Internationalisation of the Sustainability Code

The German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) is contributing to the international debate with its experience of introducing the Code. Its aim is to position the Sustainability Code’s structure as a model for further national adaptations.

For several years now, the RNE has been liaising closely with a wide range of players at international level as regards sustainability reporting. Back in 2014, for instance, it joined forces with the French government and the Greek QualityNet Foundation to invite senior figures from industry, politics and civil society throughout Europe to a workshop in Brussels in connection with Directive 2014/95/EU. At the event, approximately 70 delegates from ten countries discussed the future of sustainability reporting in the light of the EU Directive on the disclosure of non-financial information.

National adaptations

Then, in 2016, came the first national adaptation of the Code in Greece, which was followed three years later by a Turkish version. The Code team is constantly engaged in discussions with other EU and non-EU countries as well concerning other possible adaptations.

International award for the Code

In 2019, the United Nations Concerence on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) commended the Sustainability Code for its outstanding contribution to transparent corporate sustainability with the “ISAR Honors Award 2019”, highlighting in particular the way in which it enhances the comparability and quality of reporting. ISAR (International Standards of Accounting and Reporting) ) is the Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting, the United Nations’ central unit dealing with accounting and corporate governance matters. ISAR reviews developments in the field of international reporting and promotes best practices for corporate governance. Within the context of the 2030 Agenda, ISAR contributes to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through enhanced transparency and sustainability standards for companies.



In connection with the establishment of the Global Forum for National SDG Advisory Bodies, the Sustainability Code was translated into English, French, Chinese, Russian and Spanish in the course of 2020. An Arabic translation will follow. For its implementation within Europe, the Code has so far also been translated into Greek, Czech and Romanian. A European network of stakeholders is discussing what contribution the Code could make to a sustainable business model in Europe.

Greek Sustainability Code

Developed by the Greek NGO QualityNet Foundation in 2016, the Greek Sustainability Code is the first complete national adaptation of the Code. In 2018, building on the Greek Sustainability Code, Greece’s most sustainable companies were acknowledged for the first time at the “Sustainability Performance Directory” event in Athens.


Turkish Sustainability Code

In April 2019, the Turkish Centre for Sustainable Production, Research and Design (SÜRATAM) launched its own sustainability code in conjunction with the German Code office. On the initiative of SÜRATAM, Turkish stakeholders are currently discussing how best to adapt the Code to national specifics.


International activities associated with the Code

  • Romania: In Romania, the Department of Sustainable Development within the prime minister’s office of the Romanian Government was established in 2017. In 2021 its own Sustainability Council was founded and a national adaptation of the Sustainability Code is planned for 2022. The process is financed by the European Social Fund.
  • Belarus: The Wuppertal Institute talked to Belarusian firms about companies’ experiences of using the Code. Various players currently plan to implement a national adaptation as part of a project. A translation of the Code has been available since 2019.
  • Czech Republic: Use of the Czech translation is currently being piloted, organised by the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade.
  • China: The Sino-German Sustainability Summit in Beijing in 2019 marked the beginning of dialogue between Chinese cooperation partners and TÜV Rheinland concerning a possible adaptation. These talks are set to continue at the Sino-German Sustainability Summit in Germany in 2020.
  • Ghana: The RNE is currently holding discussions with players in Ghana about the first steps towards developing a sustainability code for West Africa.
  • United Nations: The current revision of the SDG indicators confirms the excellent international applicability of the Sustainability Code. On the recommendation of the lead organisations UNCTAD and UNDP, the Code is to become a  new data point for measurement of target 12.6.1, “number of companies publishing sustainability reports”, in the future. The national set of indicators will be amended by the German Federal Statistical Office in due course, while the German Sustainable Development Strategy is also to be adjusted to link it more closely with the SDGs and/or the respective indicator.

This international interest shows that both the stakeholder approach and the Code’s content have cross-border applicability. Discussions with international players have shown that they particularly like the fact that countries have the option of tailoring the Code to their specific needs. The Code database infrastructure can also be used for potential national adaptations. Four free logins are currently still available. Furthermore, a means of producing Code declarations using an app and inputting them into an open, global ESG data platform is being developed with the fintech Arabesque in 2020. This is aimed primarily at target groups from the financial market.

Contact details and further information

If you are interested in participating in European and/or international dialogue, please email

Up-to-date information is available in the Code newsletter and on the Twitter channel @NHKodex.