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Sustainability requires that decisions be made - not in the distant future, but now.

Marlehn Thieme, Chairwoman of the Council

Marlehn Thieme

The principle of sustainability is the only option for responsible global action; it protects our eco-systems and thus ensures the survival of generations to come.

Olaf Tschimpke, Deputy Chairman of the Council

Olaf Tschimpke

Measuring sustainability is a key success factor to establish environment, social, and governance (ESG) issues in companies and on capital markets.

Prof. Dr. Alexander Bassen, Member of the Council

Prof. Dr. Alexander Bassen

A balance between economy, ecology, and social responsibility can only be achieved through cooperation between society, politics, the economy, and each individual.

Vera Gäde-Butzlaff, Member of the Council


Sustainability first and foremost means to go beyond immediate utility and think in the long term, which requires assuming responsibility for the future.

Alois Glück, Member of the Council

Alois Gück

Education is the basis for establishing sustainability as the guiding principle behind our activities, as are more action partnerships and practical examples at the local, regional and international level.

Walter Hirche, Member of the Council

Walter Hirche

To create quality of life and reduce the consumption of resources it involves requires that we take further steps in incorporating sustainability in everyday action as employees, consumers, and citizens.

Kathrin Menges, Member of the Council

Kathrin Menges

Sustainable development requires moving the fight against climate change to the center of social and economic transformation - not only in Germany but worldwide.

Jennifer Morgan, Member of the Council

Jennifer Morgan

The Energiewende has reduced the costs of green energy severely. It thus is competitive internationally and contributes to achieve global sustainability goals without additional CO2 emissions.

Alexander Müller, Member of the Council

Alexander Müller

Sustainable consumption behaviour will continue to be embraced merely by a dedicated minority for as long as the wrong incentives are provided and structures fail to support it.

Prof. Dr. Lucia A. Reisch, Member of the Council

Prof. Dr. Lucia A. Reisch

A balanced world has been a must for the Club of Rome since 1972– the challenge for our work at the German Council for Sustainable Development.

Max Schön, Member of the Council

Max Schön

Today, sustainable development requires an agenda which explicitly links global and national goals and policies and thus gives global cooperation a strong push forward.

Dr. Imme Scholz, Member of the Council

Dr. Imme Scholz

Cities, even more so than today, will become hubs of technological and social development in the future. All the more important are efforts to encourage the sustainable development of our cities.

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schuster, Member of the Council

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schuster

Sustainability necessitates reason and responsibility in our social, ecological and economic actions.

Michael Vassiliadis, Member of the Council

Michael Vassiliadis

We need to make bold political decisions that reward growth less and sustainability more and that encourage the common good instead of profit-seeking.

Prof. Dr. Hubert Weiger, Member of the Council

Prof. Dr. Hubert Weiger

Without images of the future that allow us to imagine what the quality of life in a sustainable modernity might look like, we are neither able to conceive of an active role of politics in shaping it nor the role of civil society in a political process to that end.

Prof. Dr. Harald Welzer, Coopted member of the Council

Prof. Dr. Harald Welzer


German Council for Sustainable Development - In a nutshell: information on recent work items and modalities

The German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) is an advisory body mandated by and reporting back to the German Federal Government. Appointed ad personam by Chancellor Angela Merkel for a three-year term the 15 members are free to set their agenda. The RNE was first established in April 2001 by then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Its work is facilitated by a General Secretary and his staff.


The Federal Government has entrusted the RNE with the following tasks:

  • Developing contributions to the national sustainable development strategy by responding to questions raised by Government or, additionally, choosing independent agenda points
  • Suggesting concrete areas for action and projects
  • Boosting public discussion on sustainability


Marlehn Thieme chairs the RNE since 29 February 2012, and was a long standing member before. She is a member of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and has been director of the CSR section at Deutsche Bank AG until the end of 2013. Olaf Tschimpke, president of NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union), is the RNE deputy chair.

Cooption of further experts

As a primer, in 2011/12, the RNE took benefit from a new feature in the RNE work modalities and invited an outstanding expert to become an additional Member of the RNE. After Jochen Zeitz in his former capacity as CEO of Puma and the Future and Education researcher Prof. Dr. Gerhard de Haan currently Prof. Dr. Harald Welzer, futurzwei and transformation program of the University of Flensburg, joined the RNE.

Mission Statement

Sustainable development entails treating environmental aspects on an equal footing with social and economic aspects. Making this abundantly clear is one of the Council’s missions. Future-oriented management means that we have to leave future generations a globally intact ecological, social and economic system. The one cannot be achieved without the others.

The RNE seeks to make sustainable development a fundamental goal and field of action in all areas of the political sphere. It works towards citizens living a sustainable lifestyle and towards a broad public discussion on sustainability. It urges businesses and institutions to make their economic activities sustainable, to face the challenges posed by sustainability and to make use of its opportunities. The RNE seeks to broaden the discussion on sustainability within society and to make the outcomes of this more effective and more binding.

Work-in-progress (selection)

The Council took part in further advancing the national strategy for sustainable development (NSDS) in critical dialogue with the Federal Government and political, economic and social stakeholders. The NSDS was relaunched in 2012, the next update is scheduled for 2016.

The Council issued the German Sustainability Code as a transparent tool for companies to strengthen the steering impact of sustainability reporting and advancing the awareness of the financial services industries. With more than 50 German major companies having signed up and declared their compliance the Government is now seeking attention also with public companies, and the RNE is currently discussing ways and means to europeanise the Code and introducing it to the EU debate on the future of corporate sustainability reporting.

The Sustainable Shopping Basket, a shopping guide addressing the private consumer, has been updated recently and provides reliable guidance through the multitude of the product labels and brands in respect to sustainable development. An associated mobil application (app) is under development.

Most recent policy recommendations of the Council address the issue of energy efficiency, the volatile and problematic state of the financial markets, the EU Common Agricultural Policy, and the introduction of a circular economy where it does not yet exist, in particular for strategic raw materials.

In February 2013, on the occasion of the 300 years anniversary of the publication of a first book on sustainable forest policies by Carl von Carlowitz, the Council together with the Bertelsmann Foundation hosted a youth vision dialogue conference Contemporary Carlowitz. The dialogue conference reflected on the cultural heritage and developed ideas and concepts for the challenges of the modern society.

RNE is continuing to facilitate the dialogue - initiative of some 25 Lord Mayors on green cities and sustainable urban development. Published these days is a catalogue on the local policy aspects of the German Energiewende underlining the need to strengthening local communities.

Upcoming is the second Peer Review on Sustainable Development Policies in Germany. On request of the Federal Government the RNE facilitates the work of eight international experts, chaired by Prof Bjorn Stigson, former President of the World Business Council for SD. Publication is foreseen for Autumn 2013.

The RNE continues encouraging the work of local initiatives and projects in its “Werkstatt N” quality label for outstanding sustainability initiatives.

As a primer, in 2011/12, the RNE took benefit from a new feature in the RNE work modalities and invited an outstanding expert to become an additional Member of the RNE. Jochen Zeitz, then CEO of Puma SE, joined the RNE and committed to leading a project on how to implement a corporate full cost accounting that would calculate environmental and social profits and losses.

The Council’s annual public conference develops into a political sustainability summit. The Council is committed to support the German Sustainability Award as another major event to debate and foster sustainable development in the practise of private enterprises and, for the first time in 2012, cities and local communities.

The Council is a member of the European network consisting of European Environment and Sustainable Development Councils (EEAC), and is active in a series of other networks, inter alia on science and research. All publications, newsletter information and press releases are available from

Council Members

Marlehn Thieme, chairwoman of the Council, member of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD)

Olaf Tschimpke, deputy chair of the Council, president of NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union)

Prof. Dr. Alexander Bassen, full professor of Capital Market and Management at the University of Hamburg

Vera Gäde-Butzlaff, Chairwoman of the board of GASAG Berliner Gaswerke AG, Chairwoman of Nehlsen AG

Alois Glück, former President of the Landtag

Walter Hirche, former parliamentary secretary for the Ministry of the Environment, Chairman of the Governing Board of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning in Hamburg, former minister in Lower Saxony and Brandenburg

Kathrin Menges, Executive Vice President Human Resources and Infrastructure Services, Chairwoman of the Sustainability Council at Henkel AG & Co. KGaA

Alexander Müller, Head of a global study of the United Nations Environment Programme

Prof. Dr. Lucia A. Reisch, professor at Copenhagen Business School, visiting professor at Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen

Dr. Imme Scholz, deputy director of the German Development Institute (Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik, DIE)

Max Schön, entrepreneur in Lübeck, president German Association for the Club of Rome, Hamburg

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schuster, Chairman of Deutsche Telekom Foundation, former lord mayor of the city of Stuttgart

Michael Vassiliadis, chairman of the Industrial Union of Mining, Chemicals and Energy (IG BCE)

Prof. Dr. Hubert Weiger, chairman of "Friends of the Earth Germany" (Bund für Umwelt- und Naturschutz Deutschland, BUND)

Prof. Dr. Harald Welzer, coopted member of the Council, Honorary professor of transformation design at the University of Flensburg and regular visiting professor of social psychology at the University of St. Gallen

Contact person

RNE c/o GIZ GmbH
Prof. Dr. Günther Bachmann
Potsdamer Platz 10
D-10785 Berlin
Telefon +49(0)30 338424 121
Telefax +49(0)30 338424 125

Last updated: March 2016

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