We need all members of our societies to tackle the key challenges of the 21st century. Neither policymakers nor the private sector nor civil society is able to rise to global challenges like climate change, the fight against poverty or the protection of human rights alone. Along with political action and efforts by civil society, it is above all responsible companies that contribute to resolving the problems of our societies both in their own countries and abroad through their presence and influence. A case in point are situations in which they comply with internationally recognised social and environmental standards, even if the production country lacks corresponding legislation or does not enforce it.
The Federal Government has been promoting corporate social responsibility (CSR) for many years. Since 2010, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has led the German Government’s systematic CSR policies, which are based in particular on recommendations by the National CSR Forum, a multi-stakeholder body made up of representatives of the private sector, civil society, ministries, trade unions and the academic community. Crucial individual measures contained in the 2010 CSR Action Plan have already been implemented.
Through the further development of Germany’s national CSR strategy, the Federal Government aims to advance CSR in Germany in line with international trends and to act as a pioneer in its role as an export nation. Responsibility for supply chains and the implementation of corporate due diligence are key elements in these efforts. Thanks to the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights by the UN Human Rights Council and the revision of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in 2011, the world has paid more attention to corporate due diligence when it comes to compliance with labour, social and environmental standards. The Federal Government adopted the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP) on 21 December 2016. The NAP aims to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, improving the human rights situation in supply and value chains in Germany and around the world.
As part of the Berlin CSR Consensus and under the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the stakeholders from the National CSR Forum defined the NAP requirements regarding sustainable supply chain management setting out what constitutes good corporate practice. The Berlin CSR Consensus on corporate social responsibility in supply and value chains (in German) [PDF, 992KB] was adopted on 25 June 2018. The document points out important international standards, derives corporate leadership and management principles from these standards and explains the key elements of responsible supply and value chain management.
Corporate Social Responsibility in Germany
Information about the CSR strategy of the Federal Government.
The growing interest in the connection between corporate social responsibility and human rights is also reflected by European discussions about CSR. In 2014, the EU adopted two directives on CSR reporting and procurement designed to promote corporate social responsibility and transparency. Directive 2014/95/EU constitutes the relevant binding legal framework for the European Union. The Directive covers large companies of public interest with more than 500 staff members. Since the 2017 fiscal year, companies fulfilling this criterion have been required to report to Germany about their concepts to respect human rights under certain conditions as part of the implementation of the Directive. The 2011 EU Communication “A renewed EU strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility” marked the beginning of this general trend at the European level. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs used Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2020 to promote the topic of decent work in global supply chains within the EU. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs champions a binding EU due diligence standard.
A crucial element of the Federal Government’s CSR strategy is the CSR award (in German). Since 2013, it has been granted to companies that integrate sustainability in their business activities. The CSR award is designed to reward outstanding examples of corporate social responsibility and to motivate others to emulate such an approach. The award is conferred on companies that stand out with their fair business practices and staff-oriented human resource policies, use natural resources sparingly, protect the climate and the environment, are involved in their communities and assume responsibility for their supply chains. The CSR award does not only focus on acknowledging corporate social responsibility but it is also a learning award. At present, the award is in its fourth round.