Overline: Sustainability Advisory Board
Headline: Fostering Sustainable Development as a Democratic Process

The Sustainability Advisory Board of Brandenburg state has developed a set of recommendations titled “Social cohesion in an open society – Democracy as a way of life” and presented them to the state government on 8 January 2024. The recommendations are based on a policy brief in which the authors recommend an all-of-government approach to address various issues of social justice and public participation as well as the goal of safeguarding quality of life while remaining within planetary boundaries.

Menschengruppe Partizipation Beteilgigung Demokratie
Citizens should not only be able to vote on ready-made concepts, but should also be involved from the outset in a way that appeals to them and is appropriate for them. Shutterstock/ Rawpixel.com

A conference between the Advisory Board and government representatives was attended by the state's representative to the federal government, State Secretary Friederike Haase, together with ministers Ursula Nonnemacher (Social Affairs), Jörg Steinbach (Economic Affairs) and Steffen Freiberg (Education).

Prepared by a team led by Ortwin Renn, a former RIFS scientific director, the policy brief argues that efforts to promote sustainability should not be limited to climate and environmental policy and urges the government to embrace a broader concept of sustainable development. “It is important to understand that policies which aim to promote sustainability also have direct and indirect impacts across the economy, society and culture," explained Ortwin Renn, who chairs the body.

State Secretary Friederike Haase commented: “The recommendations of the Sustainability Advisory Board provide valuable guidance for future policy development. It is important that our understanding of sustainability is not limited to a narrow focus on the environment and climate – as important as these issues may be. There is a social dimension to more or less all policy areas and this must also be considered in our efforts to promote sustainability. This dimension underpins public life, social cohesion, and our robust democracy in Brandenburg. The state government will take these insights into account as we continue to develop our sustainability strategy."
In its recommendations, the team of authors defines four key objectives for the state government: Firstly, fairness and social justice, then social cohesion and identification with democratic society, access to and participation in social, economic and cultural life, as well as health and well-being.

Sustainable development is an all-of-goverment challenge

In a joint statement based on the policy brief, the Advisory Board recommends that the state government adopt concrete measures based on an analysis of the actual situation on the ground. In addition to this, social sustainability goals should be identified and pursued in strategies and measures and communicated across all government departments as well as to the public and political actors. "We recommend that the state government carry out a binding sustainability check - before decisions are made on the allocation of funding or the budget," says Prof. Renn.

The Advisory Board also notes that improving social sustainability creates an enabling environment for a peaceful and just society. However, this can only be achieved through an all-of-government approach and with the involvement of all ministries and public agencies. In addition, actors in politics, business, science and civil society must work together to identify problems and challenges and develop solutions for the responsible decision-making bodies.

The Advisory Board also notes that social sustainability can conflict with other sustainability goals. These conflicts must be acknowledged and resolved in order to ensure that sustainability is achieved through democratic process. Achieving lasting change requires the input and support of people of all generations and sectors of society. People should not only be invited to vote on finished concepts – instead, they should also be involved in the development of proposals from the earliest stages and in ways that are both appealing and appropriate. Tensions and conflicts should be identified and acknowledged before initiating efforts to find solutions agreeable to all.


•    Policy Brief 
•    Statement by Brandenburg Sustainability Advisory Board

Brandenburg State Sustainability Advisory Board consists of Prof. Ortwin Renn, Prof. Gesine Grande, Prof. Ottmar Edenhofer, Prof. Uta Steinhardt, Silke Hansen and Rüdiger Kuhn. It was appointed in February 2021 to advise and support the state government in its efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.