17.06.2015 | Press release

Expert Report confirms: The Sustainability Code is fully compatible with the EU’s Sustainability Reporting Requirements

By using the Sustainability Code to compile their reports, undertakings can fully comply with the content requirements for disclosing non-financial information that the EU is set to introduce as of the fiscal year 2017. This is the conclusion drawn by a recently published legal assessment by the law firm Luther that was undertaken at the request of the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE).

The EU Directive on the Disclosure of non-financial and diversity information will come into force as of the fiscal year 2017. Under this Directive, large undertakings in the public eye employing more than 500 people will be required to provide data on environmental, social, employee-related and anti-corruption matters as well as on their observance of human rights. The EU Directive will be transposed into national law by the end of 2016. During a parliamentary evening held in Berlin towards the end of April, Marlehn Thieme, Chairwoman of the German Council for Sustainable Development, called upon the German government to entrench the code through legislative means.

Comparability can only be achieved by agreeing on one standard

“Standardised reporting is needed, as this will enable comparable information to be provided by all undertakings – regardless of their size, type or line of business – that stands the test of time, and it will also minimize the amount of time and effort companies need to invest,” says Prof. Dr. Alexander Bassen, member of the German Council for Sustainable Development. “That an independent law firm has compiled an unbiased expert report stating that the Sustainability Code is an effective tool for meeting the EU’s disclosure requirements is affirmation of the work undertaken by RNE and the various actors involved.”

In his expert report, Andreas Hecker, LL.M. oec., a lawyer at the law firm Luther, explicitly refers to the “extensive room for manoeuvre” that legislators are granted in implementing the EU Directive, adding that this made it possible for a balanced, constructive standard to be defined for non-financial reporting. On this note, Mr. Hecker recommends incorporating a corresponding paragraph into the German Commercial Code. Mr. Hecker also stated that introducing a reporting obligation could increase the trend towards information on sustainability issues being requested across all supply chains and contractual relationships, and that this would affect small and medium-sized enterprises not bound by the reporting obligation. He also noted that, in order for such enterprises to receive comparable requests from different contractual partners, it would be useful to establish one reporting standard that was accepted by all concerned.

The expert report will be included in RNE’s deliberations on its recommendation for the national implementation of the EU Directive on non-financial information.