Sustainability Strategy for North Rhine-Westphalia

„Act now—working together towards sustainable development in NRW“

The State Government of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) advocates a successful, equitable and future-oriented development in social, environmental and economic terms and therefore bases its actions on sustainability as a guiding principle. This contributes to the creation of a functioning equilibrium for today‘s and future generations. As the most populous federal state with nearly 18 million inhabitants, NRW demonstrates how change towards sustainable development and economic and industrial progress can be reconciled.

  • Latest Publications in English
  • General Investment Guidelines for the Pension Fund NRW: PDF Download
  • The Future of North Rhine-Westphalia - Participation of the Youth as Part of a Social Transformation towards Sustainable Development: PDF Download
  • Vision Development towards a Sustainable North Rhine-Westphalia 2030 in a Science-Practice Dialogue: PDF Download

Participation as a key element of the NRW Sustainability Strategy

With the first NRW Sustainability Strategy adopted in June 2016, the State Government of NRW has presented a future framework actively addressing the upcoming challenges. This strategy is the result of a close cooperation between all State Ministries, civil society, businesses, municipalities and academia focusing on creating a viable framework for ecologically, economically and socially balanced politics.

The NRW Sustainability Strategy also serves as the cornerstone for NRW’s contribution to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015.

Fields of action and focal areas

Based on the results of the consultation on a preliminary discussion paper from June 2014 and the feedback received in response to the presentation of a draft Sustainability Strategy in October 2015, the State Government identified the following 19 fields of action adequately covering the three traditional dimensions of sustainability:

  • Climate protection and energy transition,
  • Sustainable economy
  • Natural resource Protection: biodiversity, forests, water, land/soil, air and environment & health
  • Demographic change
  • Social cohesion and participation
  • Decent work—fair work
  • Integration
  • Sustainable financial policy
  • Sustainable urban development
  • Sustainable mobility
  • Sustainable consumption/sustainable lifestyles
  • Land cultivation
  • Health
  • One-world policy / European and international dimension
  • Gender equality
  • Inclusion
  • Sustainable municipalities (local agenda)
  • Civic involvement / participation
  • Education and science

With this thematic focus, the NRW Sustainability Strategy covers almost all thematic fields of the 17 SDGs.
Within the framework of these 19 fields of action, the State Government has identified the following focal areas that should be given particular attention in the near future

  • Climate Protection Plan
  • Green Economy Strategy
  • Biodiversity strategy
  • Sustainable financial policy
  • Sustainable development of urban areas and neighborhoods
  • Demographic change and suitable neighborhoods for the elderly
  • State initiative „NRW hält zusammen … für ein Leben ohne Armut und Ausgrenzung“ [Together in NRW for a life without poverty and marginalization]

The strong cross-departmental nature of these focal areas fosters the identification of interrelations among different policy areas and enhances interdisciplinary policy learning.

Sustainable financial policy

The State of North Rhine-Westphalia has expanded its guidelines for the management of assets held by the State's pension fund (Pensionsfonds NRW). As of 1 June 2017, the assessment of risk and return of all investments shall encompass the issue of sustainability.

Under the new rules, assets will only be eligible for purchase if both general ESG criteria (environment, social, governance - ESG) as well as specific exclusions for ethically or ecologically controverse business practices are met.    

Implementation Framework

For all fields of action, sustainability goals for 2030 were set, where possible quantitatively. The development of the 70 indicators of the strategy will allow for ongoing progress reporting. Biannual indicator reports will be published. “Sustainability checks” for regional legal acts and programmes will be introduced striving to focus the political debate on the synergies and conflicts between the different sustainability goals. In the implementation process, cooperation with municipalities, civil society and the private sector will continue to play an important role. The State Government also aims at transforming the State bodies and authorities into a “sustainable administration” (by means of sustainable public procurement, climate neutral buildings, sustainable events etc.).
In 2020 the first progress report on the Sustainability Strategy of NRW will evaluate the implementation of the strategy and possibly amend the goals and indicators, define new focal areas and introduce additional implementation instruments.

NRW activities on EU and federal level

NRW is also actively taking part in the discussions on Sustainable Development and SDG implementation on EU and federal level and initiated a German Bundesrat Decision on EU Sustainability in February 2017.

Ecological Footprint

The Environmental Report of North Rhine-Westphalia is closely linked with the Sustainability Strategy NRW. The 2016 report describes the state of the environment in the fields of 'Climate, energy and efficiency', 'Environment and health', 'Waste, soil and water' and 'Nature and rural areas'. It also contains the essays 'Measure What You Treasure: From the Global Ecological Footprint to that of North Rhine-Westphalia' and 'The latest climate scenarios for North Rhine-Westphalia in 2050, both important contributions to the sustainability debate'. 

  • Further Information:
  • Sustainability Strategy for North Rhine-Westphalia: PDF Download
  • Contribution of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): PDF Download
  • Activities in North-Rhine Westphalia to implement the 2030 Agenda: PDF Download
  • Sustainability Bond: Overview
  • Environmental Report of North-Rhine Westphalia 2016: PDF Download
  • German Bundesrat Decision on EU Sustainability Policy: PDF Download
  • General Investment Guidelines for the Pension Fund NRW in German: Internet Link
  • German Almanac of Sustainability: PDF Download

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