Under the banner “Sustainability – Reporting Obligation with Added Value?” (“Nachhaltigkeit – Berichtspflicht mit Mehrwert?”), members of the Bundestag and representatives of the Federal government discussed with business and civil society experts in Berlin. The evening revolved around what kind of bill would be needed in order to successfully combine the goals of the 2014/95/EU Directive: creating a green economy and increasing competitiveness. The participants also discussed the role that the Sustainability Code could play in this context. The Code is a standard developed by the RNE that enables companies to structure the reporting of their sustainability performance.
In his opening remarks, the Chair of the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Sustainable Development
(PBnE), Andreas Jung, called for an ambitious and swift implementation of the EU Directive. “As far as the implementation goes, we need to do justice to our leading role and lend impetus to the Sustainability Code.” Jung went on to highlight that this required the early inclusion of parliament and that PBnE would take an active role in achieving this. He also stated that it was of particular importance for parliamentarians to know how stakeholders and undertakings that already stand for credible sustainability management and reporting think about this issue.
Marlehn Thieme, Chair of the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE), emphasized the contribution that the Sustainability Code had made in achieving fair competition, adding that it had made best corporate practice the benchmark for the green economy. She also highlighted that the Commission had repeatedly recommended the Code as a suitable instrument for the new reporting obligation, and concluded that it was now up to the legislators to entrench the Sustainability Code in German law as a binding standard.
Following on from this, Gerd Billen, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection
(BMJV) noted that his ministry was working full steam on the draft bill and that it would be inviting relevant stakeholders in the first six months of 2015 to gain an insight into their specific expectations and to discuss the BMJV’s ideas in great depth. Billen announced that an initial ministerial draft would be ready this autumn, and emphasized that, whilst the Code would most certainly serve as a useful frame of reference, it was not be the only noteworthy standard.
Business representatives called for a uniform standard with clearly specified criteria and the means to establish comparability. They also added that it was especially important for medium-sized enterprises not to be overburdened in their need to satisfy the reporting obligation and that, since companies viewed the Sustainability Code as a pragmatic approach, it could therefore be embodied in law. Representing all four parliamentary parties, the PBnE members in attendance called for a uniform approach, a high degree of binding force and unbureaucratic implementation, adding that tried-and-tested, existing frameworks should be drawn on instead of reinventing the wheel.
Those attending the evening agreed that the new reporting obligation was a great opportunity for creating a greener economy. It also became clear that the Code meets the high expectations and requirements of a standardized framework and can create a common understanding of what greater sustainability entails.