The German Sustainability Code (GSC) provides a common set of criteria for companies to showcase and compare their sustainability performance in a similar format (GSC declaration of conformity). It is a simple list of 20 criteria, which companies are invited to use when self-reporting.
“The German Council for Sustainable Development recommends that, regardless of their size and sector, all production and commercial companies, service enterprises, all organizations, foundations, NGOs, trade unions, universities, scientific organizations and the media apply the Sustainability Code as a means of voluntarily disclosing information to interested members of the public. This also applies to publicly owned companies.”
For small businesses, a GSC declaration of conformity is a standardized document that may make them more appealing to financial institutions, and therefore more likely to receive funding. In addition, it allows them to demonstrate their environmental performance to clients in a transparent way.
Process of tool application
The GSC is a straightforward tool. The Code provides a list of 20 criteria, divided in four categories.
Strategy 1. Strategic analysis and action 2. Materiality 3. Objectives 4. Depth of the value chain.
Process Management 5. Responsibility 6. Rules and processes 7. Control 8. Incentive systems 9. Stakeholder engagement 10. Innovation and product management
Society 14. Employment rights 15. Equal opportunities 16. Qualifications 17. Human rights 18. Corporate citizenship 19. Political influence 20. Conduct that complies with the law and policy
Each criterion consists of a clear self-reporting task, to be completed by the company. For example, Criteria 12 “Resource Management” appears as follows:
"12. Resource Management: The company discloses what qualitative and quantitative goals it has set itself with regard to its resource efficiency, its use of renewables, the increase in raw material productivity and the reduction in the usage of ecosystem services, and how these goals have been met or will be met in the future."
For each criterion, companies must either describe how they comply or why they failed to comply. Whenever possible, companies should include quantitative indicators in order to facilitate comparison. These explanations are then gathered in a summary declaration.
Companies may create their declaration of conformity directly online, through the use of a corporate profile on the German Council for Sustainable Development’s website. Instructions to use this online tool are described in a manual.
All declarations of conformity are compiled in the GSC Database. As of September 2014, the database contained declarations from companies registered in Germany, Finland and Sweden.