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Katherina Reiche, DE

parliamentary state secretary,
German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conversation and Nuclear Safety (BMU)

The SEA showcases exceptional projects in the area of sustainability. What do you think of this initiative and what does sustainable entrepreneurship mean to you personally?

I applaud the Sustainable Entrepreneurship Award, as it enhances the visibility of exemplary approaches to sustainable entrepreneurship. For me, sustainable entrepreneurship is a responsible attitude towards business, where entrepreneurs take the ecological, social and macroeconomic consequences into account – along the entire value creation chain – when making decisions relating to their core business. Sustainable entrepreneurship means assuming responsibility for one’s own actions.

Politics, industry, society – who should be the driving force for the development of sustainable entrepreneurship?

The term ‘sustainable entrepreneurship’ is mainly applied to companies, but politics and society must also be held accountable. It is one of the responsibilities of the government to lay down long-term goals and frameworks conducive to tackling the global, national and local challenges such as climate change, resource depletion and the worldwide loss of biodiversity. Based on these goals, the state has to create a framework for sustainable entrepreneurship, open up room for action, and to provide impetus in a certain direction so that companies can take responsibility independently to a large extent, and the market can develop its innovative strength. Of course, investors should also assume responsibility – in this context there are already sustainability rankings, a new Sustainability Code introduced by the German Council for Sustainable Development, and the international ISO 26000 standard. The consumers are required to question products and services; it’s not always easy to find one’s bearings in this regard. This is why labelling and certification makes sense if it helps consumers to make an informed choice. In this connection, I would like to mention the Blue Angel eco-label, which is funded by us.

What is being done in Germany – and also at the EU level – to gain more recognition for the topic of sustainable entrepreneurship?

I’m pleased that the EU Commission dealt with the topic of CSR in its October 2011 communication. But it still has its work cut out in convincing the governments. We promote the voluntary assumption of social responsibility in the core business of companies. With the ‘CSR in Germany’ action plan, the German Federal Government aims to embed CSR more strongly in business and public administration and to increase participation by small and medium-sized enterprises in CSR. For this reason the government has launched the support programme ‘Social responsibility in medium-sized companies’ for SMEs, which offers specific practical tips regarding CSR-related issues. Further, strategic partnerships and networks are to be strengthened. In its international cooperations, the government will work toward intensifying the dialogue about the CSR regulation framework in the relevant international forums such as the UN, G8 and G20, and the EU. In this connection, the German governments will also be supporting the further development of the OECD guidelines for multinational companies.