Standards provide orientation on what CSR actually means and offer first points of reference for implementation. The following selection includes some of the best known standards applicable to all companies. In addition to these there are numerous industry-, product-, and topic-specific standards.

OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are common recommendations backed by the governments of the OECD countries concerning responsible business conduct. They were agreed in 1976 as the first worldwide CSR standards and comprehensively extended in 2011.

The participating countries have established national contact points for the dissemination and implementation of the guidelines. In Germany, the national contact point has been established in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

UN Global Compact

With almost 9,000 participating companies, the UN Global Compact is the biggest global CSR initiative. The Compact connects companies and stakeholders and supports mutual learning with the goal of implementing the ten Global Compact principles in the area of human rights, labour relations, the environment and fighting corruption worldwide. Companies have to provide annual reports on their activities in the form of communications on progress. More than 300 German companies which have signed the UN Global Compact partake in the German Global Compact Network.

ISO 26000 standard: Guideline on Social Responsibility

The ISO 26000 standard is a guideline which was developed under the aegis of the International Organization for Standardization concerning the social responsibility of organisations of every type and size. It is the most comprehensive definition of social responsibility to have been developed to date. In contrast to other ISO standards, the ISO 26000 offers neither certification nor a management system.

The ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy

The Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy of the International Labour Organization (ILO) was initially agreed in 1977 and consists of an international consensus between governments, trade unions and business federations. It formulates requirements in the field of labour and social standards and is based on the essential ILO labour standards.

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. They define the nation state as having the primary duty to protect human rights. However, businesses are also obliged to respect human rights. Companies should do so by pursuing policies of human rights due diligence. The German federal government has developed a national plan of action on business and human rights for the implementation of the UN guiding principles in Germany.

The German Sustainability Code

The German Sustainability Code (Deutscher Nachhaltigkeitskodex / DNK) of the German Council for Sustainable Development provides a framework for the reporting of key non-financial data. It consists of 20 criteria and additional performance indicators. The code can generally be applied by organisations and businesses of any size or legal form. In focusing on selected criteria and indicators, the DNK primarily addresses medium-sized companies.

The G4 Guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative

The G4 Guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) are the most widely respected standards for sustainability reporting. The current version constitutes the fourth generation (G4) of the guidelines. The G4 guidelines aim to increase the transparency, standardisation and comparability of non-financial data. In this respect, a report according to the G4 guideline provides information on the economic, environmental and social performance of the company.