After two years of practical application, the German Council for Sustainable Development reviewed and thoroughly revised the Code in 2014. This revision was triggered by the GRI’s update of its guidelines from G3.1 to G4. The revision also incorporated feedback from the practical experience of both companies and the RNE Office: criteria and performance indicator redundancies were eliminated and the requirements were stipulated more precisely. To this end, national and international representatives of the business community, associations, policymakers, consultants and scientists were invited to discuss the draft again.
A digital Code database
was set up in order to improve the visibility and comparability of the published declarations and the sustainability information they contain. Its implementation was backed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of a project by the Sustainable Business Institute (SBI).
After the Bundestag passed the “Act to strengthen non-financial reporting by companies in their management reports and group management reports” (CSR Directive Implementation Act
[CSR-RUG]) on 9 March 2017, the Code was updated and (with legal support from Mr Andreas Hecker, a lawyer at Hoffmann, Liebs, Fritsch & Partner Rechtsanwälte mbB) aligned with the newly formulated statutory requirements. Passages relating to specific criteria and the Code materials were revised and the Code database was modified accordingly with a view to providing companies affected by the reporting obligation with concrete guidance on compliance. In particular, criterion 2 was revised in line with the definition of materiality within the EU Directive and CSR-RUG and the text for criterion 1 was clarified in order to clearly differentiate these two criteria from one another. In addition, the “four-pronged approach” stipulated by the Act for describing individual issues (namely: policy, results of the policies, risks, indicators) was taken up in the review process and the terminology used for the criteria was revised to correspond to the Act. Companies can now state in the database whether they are subject to the reporting obligation and want to use their Code declaration as a non-financial declaration as per the CSR-RUG. In this instance, the Code Office assesses it for compliance with the legally stipulated content, in addition to the Code criteria, and points out any gaps. The Code Office has developed a corresponding signet to communicate compliance.
In July 2018, the G4 indicator
set was removed from the Code database in line with the GRI transitional period. Going forward, only the GRI SRS
(Sustainability Reporting Standards) and EFFAS KPIs for ESG
can be reported. This entails no other changes to content. You can find an overview of both indicator sets here
Additionally, the core elements of human rights due diligence obligations were incorporated into the reporting requirements in autumn 2018. In addition to the content stipulated by criterion 17 of the Sustainability Code, companies can now also voluntarily report on the key content of the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights
and have the Code Office review this for formal completeness.