Culture and Societal Change

Culture and societal change are closely linked to sustainable development. The ability to recognise a problem and identify possible solutions, to act in accordance with ethical principles, to connect own initiatives with other people’s possibilities for action – these are the key challenges of sustainability.

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A culture of sustainability

The topic of sustainability is the shared thread that runs through all areas of our lives. Every day, we make decisions that, through their ripples, will impact the lives of subsequent generations. More and more, people are striving to act sustainably, for instance by orienting their purchasing decisions or their food choices accordingly or by opting to use low-carbon means of transport. Alternative and sustainable business models and lifestyles are increasingly being developed. Sustainability must become a normal part of decisions and actions because in order for a society to be sustainable, it needs cultural norms as well that translate the idea of a sustainable future into guiding principles, inspirational vision, long-term thinking and technological progress.

With an achievement horizon of the year 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their 169 sub-goals lay out the requirements and outline the task policymakers and society must shoulder in order to bring about fundamental change at all levels. But this transformation toward sustainability needs new approaches – approaches that break through established consumption patterns, norms and value systems. Thus, culture and its civil and state stakeholders are to play a larger role going forward. In fact, what constitutes culture is a concept that undergoes constant evolution and redefinition. If sustainability awareness does not become embedded within society, this transformation will not be possible.

Fostering societal change

The Council facilitates societal change through a wide range of projects and events. Through the Sustainability Culture Fund, the monies that have been provided for three years now by the federal government are supporting numerous transformative projects relating to sustainability culture. A central goal is to strengthen societal processes as well as provide impulses for sustainable development in Germany. Projects that concern themselves with societal negotiation mechanisms and thereby promote change through a reassessment of established routines will be supported.

The Council takes a broad view of the definition of culture and considers both artistic contributions as well as all aspects of everyday culture and political culture to be relevant areas. The decisive factor is that the projects contribute in their specific way to the task of sustainable development. For instance, four ideas competitions have already been successfully held dealing, respectively, with the topics of “Food culture”, “Mobility culture”, “Building and living” and “The rural future”. Over 50 projects are currently or have been subsidised by the Sustainability Culture Fund.

The German Sustainability Action Days (DAN) were first established in 2012. The aim of the Action Days is to heighten public awareness for the task of sustainable development. Engagement throughout Germany that serves as an example to all is to be highlighted during the Action Days and thereby inspire others to contribute or develop own initiatives. The number of participants is growing substantially from year to year. Despite the difficult circumstances in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, some 2,150 events and initiatives came together.