• Action needs to be taken now to avoid greater costs later
  • The Diaconia Strategy Conference on Sustainability in Berlin discusses the green transition in social affairs
  • Social Sustainability should be added to the EU taxonomy.

Berlin, May 12, 2023 – Social, health- and care service providers can avoid greenhouse gas emissions to a large extent by making their buildings, such as day-care centers and nursing homes, more energy-efficient. However, if such renovations are not carried out, the societal cost will increase from year to year.

The background: From 2027, the European Emissions Trading System (ETS) will apply also to the building sector. Those who run social and health care services that use buildings will then also have to pay the CO2 price for every tonne of CO2. This price is expected to increase. Ultimately, those in need of care, the social security funds or the taxpayers will have to pay for the additional costs.

At their 3rd Strategy Conference on Sustainability on May 11th and 12th in Berlin, Diakonie Germany, the Association of Diaconal Employers in Germany (VdDD), Eurodiaconia and the Bank for Church and Diaconia (KD-Bank) call on the European Institutions, the German Federal Government and the federal states to quickly enable investments in climate and environmentally sustainable social infrastructure.

The current framework conditions prevent not-for-profit health, care and social service providers from exploiting their climate protection potential. This applies to buildings as well as to other areas, such as catering. One obstacle is the one-sided focus of German social law on suitability, economic and cost effectiveness, while the criterion of sustainability is missing. This leads to the paradoxical situation that, for example, the operators of a nursing home are reimbursed for high energy costs, but are largely left to fund it themselves when it comes to modernization in terms of climate protection and lowering of energy costs. The question of how sustainable social services are to be refinanced has so far been a “ping pong” game between the responsible federal ministries, the federal states and the municipalities.

Diakonie President Ulrich Lilie: “Sustainability must be anchored in the social code books so that the urgently needed investments of our organizations and institutions in climate protection can be refinanced by the authorities. The federal government can only achieve its climate goals together with the social economy. The building sector lags far behind when it comes to climate protection. The energetic refurbishment of social buildings protects the climate, reduces the energy requirement and thus saves costs. We want to become climate-neutral, but we need a legal basis for this.”

Andreas Theurich, VdDD: “Social and ecological sustainability are part of the DNA of diaconal companies and must always be thought of together. Not only do we have to, we want to operate climate-neutrally as quickly as possible. The sooner the legislator creates the framework for this, the faster and more effectively we can start implementing it in our companies. “

 Demand for social taxonomy

The focus of the conference with around 120 participants was the European Green Deal, which sets the framework for a green transition. Guest speakers included Nicolas Schmit, EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights, as well as representatives from the Federal Environment Ministry, the Federal Health Ministry and the Federal Labor Ministry.

A European approach is the green Taxonomy that directs funding towards sustainable investments. Banks and other investors now have to demonstrate the extent to which their debt-financed investments meet sustainability criteria. The organizers called for the instrument to be supplemented with a social taxonomy. This would result in increasing investments in social services and more favorable credit opportunities for the social economy.

Jörg Moltrecht, Member of the Management Board of KD-Bank: “The EU taxonomy must be complemented with social sustainability, otherwise ecological and social issues will be played off against each other. If the current ‘green’ EU taxonomy is retained, access to credit for the social economy will be considerably more difficult and more expensive. In order for social enterprises to be able to assume their valuable social responsibility in the future, they also need financial security for their sustainable investments. This is currently not recognizable in the relevant refinancing conditions.”

Heather Roy, Secretary General of Eurodiaconia: “The social economy, including not-for-profit social enterprises, need the right legal and financial framework to participate in the green transition. These include, for example, reducing bureaucracy as part of EU funding programs, easing EU State Aid regulations for services of general interest, strengthening the role of social, ecological and qualitative criteria in public procurement, and more incentives for investments in social services, for example through a social taxonomy.”