Background

Germany has a long history in environmental reporting. The first reports were published in the late 1980's by companies from the chemical industry which had serious image problems. The other group of early reporters was a group of engaged SME with very advanced environmental management systems.

The German development in the 1990's was influenced by EMAS and the growing number of EMAS Statements. At the end of the century more then 3000 EMAS Statements were available to the public. One of several important factors for the quality of the environmental reports was the German ranking, which was carried out in 1994, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011. The ranking, which began much earlier then the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) led to a mutual learning process between business and science.

At the end of the 1990's more and more companies started to enlarge their reporting to include social issues, and sustainability reporting developed. In the ranking of sustainability we can see that this development is still ongoing. Some large companies have started to report on all their relevant sustainability issues. Many, however, do not include all the relevant issues and some few still put their emphasis on environmental issues. This of course reflects to a certain degree the internal state of managing sustainability in the companies.

Verification of sustainability reports is not popular in Germany. While the GRI guidelines recommend verification, the decision makers are sceptical as to whether verification statements really contribute to the credibility of their reports. Chartered accountants, however, report of various benefits of the verification process in addition to improved credibility. In 2005 in Germany as well as in the Netherlands new assurance standards for sustainability reports were published.