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

Marlehn Thieme, Chairwoman of the Council

Fact sheet - 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.


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.

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 www.nachhaltigkeitsrat.de.

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

Jennifer Morgan, program director, World Resources Institute, Washington

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:

Rat für Nachhaltige Entwicklung, Office c/o GIZ
Prof. Dr. Günther Bachmann
Potsdamer Platz 10
D-10785 Berlin
Telefon +49(0)30 338424 121
Telefax +49(0)30 338424 125
E-Mail: guenther.bachmann@nachhaltigkeitsrat.de
Internet: www.nachhaltigkeitsrat.de

Last updated: February 2016


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