Basic Information
Year of approval of the SD strategy and updates

The German Sustainable Development Strategy (GSDS) was adopted by the German Government in 2002. Through a total of four extensive Progress Reports (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016), the GSDS has been continuously reviewed, updated and further developed. The latest update took place in November 2018.

The GSDS has been maintained over five changes of government, documenting the broad, constant political consensus in Germany regarding the importance of sustainable development.

 Currently the Strategy is again under review, to be adopted in early 2021.

Type of SD strategy

The GSDS is the essential framework for the national implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Accompanied by a very broad participatory consultation process, the GSDS has been carefully reviewed in 2016 in all its essential elements. It is now structured along the 17 SDG- including the targets and indicators.

The current government´s coalition agreement of January 2018 stresses once more that sustainable development is the fundamental objective and benchmark of the government and provides a number of measures to strengthen the efforts on national, European and international level.

Lead ministry/institution in the SD strategy process
Link to the SD strategy document

The new GSDS has been adopted by the Cabinet in January 2017.

Summary in six UN languages

The GSDS has been updated in December 2018.

 Updated strategies and biennial progress reports by the Federal government.

Peer Reviews 2018, 2013 and 2009 (documents in German and English)

 Indicator Reports by the German National Institute for Statistics

Indicator Report 2016

Indicator Report 2018

“Gemeinsam Verantwortung wahrnehmen und Zukunft Gestalten”/”Sharing responsibility – shaping the future together”(April 2017)

Further information about the SD strategy process

No information available. 

Agenda 2030 Implementation

The GSDS is an essential framework for the national implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and was published in January 2017 and updated in November 2018.

Leading Ministry and respective unit

Federal Chancellery, Division 323 (Sustainable Development)

Other ministries involved

All ministries are closely involved.

Main contact point for the implementation process

Dr. Stefan Bauernfeind,

Links to main websites/documents on national implementation of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs
Voluntary National Reviews

Germany submitted a VNR in 2016 and will submit the next one in 2021.

Vertical Integration

The first GSDS was adopted 2002 by the German Government after an intensive public consultation with stakeholders, including the federal states and local level and was presented to the 2002 UN-Summit in Johannesburg.

As the GSDS is the strategy of the national government only, the GSDS is not binding for the federal states. Nevertheless, the cooperation between the national level and the federal states for GSDS implementation has been significantly increased. The federal states are involved in the definition process of concrete measures based on the GSDS. They participated in the consultation process to the Progress Reports 2008, 2012 and 2016.

In 2008, 2012 and again in 2016, the federal countries have contributed own statements to the national government´s Progress Reports, which were adopted by the Prime Ministers of the federal states.

In their progress report-statements, the federal states advocate a stronger cooperation between them and the federal government on the GSDS and the national implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Since 2008, the cooperation especially in the fields of sustainable public procurement, reduction of land use and sustainability-indicators has been addressed in the regular meetings between the Head of the Federal Chancellery and the Heads of the Prime Ministers´ offices of the federal states:

The federal states welcome the lively exchange on public procurement between the federal government, the federal states themselves and the local authorities. The “Alliance for Sustainable Procurement” provides a platform for the federal government to bundle know-how for public procurement at the federal level. The federal states take this as an opportunity to make experiences accessible and useful, whilst maintaining their autonomy. They intend to continue this exchange of knowledge, methods and instruments.

The federal states stress the significance of common sustainability indicators at the national and federal states levels. The orientation to universal, national indicators based on the indicators of the GSDS has proven valid and seems to offer the greatest possible compliance and comparability at the federal states level based on the existing data. This includes a mapping of federal states-specific targets with their own indicators. In November 2018, the Federal Government and the federal states agreed on a set of common indicators in order to support alignment and vertical integration of policies for sustainable development.

The participation of the federal states is also institutionalised in various working groups involving public administrators of the national government and the federal states as part of the Conference of Environmental Ministers (a forum in which the Environmental Ministers of the federal states and representatives of the Federal Ministry for the Environment meet), which mostly serve as a forum for exchange of experiences. SD is currently addressed in the working group “climate, energy, mobility sustainability (BLAG KliNa)”, that has been operating since January 2008, and in various further working groups, providing a platform for an exchange of the federal level with federal states and municipalities.

In June 2019, the federal states and the federal government have adopted a joint declaration (s. Annex) to further intensify cooperation. Sustainable Development is being described as a joint responsibility and both levels want to orient their policies towards the principles of sustainable development which have been introduced in the GSDS update in 2018. Furthermore they envisage a collaborative project with the aim to raise the profile of already existing activities for sustainable development, strengthen them and to encourage further actions.

In terms of their responsibility on education policy, the federal states have consistently expanded their activities in the field of education for sustainable development with specific measures and programs.

EU linkages

The Federal Government is campaigning for a systematic sustainability policy approach at EU level. In order to implement the 2030 Agenda at EU level, an implementation strategy is necessary as requested by the Council of the European Union, outlining timelines, objectives and concrete measures to reflect the 2030 Agenda in all relevant EU internal and external policies, taking into account the global impacts of the EU’s domestic actions.

The Federal Countries (Bundesländer) call for a comprehensive implementation framework, too. The Federal Council (legislative body that represents the Bundesänder) has adopted a resolution on EU policy for sustainable development in early 2017.

As EU action plays an important role in many of the relevant policy areas (for example agricultural and environmental policy), a European sustainability framework is crucial to ensure that Europe makes an effective contribution to implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. That is the only way to ensure that activities at the EU level and activities in the Member States are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

The Federal Council, therefore, considers that ambitious strategic goals to implement the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 should be stipulated promptly at the EU level and that an indicator system should be adopted. As also advocated in several Opinions from the EU’s Committee of the Regions, this process could, for example, take the form of a new EU sustainability strategy or a Europe 2030 strategy, building on the Europe 2020 Strategy. A new strategic approach of this type must also be equipped with an effective implementation mechanism, which was lacking in the EU’s previous sustainability strategy from 2001. It is crucial to ensure that a unit in the Commission, endowed with sufficient capacities and influence, is in future entrusted with implementation of sustainable development as a guiding principle and of Agenda 2030 in its full thematic breadth; the Commission’s Secretariat-General is of particular importance in this context.

Furthermore, the Federal Council considers that the Commission should initiate an inter-institutional consultation process promptly, with the participation of the Member States, as well as the EU’s regions and federal states, in order to devise the requisite overall strategic framework for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals at EU level in a timely manner. The EU’s Economic and Social Committee has already undertaken important initial consultation measures to this end.

Horizontal Integration

Since 2000, the State Secretaries' Committee on Sustainable Development exists as a high-ranking steering, coordinating and monitoring body for sustainable development. It decides about the strategy and its further development (subject to later formal approval of the cabinet), and keeps a close eye on its implementation. The Committee is composed of state secretaries (representatives of the minister, top level of civil servants) from all ministries. It is chaired by the Head of the Federal Chancellery, who is the main leader in the national SD process.

In Germany, the responsibility for national SD policies does not lie with one of the ministries but with the Chancellery itself. This is considered a key success factor for SD in Germany. The Chancellery does not only have a coordination role, but is also steering the process and providing important inputs to the relevant ministries. It shows the special importance that the federal government attaches to SD policies and is based on the fact that sustainable development is a cross-cutting subject. Political leadership for the GSDS falls under the ”guidance competence” of the Chancellery, and its administrative implementation takes place through a link between the Chancellery and the respective ministries responsible for the specific issue at hand. A permanent inter-ministerial working-group for sustainable development (chaired also by the Chancellery) prepares for the meetings of the State Secretaries´ Committee.

The Committee meets about four times a year. Beginning in December 2008, the State Secretaries' Committee on Sustainable Development worked on the basis of a working program comprising important topics for sustainable development. Subjects of the meetings since spring 2012 included i.a. education for SD, CSR, the 2013 Peer Review on the national SDS, the Post-2015 Agenda, sustainable urban development, sustainable consumption and sustainable finance policy. To the Committees’ meetings, the Chair regularly invites respective experts, e.g. from science, NGOs and/or businesses.

The Parliamentary Advisory Council on Sustainable Development of the German Parliament regularly provides the State Secretaries´ Committee with its opinions and recommendations on the selected topic.

Since January 2009, departmental reports on the implementation of sustainable development are being presented to the States Secretaries´ Committee and published in the internet (available only in German).

A major reform in order to strengthen the implementation of the strategy in daily policy was the introduction of SD as a criterion for the impact assessment for new laws or regulations. In May 2009, SD was included permanently in the standing orders of the federal government (”Gemeinsame Geschäftsordnung der Bundesministerien”, GGO). A guideline published by the Department for Internal Affairs in June 2009 advises to use the indicators and management rules of the strategy for this SD impact assessment. In March 2018, an online tool was introduced to support a more systematic assessment of possible effects on sustainable development. The Parliamentary Advisory Council on SD of the German Parliament evaluates and comments the procedural quality of the impact assessment as it is documented in the drafts of new laws or regulations delivered to the German Parliament.

As part of the new GSDS, it was decided to further strengthen policy coherence: Coordinators for Sustainable Development have been appointed in each ministry, in most cases at Director-General level. They are central contact persons for all issues relating to Sustainable Development and will be involved in the preparation of the Sustainable Development Impact assessments.


In the reviews and updates of the Strategy , the German Government reported progress and remaining challenges.

In 2004, 2008,  2012,  2017 and 2018  Progress Reports and Updates were adopted by the Cabinet. All of them confirmed that SD remains a guiding principle for the concrete political activities of the federal government. The reports explain the governmental organisation in SD politics in detail and strengthen the management of SD in German policy making.

The sustainability management concept of the strategy comprises the following elements:

·      principles for sustainable development. The principles for sustainable development summarise the guiding principles of SD.

·      There are 66 indicators (formerly 38) with associated targets which allow for an objective check of the status of development

·      Monitoring. Every four years a Progress Report presents in detail the status of SD in Germany. The Progress Reports are complemented by an indicator report, independently prepared by the Federal Statistical Office every two years.

To improve SD management, the State Secretaries’ Committee has gradually been strengthened over the past years.

In further developing the GSDS, the 2008 report covered four key-topics (climate/energy, resources, demographic change/social opportunities, international food-crises) whereas the 2012 report focused on sustainable economic activity, climate and energy and sustainable water policy. In addition to the key-topics, the reports assessed the progress of the GSDS in a broad range of subjects. The 2012 Progress Report was drafted in view of the UN-Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro and aimed presenting the status quo of SD in Germany. First milestones for the Progress Report 2012 as well as a first draft report were published in September 2010 respectively June 2011 and discussed in a broad, internet-based public consultation: The range of topics of the new GSDS is broader than before – as it is structured along the 17 SDGs. For each SDGs, particular challenges for Germany are highlighted.

In 2009, 2013 and 2018 international experts  brought their experiences to bear on the opportunities and challenges for Germany's SD policies in an international context. In 2009 and again in 2013, the German Federal Government mandated Björn Stigson, the (former) President of the World Business Council for SD, and a group of peers to conduct a Peer Review of Germany's SD policies. The first Peer Review Report, organised by the Council for Sustainable Development on behalf of the government, was handed over to Chancellor Angela Merkel on November 23, 2009, the second Peer Review Report on September 25, 2013. A third Peer review has been published and handed over to the Chancellor in June 2018. The group of experts was this time chaired by Helen Clark, former Administrator of UNDP.

All three reports acknowledged Germany´s potential key position to spearhead the transition to a more sustainable development and came up with a set of clear recommendations addressing politics, the parliament, the business community and civil society. The German Council for Sustainable Development facilitated all three reviewing processes.

In 2010, the State Secretary Committee for Sustainable Development (political body) adopted an action program for a sustainable federal government which was reviewed and further developed in March 2015. The action program must be implemented by every federal ministry and their related offices and administration. The program e.g. addresses sustainable buildings, reinforces sustainable public procurement, sustainable mobility as well as sustainable conferences, and aims at improving the possibilities to combine work and family life. Yearly monitoring reports will be published as of 2016.


As a controlling instrument, the German SDS includes indicators and targets that together depict the status of sustainable development in Germany and form the basis of the management of the SDS. The previously 38, and now 66 indicators, with their associated targets, allow an objective check of the status of development. When updating the indicators and targets for the new version of the SDS, the Federal Government was guided, among other things, by the following principles:

  • Greater international orientation of the Strategy, embracing the impetus of the 2030 Agenda;
  • Reflecting political priorities for an ambitious implementation of the 2030 Agenda and enhancement of sustainability policy while the number of indicators and targets remains limited;
  • Balance between desirable continuity of targets and indicators and meaningful enhancement; and
  • Preservation of controllability and communicability.

The new version of the SDS reformulates outdated objectives with reference to the year 2030 and defines new targets in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For every SDG, at least one indicator-backed political target is listed, which identifies relevant need for action in the area without describing it comprehensively. Instead of being overly prescriptive, the indicators are like keys: they open up the topic area and reveal its relevance for the further development of German policy. They are linked to considerably more extensive and detailed indicator systems or data collections on the website of the Federal Statistical Office or data collections on the website of the Federal Statistical Office.

With respect to the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, there are two different reports that Germany compiles: 1) A report on the implementation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy, which reports on the monitoring of targets and indicators as laid out in the German SDS and are published twice a year. (The current 2017 Report is also available and another report has been adopted in November 2018 as an update); and 2) A report to the UN regarding the UN’s SDG indicators. Both reports are prepared by the Germany Federal Statistics Office. It should be noted, however, that the report to the UN does not have a direct link to the German SDS, but looks at the SDG targets and indicators as defined in the 2030 Agenda: it is updated annually by the Federal Statistics Office. Regarding the report on the implementation of the German SDS, the SDS itself is has been updated to reflect the 2030 Agenda, the SDGs, and the SDG targets, meaning Germany’s national reports are also aligned along the SDGs.

In addition to the indicator report, which reports about the implementation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy, Germany regularly supplies data on the set of global indicators as part of the UN’s international data survey. For Germany, an initial compilation of the data available for all 17 SDGs has been provided by the Federal Statistical Office since July 2016. The development of the global indicators is not yet complete, but progress can be viewed on statistical office’s page. The data will be updated annually, each year before the high-level political forum.

Every two years, the Federal Statistical Office independently assesses the development and the status quo of the national SD targets and indicators (see Indicator Reports 2006, 2008, 2012, 2014; 2016, and 2018; every four years the Indicator Reports form part of the Progress Reports).

Indicator Report 2018.

Since 2008, they include - in addition to the detailed descriptions and trends of the indicators - a brief statistical evaluation regarding their distance to the envisaged target. This evaluation is graphically illustrated by weather symbols, e.g. ”sunny” or ”cloudy”, in line with (previous) Eurostat indicator-symbols. The Indicator Reports can be downloaded in German and English. In 2018, out of 63 indicators 28 were assessed as predominantly positive (e.g. education or renewable energy). The indicators for sustainable mobility and biodiversity were among the issues with remained a difficult challenge. The next indicator report will be published in 2020.

 Sustainable Development Indicators


Since 2002, several stakeholder groups, e.g. social partners, NGOs, local communities, the science community etc., were involved in the development of the GSDS. The methods used for this purpose ranged from traditional consultation processes to the possibility of delivering opinions on drafts or internet chat sessions with ministers and state secretaries.

The German Government had initiated a broad public consultation process, which accompanied the work on the 2008, 2012 and 2016 GSDS Progress Report and the 2018 Update. Citizens were invited to contribute to the Progress Reports by making comments and suggestions based at first on a preparatory consultation paper, and then on a draft version of the GSDS Progress Reports; both were published on the internet. In addition, the Federal Chancellery invited selected stakeholders from alliances and associations to discuss the draft report in hearings or conferences. The review of the GSDS started in October 2015 shortly after the 2030 Agenda was adopted. A series of 5 stakeholder conferences (Berlin, Dresden, Stuttgart, Bonn and Hamburg) opened the discussion on a new GSDS 2016. Periodical newsletters informed about the activities and sustainability discussions taking place. A draft of the new/reviewed GSDS 2016 has been published by the end of May 2016 and opened for a second consultation phase via internet. In addition, dialogue meetings with the federal states as well associations and organisations took place during summer 2016. The current review has been introduced by a series of conferences in Berlin, Stuttgart, Norderstedt and Bonn. Further public consultations are planned until the end of 2020.

The GSDS of 2016 helped to strengthen  stakeholder involvement. For example, a regular dialogue format (“Sustainability Forum”) and  has been introduced. The first Sustainability Forum took place in July 2017, followed by another meeting in June 2018. The government presented progress on implementing the 2030 Agenda. Social organisations reported on their activities and discussed implementation measures of the government. In addition, a  Dialogue Group has been established in summer 2018. The intention is to strengthen involvement of social stakeholders in the preparation of meetings of the State Secretaries’ Committee. The first meeting took place in September 2018, with 20 stakeholder representatives participating in the preparations for the next meeting of the State Secretaries’ Committee.

In science, various initiatives have been launched to support the implementation of the SDGs. The Federal Government has embraced these initiatives and offers a platform on which scientific support for the implementation of the SDGs will be pooled (“Science Platform Sustainabilty 2030”, ).

Since 2004, the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Sustainable Development of the German Parliament has been supporting the SD process in Germany. The Council submits proposals for updating the GSDS and provides recommendations on individual subjects relating to SD. The Council had contributed an own guest chapter to the Progress Reports of 2008 and 2012 and in the new GSDS 2016. The Council comprises 17 Members of the Parliament from all parliamentary parties who can incorporate the results of the work of the Council into the work of the parliamentary parties and special committees.

The German Council for Sustainable Development was established by the German Government in April 2001. Its members are appointed by the Chancellor. Currently it is composed of 15 members from various social groups, the business sector as well as from the science and research community. Its mission is to advise the German government on all matters relating to SD and to contribute to the further development of the GSDS. In addition, the Council is an important stakeholder in the public dialogue on SD. A statement of the Council was published as a guest chapter in the Progress Reports 2008 and 2012 and was again part of the new GSDS 2016.

The Council organizes Annual Conferences for Sustainable Development with more than 1000 participants and key notes by the Chancellor. The Conference offers national and international guests the opportunity to hear and discuss about the latest SD news and issues.

In 2012, the Council has started its call for a German Sustainability Action Day respectively Action Week. All actors - regardless whether from the private, public, religious, business or academic sector - are invited to present their activities on SD and share their experience. In close cooperation with France and Austria, the European Sustainable Development Week (ESDW) was initiated and first started in 2015 with more than 4000 activities in 29 European countries.

A strengthened collaboration between the Council for SD, the Parliamentary Advisory Council on SD and the State Secretaries´ Committee for SD is ongoing. Each of the three institutions invites representatives of the other two to its regular meetings.

Member of the European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils (EEAC).

Subnational Activities

Currently, 13 of 16 of the German federal states have their own SD strategies in place. The federal government aims at strengthening the cooperation between the national level and the federal states level. Short descriptions of the federal states’ SD activities are available in German.

The federal government has strengthened cooperation with the local level in the context of the Progress Reports 2008, 2012 and 2016. Accepting an invitation by the federal government, the German municipal umbrella organisation (consisting of the German association of cities, the German county association and the German association of towns and municipalities) presented their priorities and views on the GSDS in a guest chapter in the Progress Reports. There it stressed that SD is increasingly becoming a central guiding principle of municipal politics. In February 2009 and again in April 2013, delegates from the German municipal umbrella organisation discussed questions of land use for housing and infrastructure with the federal government in a meeting of the State Secretaries´ Committee for Sustainable Development. In January 2012 and again in March 2015, the State Secretaries’ Committee discussed with mayors (members of the “Sustainable City” dialogue - Mayors for Sustainable Development in Municipalities Initiative of the Council for Sustainable Development) challenges of sustainable cities and fields of further cooperation.

The “Federal-Länder Experience Exchange on SD” is a format that offers room for regular communication on current issues of sustainable development at Federal and Länder level. In addition, the Federal Government and the Länder meet at political level (Conference of the Heads of the State and Senate Chancelleries of the Länder (CdS) and the Federal Chancellery).

In addition, there are specific fields of cooperation, which integrate the federal and subnational level (federal ministries, Länder, municipalities) as well as science research institutes and NGOs.

Another instrument to support sustainable development activities at local level is the Service Agency Communities in One World (Servicestelle Kommunen in der Einen Welt – SKEW), set up by the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. It provides information and advice to the municipalities on all aspects of community-level development cooperation and acts as focal point for civil society commitment in implementing the 2030 Agenda.

Furthermore, the Sustainable Development Council supports vertical integration by activities such as the Sustainability Network of Lord Mayors and the creation of regional hubs.