Sustainability

The strategy

In 1992 the United Nations avowed itself to the concept of sustainable development. In Rio de Janeiro the member states adopted an international action programme.

Leave with drops of water

Leave with drops of water

Photo: BMU/Müller

With "Agenda 21” 170 signatory states declared that they were prepared to implement the concept of sustainability at national level in all policy areas, with the involvement of both society and the economy. Germany also signed the Agenda 21.

Therefore, in 2002, the German government submitted the document “Perspectives for Germany – Our Strategy for Sustainable Development”.

Far beyond the current ecological challenge, the strategy serves as the guide for a comprehensive, sustainable political agenda. It is about the all-encompassing responsibility for an economically, ecologically and socially sound development for all generations.

Through a total of three extensive reports, this strategy has been continuously updated over two changes of government, most recently in the Progress Report adopted by the Federal Cabinet in February 2012. This underlines the broad, constant political consensus in Germany regarding the importance of sustainability.

Thinking for tomorrow and this from a global perspective: as an important stocktaking exercise, the Progress Report provides an overview of the way in which the principle of sustainable development is reflected in Federal Government policy as a whole.

What is sustainable development about?

Sustainability means: Only cutting down as many trees as can be regrown. Only using what we produce and not living of the substance. In terms of our society, this means that: every generation must solve its own problems and may not leave them for future generations.

Everybody decides on sustainability - those who invest, produce and consume. However, it is not about an ethic of resignation. In fact, what is needed are innovation, creativity and technical know-how, in order to drive an environmentally friendly and resource conservative production and consumer pattern. In this endeavour, everyone: employees and companies, trade unions and trade associations, institutions of higher education and research institutions, must join in shaping structural change.

Sustainable development means to shape the future with visions, innovation and creativity, to venture into new things and to explore unknown paths. Sustainable development is about a constructive dialogue over how we wish to live in the future. How do we wish to respond to the challenges that face the society and economy of the globalised world?

Accordingly, the strategy is extensive in its content, and not set in stone. It is the foundation for political reform, as well as for altered behavioural patterns of companies and consumers.

The sustainability guiding principle

Sustainable development (sustainability) is a guiding principle of the policies pursued by the Federal Government. The Sustainable Development Strategy defines that this guiding principle should be observed as a goal and yardstick of any action the Government takes at the national, European and international levels in whatever policy field.

The strategy is based on four guidelines – intergenerational equity, quality of life, social cohesion and international responsibility. Sustainability requires a holistic, integrated approach. It is only when interdependencies are detected, disclosed and taken into account that long-term, stable solutions to existing problems and conflicting objectives can be identified.

Economic performance, environmental protection and social responsibility should be combined in a way that enables sustainable decisions based on all three aspects to be considered in a global context. The absolute limit is reached when the Earth’s capacity to sustain life is involved. It is within this framework that the realisation of the various political goals should be optimised.

Sustainability – management

The Management Concept for a Sustainable Development consists of management rules, indicators and targets as well as istitutions to steer the strategy:

  • The ten management rules summarise the guiding principle ofsustainable development and the associated requirements.
  • Key indicators for 21 fields of action have been associated with 38 goals, most of which can be quantified.

The Federal Cabinet, the State Secretaries’ Committee for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Development Council and the Parliamentary Advisory Council steer and implement the strategy.