.

Source (see diagram on page 49):
www.bmub.bund.de/fileadmin/Daten_BMU/Pools/Broschueren/greentech_atlas_4_0_bf.pdf

140

O N T H E R OA D T O A G R E E N I N N OVAT I O N LO C AT I O N

The German Sustainability Award
The German Sustainability Award
Foundation has been recognizing out­
standing achievements in the field of
sustainability in business, municipalities,
research and construction as well as honouring indivi­dual achievements promoting
sustainable development worldwide since
2008. The award is presented at a gala event
in cooperation with the German Council
for Sustainable Development, the German
Federal Government, local government
associations, business associations,
civil society organizations and research
institutions.

Director of UNEP and his predecessor and
former German Minister of the Environment Klaus Töpfer, Volker Hauff and
Gro Harlem Brundtland for their achievements in promoting the concept of sustainability, Prince Charles and the Mayor of
Palermo Leoluca Orlando, as well as committed celebrities in the music and TV
industry. The German Sustainability Award
is the most prestigious prize of its kind
in Europe.
The German Sustainability Award

© Frank Fendler

Based on applications and in-depth
research, three different specialist jury
panels chaired by the Secretary-General
of the German Council for Sustainable
Development Dr. Bachmann select award
winners who have demonstrated that “Sustainability made in Germany” is successful
and opens up new opportunities. The Next
Economy Award (NEA) recognizes start-ups
active in the field of sustainability, giving
a boost to ‘green start-ups’ and encouraging
all players to shape the transition to the
‘next,’ more sustainable economy.

© Faruk Hosseini

Winners of the German Sustainability
Award in recent years include, among others,
Ban Ki-moon and António Guterres, the
then UN High Commissioner for Refugees,
Patricia Espinosa as Mexican Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Achim Steiner as Executive

141

O N T H E R OA D T O A G R E E N I N N OVAT I O N LO C AT I O N

NEA Award Winner 2016
Green chemistry
To produce just one kilogramme of a chemical, e.g. the active ingredient in a drug, often takes
several hundred kilogrammes of other chemicals. To date, the raw materials used for these
chemicals are comprised almost exclusively of fossil raw materials. Startup DexLeChem founded
by Sonja Jost aims to support an environmentally friendly development of the chemical industry
to achieve the transition to a sustainable circular economy. DexLeChem delivers services and
modules that already make production processes greener and more competitive today. It replaces
the chemicals required to produce active ingredients, most of which are highly toxic, with water
and other greener alternatives. That offers manufacturers cost advantages in production and
more ecological synthesis routes with maximum product qualities.
DexLeChem impressed the jury of representatives from the industry, venture capital and NGOs
with its high-tech green concepts in optimizing and developing chemical and biotechnological
processes, leading to significant cost advantages in production. The jury considered DexLeChem
a pioneer in the field and a trailblazer in the revolution of the chemical industry.

© DexLeChem

www.dexlechem.com/home_en.html

142

O N T H E R OA D T O A G R E E N I N N OVAT I O N LO C AT I O N

NEA Award Winner 2016
Lifeline
Each year, over 70,000 women in Germany are diagnosed with breast cancer. Early detection
offers better chances of recovery – however, doctors only have a few minutes for these crucial
check-ups. At the same time, there are several thousand unemployed blind or visually
impaired women, whose superior sense of touch qualifies them to perform the test.
The company “discovering hands” makes use of this special ability to improve early detection
of breast cancer. As part of a special training course at certified facilities, blind and visually
impaired women are qualified as Medical Palpation Testers (MTU). Before the check-up, the MTU
attaches haptic guide strips on the patients’ bodies, providing them a tactile system of coordinates. The findings of the check-up examinations, which take at least 30 minutes, are documented digitally as a basis for further treatment.
Initial results of the study show that MTUs detect up to 28 percent more and 50 percent
smaller tissue changes compared with doctors. The “discovering hands” concept offers patients
optimized check-ups and also reduces prejudices against persons with disabilities, as they are
not employed in spite of their disability, they are employed due to their ability.

© Discovering Hands

www.discovering-hands.de/en

143

O N T H E R OA D T O A G R E E N I N N OVAT I O N LO C AT I O N

NEA Award Winner 2016
When the road generates electricity
SOLMOVE counters the rising demand for energy with an innovative technology that does
not take up any additional space. The company has found a way to make it possible to use
photovoltaic modules on cycle paths, roads, squares or railway lines. In Germany, this makes
roughly 1,400 square kilometres of horizontal spaces available to install these horizontal
photovoltaic modules. This could generate 140 TWh of electricity each year, and potentially
replace all nuclear power stations.
The photovoltaic modules are designed as a solar carpet that is made of recycled materials
and is laid like rolled turf. Due to its modular structure, the solar carpet is easy to maintain,
95 percent recyclable, absorbs noise and reduces nitrogen oxides. The non-slip and shatterproof
surface means that even lorries can drive over the glass without problems. In future, additional
features like LED lighting, sensors for autonomous driving, heating elements for de-icing
or inductive charging coils for electromobility can be integrated. While asphalt roads incur
costs for maintenance, the horizontal photovoltaic solution can even add financial value
and refinance road building.

© Solmove

www.solmove.com

144

IMPRINT

© March 2017
Rat für Nachhaltige Entwicklung / 
German Council for Sustainable Development
c/o Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Responsible: Robert Böhnke
Concept: Günther Bachmann
Assistence: Falko Leukhardt, Verónica Tomei, Katja Tamchina, Yvonne Zwick
Potsdamer Platz 10 | 10785 Berlin | Germany
E-mail: info@nachhaltigkeitsrat.de
Homepage: sustainabilitycouncil.de
All rights reserved.
Free distribution by the Federal Foreign Office.
TRIAD Berlin produced this Almanac on behalf
of the German Council for Sustainable Development
TRIAD BERLIN PROJECT TEAM
Project management: Carsten Bohn, Anne Ahrens, Stefan Richter
Editorial board: Nana Hengelhaupt, Maximilian Heiser
Content, editing: Aaron Rahe, Felix Dunkl, Maria Merseburger
Design: Lisa Worbis, Felicitas Walter
FREELANCE AUTHORS
Anja Achenbach, Susanne Ehlerding, Roy Fabian, Katrin Müller,
Christian Schwägerl, Christian Vock, Susanne Wolf

ENGLISH TRANSLATION
TL TRANSLATIONES GmbH
TRIAD BERLIN PROJEKTGESELLSCHAFT MBH
Marburger Str. 3 | 10789 Berlin
Tel.: +49 (0) 30 2360780
Fax: +49 (0) 30 236078381
info@triad.de
www.triad.de
TL TRANSLATIONES GMBH
Engeldamm 14 | 10179 Berlin
Tel.: +49 (0)30 29 77 81 90
info@translationes.net
www.translationes.net

145

Icons made by Iconnice, Freepik, Gregor Cresnar , Nikita Golubev and Madebyoliver from www.flaticon.com

COPY EDITING
Petra Thoms
        
Top of page

Note to user

Dear user,

In response to current developments in the web technology used by the Goobi viewer, the software no longer supports your browser.

Please use one of the following browsers to display this page correctly.

Thank you.