“Your indignation is music to my ears!”

Flagship Forum| 15 September 2014 | Spreespeicher, Berlin, Germany

In Berlin, German Federal President Gauck talked about the Post-2015 Agenda and the global importance of sustainable development. Sustainability, according to Gauck, had become cross-sectional issue that extended into every policy area.

German Federal President Joachim Gauck accepted Development Minister Dr Gerd Müller’s invitation to give the welcoming address at the BMZ “Sustainable development worldwide. What can Germany contribute?” event in Berlin’s Spreespeicher. His speech went well beyond just a simple greeting though.

Gauck applauded Germany’s leading role in the post-2015 process, emphasising that he had high expectations of the international community and was “looking forward” to watching developments unfold. Expanding the existing Millennium Development Goals to include sustainability, he added, was not just a welcome step. Gauck also deemed it essential. Sustainability, he noted, had become a cross-sectional topic since “at its core, sustainability means economising cleverly” – a principle that could be applied to every policy area across the board. The Federal President also had some words of criticism: “Sustainable development and growth, growth, growth – does that even work?” he asked, siding with Development Minister Müller who spoke out against growth at any price.

In his welcome address, Minister Müller had already noted that the lifestyle practiced by most German citizens was no longer possible. We would need three earths, he added, for everyone to live in dignity and prosperity.

The Minister therefore called on consumers and the private sector to rethink. His citied the textile industry as an example of an area in which consumers and producers alike needed to take responsibility. To ensure that consumers could make informed decisions, Minister Müller called for an immediately recognisable and comprehensible seal – and spoke of the green button. It would denote products that were ecologically sustainable and also stand for sustainable social and labour practices.

During the podium discussion that followed, the Federal Minister elicited some ideas about sustainable development from Antje von Dewitz, Managing Director of outdoor supplier Vaude, and Prof Franz Joseph Radermacher from the University of Ulm.

Entrepreneur von Dewitz would like to make Vaude Europe’s most sustainable outdoor supplier by 2015 and described the challenges the company faced along the way to achieving this objective. Informatics Professor Radermacher researches the eco-social market economy and works to make the process of globalisation fairer.

The discussion was engaging, lively and constructive. Concrete examples from initiatives and ‘social businesses’, like the Berlin Quartiermeister brewing company and smartphone manufacturer Fairphone, enriched the conversation, illustrating how individuals could contribute to global sustainability. Müller emphasised that his main concern was getting citizens more involved in the decision-making process. This was why he founded The Charter for the Future as a space where all interested parties from Germany could work on a sustainability agenda for the post-2015 period. Müller reiterated his conviction that this must involve consumers and corporations assuming global responsibility.

Von Dewitz emphasised that global responsibility was more complex for corporations – but that this should not be an obstacle. She also spoke out in favour of government regulation in this area, expressing her belief that sustainable consumption could drive change.
Radermacher noted that the pursuit of increasing efficiency in the private sector did not necessarily result in more sustainability. As new energy efficient refrigerators replaced older models, he noted, many consumers kept the old one running in the cellar for extra space, thus undermining the very concept of efficiency. The passionate and authentic contributions from the three panellists were very well received by the audience – feedback from the audience and via Twitter (read more at: #nachhaltigeentwicklung) generally expressed agreement and some evidenced surprise. One NGO representative welcomed Minister Müller’s impassioned exploration of textile sustainability, saying: “Your indignation is music to my ears!”
The event was organised by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit’s (GIZ) Development Policy Forum on behalf of the BMZ and considered many aspects of sustainable event management. This was also very positively received by guests.

The event was broadcast live online.

Impressions of the event

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