German Sustainability Award for Companies 2024

AI-supported research, 100 industries and expert juries, a proprietary scoring system and a two-stage competition in search of the pioneers of transformation in the German economy. This is the GSA for companies in detail.

From the top for the width.

The challenges of climate change, resource scarcity and species extinction are intensifying. Parallel, the competencies of the sustainable economy in Germany are growing. Pioneers have long since shown which solutions work and how practical transformation succeeds. Now it is a matter of making a difference on a broad scale. This phase of the transformation offers new and structurally different challenges than the previous one.

This is where the new GSA methodology for companies comes in, which is being implemented together with assessment partners PwC Germany and the Centre for Sustainable Management (CSM) at Leuphana University Lüneburg. The research is contributed by the Berlin-based startup score4more.


The new GSA is designed to identify companies in all industries that have successfully embarked on the long, complex way to sustainability. No one is at the finish line; the industries are at different stages of progress. For this reason, the GSA avoids superlatives such as "the most sustainable" with hardly redeemable absolute promises. The term " pioneer" is closer to the methodology, which classifies which company is exemplary in promoting the transformation in its industry in which area and with which topics. This is not to say that each of them does or has done everything right at all times from every angle. Or is one of the "good guys" at first glance.

We quantitatively identify particularly effective solutions, important players, innovative contributions and exemplary developments wherever possible. We then rely on a broad spectrum of experienced stakeholders. They contribute their knowledge and different perspectives to the juries, as well as their critical spirit and courage, in order to identify pioneers whose transformative solutions can serve as role models for others. Be it that they have already been founded "green", have undergone a comprehensive reorganisation or are still stuck in the traditional due to their sheer market power (and despite problematic business models) and achieve a positive impact with sustainability services. Here, the jury recognisably reflects the areas of tension in the sustainability debate.

100 industries.

Key sustainability issues are industry-specific. The subdivision into sectors and industries enables a structured analysis of the respective pioneering companies. The GSA has based the classification on the ISIC (International Standard Industrial Classification), WZ (Classification of Economic Activities) and NACE (Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community), which is also used in the EU regulation CSRD, EU taxonomy or the German Sustainability Code, among others. These are the 20 sectors and behind them the corresponding industries (available in German only).

Application and research.

Companies from all sectors and of all sizes (with the exception of the winners of the company award in the last three years) can continue to apply. This means that the competition remains open to all companies.

In addition, a comprehensive, AI-supported search of publicly available sustainability data is carried out via the Internet, as is now published by many companies in sustainability reports, declarations on the German Sustainability Code or on company websites. Winners from the past three years are not included in the research for the Sustainability Code. The processes are scientifically monitored; quality assurance is carried out manually. With this approach, the GSA aims to provide a scalable, transparent data basis.

Research partner score4more specialises in creating differentiated sustainability profiles of companies and evaluating them. The Berlin-based start-up has been providing the digital architecture for research across all sectors and industries and the resulting company profiles since 2023. Companies of all sizes can create their profiles free of charge and use this platform to apply for the GSA.

The population of companies researched follows these criteria:

  • Companies from the 100 defined sectors (including municipal and public companies, social enterprises and other entrepreneurial organisations; excluding public administration, sovereign organisations, industry/interest groups and NGOs)
  • Business activity and registered office in Germany (i.e. domiciled with headquarters in Germany or - if headquartered abroad - doing business with headquarters in Germany)
  • Minimum size of 250 employees in Germany (based on EU size definitions for the CSRD) and/or visible in terms of sustainability (e.g. via renowned rankings, ratings, awards, memberships or media coverage or as a market/innovation leader or hidden champion)
  • Published sustainability performance within the last 3 years (for 2024: 2021, 2022, 2023 - based on recognised standards ESRS, GRI, DNK etc.; websites as a source: 2023)

In order to utilise the expertise and industry knowledge of the jury, the jurors can draw the research team's attention to companies that they consider relevant in advance. These are researched, subjected to the usual scoring and, if they are suitably qualified, presented to the jury without a head start or similar.


Sustainability profiles.

The sustainability profiles reflect the previous methodology of the GSA, the orientation towards the most important transformation fields. These fields are derived from the United Nations' Agenda 2030 as well as from the goals of the EU Green Deal and the German government's sustainability strategy.

The sub-themes also reflect the requirements of the EU taxonomy and the new EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the corresponding European Sustainability Reporting Standard (ESRS) as the new European reporting standard.

Die Transformationsfelder mit Subthemen sind

  • Climate (esp. climate protection and climate adaptation; E1),
  • Resources (esp. circular economy and water; E5/E3),
  • Nature (esp. pollutants and biodiversity; E2/E4),
  • Value chain (esp. employees and supply chain; S1/S2) and
  • Society (esp. communities and consumers; S3/S4).

Each company is evaluated on the basis of its sustainability profile. The profiles are designed to be industry-specific and map key sustainability issues for the industry in question.

The profile includes:

  • Industry classification Sector and industry according to DNP
  • Company data / business size data / year of foundation
  • Contact person(s) / application
  • URL link(s) to up to two sources (report / published sustainability performance)


Abstract of the company's sustainability story

  • Three sustainability highlights (courage to change/greatest risk; transformation within the company/greatest internal significance; impact for customers/greatest external impact)
  • 1st transformation field (highest materiality in the industry; four criteria relating to measures and solutions)
  • 2nd transformation field (materiality in the industry; one criterion relating to measures and solutions)
  • 3rd transformation field (materiality in the sector; one criterion relating to measures and solutions)
  • One indicator CO2e emissions of the last 3 years (according to Scope 1, 2 and 3)
  • Further measures/solutions of the company
  • Possible controversies of the company in the last 5 years
  • Upload option for additional information

Specially developed scoring system.

Based on the profiles, the score4more scoring system identifies the companies with particularly effective, successful, innovative and exemplary contributions to transformation, the pioneers in each sector. The profile data is categorised according to a 6-stage methodology analogous to the hotel star system. These scoring levels are applied to all criteria in the sustainability profile and are defined individually for each criterion.

The average scoring of the company is calculated from the individual scores. The companies themselves indicate possible controversies as part of the GSA additional information in the profile. This gives companies the opportunity to deal openly and transparently with controversies vis-à-vis the jury.

The 6 scoring levels are

5 = leading
High impact via solutions AND internal sustainability as a company  
4 = far advanced
High internal sustainability as a company OR high impact via solutions
3 = on track
Advanced in internal sustainability AND/OR in solutions 
2 = beginning
Starting with internal sustainability AND/OR first solutions 
1 = Standard
Legal and/or industry standard 
0 = inactive 
"red light" for internal sustainability AND/OR solutions

Researched profiles and profiles created by the companies themselves are treated equally in the analysis.

Expert juries for all industries.

The pioneers/nominees, finalists and winners in each sector are selected by an expert jury. The jury members are independent and not bound by any particular interests. Each expert jury consists of around five experts from the fields of

  • industry practice,
  • associations,
  • civil society,
  • management consultancy and
  • research.

The jurors are independent and not bound by any particular interests. The jury evaluation in each sector takes place in a two-stage process. The first vote is to determine the pioneers. The nominees are informed of their success and can update or add to their profile. The industry jury then uses this (new) basis for the second vote to decide on the top field. The work of the specialist juries concludes with the top 3 (finalists) and a winner in each of 100 sectors.

See all jury members 2024

Role models of transformation.

In addition to the pioneers in 100 industries, the GSA recognises those companies across all sectors that have made particularly important and exemplary contributions in the key areas of transformation. The assessment partners from PwC Germany and CSM Lüneburg only look at the winners in the 100 sectors.

Each of the 100 companies is assigned to the most relevant transformation field for its industry: Climate, Resources, Nature, Society or Value Chain; the additional GSA can be awarded in this field. The decision on the winners in each transformation field is made by the interdisciplinary expert jury of the German Sustainability Award for Companies. It differs from the specialist juries.

Jury decision.

The decision on the winners in each transformation field is made by the interdisciplinary jury of the German Sustainability Award. It differs from the expert juries. The approximately 16-person panel is appointed annually by the Board of Trustees in accordance with the GSA's statutes, which, in addition to the personal and professional suitability of the individual juror, takes into account a balanced representation of different stakeholder interests in the entire jury.

The rules for jury work in specialist juries and the corporate jury are basically identical. The jury evaluation in each transformation field takes place in a multi-stage process. The jury decides by simple majority in a secret ballot. It selects the finalists and the winner in each transformation field, who are informed about their good performance and invited to the award ceremony. The winners will only be announced at the award ceremony of the 17th German Sustainability Award on 28 November 2024 in Düsseldorf.

Research partner score4more.

The GSA's research partner for companies is the Berlin-based startup score4more. It specializes in creating differentiated sustainability profiles of companies and evaluating them, after the founders previously accompanied the GSA for more than ten years and contributed significantly to the methodological development of the company competition. From 2023, score4more will provide the digital architecture for research across all sectors and industries and the resulting company profiles.

Companies of any size, whether reporting or not, can create their profiles free of charge and thus use the platform to apply for the GSA. score4more has also developed the sector-specific scoring approach, which allows companies to be compared and rated. The GSA uses score4more's technological platform to map and evaluate thousands of companies, measures and key performance indicator values in the competition and to determine the pioneers of sustainability in Germany via transparent jury processes.

To the website of score4more


Transparency Notice.

The creation of the sustainability profile at or by score4more is free of charge for the participating and researched companies. There are no participation fees. The GSA Foundation remunerates score4more for all services related to the GSA: research, creation of short profiles (so-called "basic profiles") for researched companies and provision of the platform for applications through active creation of profiles, scoring, additional research on media reports, transmission of data for jury work.

These services are part of score4more's business model. However, score4more's range of services with regard to publicly available data actively provided by companies goes beyond this. Companies can, for example, create more extensive profiles about themselves that go beyond the "basic profile" in order to offer potential customers more information and/or facilitate their own reporting. They can request profiles from other companies (e.g. for competitive analyses or offer comparisons). The costs for these services are itemised on the score4more website.

As a research partner of the GSA, score4more is committed to independence and neutrality.

The creation of a more comprehensive profile for a fee or the utilisation of further services from score4more in no way influences the creation of the sustainability profile, the scoring or further research for the GSA. Score4more also undertakes to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest by disclosing any business connections with companies that are considered as nominees/finalists in the competition. In such cases, the profile and scoring will be subject to review by the Centre for Sustainable Management at Leuphana University.