Glossary on Sustainability



With the Agenda 2030, the global community drafted a programme for balanced social, economic and ecologically sustainable development and defined 17 goals, the so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals address everyone from individuals to business and science to individual states.

The five core messages of Agenda 2000 include putting human dignity first, preserving the planet, promoting prosperity and peace, and building global partnerships.

The 17 goals are titled "no poverty, no starvation, health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industrial development, innovation and infrastructure, fewer inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, sustainable consumption and production, climate action, life under water, life on land, peace, justice and strong institutions and partnerships to achieve the goals."

In quality management, AQL stands for Acceptance Quality Limit and is defined as the minimum quality standard according to ISO 2859-1. It specifies the maximum number of defective units allowed within a sample test before a batch is rejected.

Amfori BSCI is a business association for socially responsible and sustainable trade and defines values and principles for responsible practices within the supply chain in an amfori BSCI Code of Conduct. The amfori BSCI Code of Conduct is based on the ILO (International Labour Organization) labour standards. Companies are supported in reviewing and improving their suppliers' production conditions, environmental efforts and actions. Suppliers that are audited according to amfori BSCI undergo a strict audit in which clear specifications are made on fair working conditions, operational and occupational safety, ethical business practices and sustainability. The audit is conducted on the basis of the amfori BSCI Code of Conduct and its implementing regulations (amfori BSCI System Manual). The continuous improvement process is ensured by a report following the audit.

An anti-corruption policy specifies the obligation of all managers, employees, appointed parties and representatives of a company to refrain from and prevent any form of corruption in business relations with other companies. All employees of the company must do their work correctly and without taking advantage. It also regulates the laws on which the policy is based, how a complaints mechanism is established and which punitive measures apply in the event of a violation.


Another word for biodiversity is biological variation. It includes the diversity of ecosystems, of species and of genetic differences within existing species.


Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring gas, but can also be produced by burning fossil fuels such as gas, coal and oil and biomass. CO2 is also produced in agriculture and industrial production. CO2 is the most important gas when considering the impact of greenhouse gases on the Earth. CO2 is also used to measure the harmful effects of other greenhouse gases on the atmosphere.

A carbon footprint determines the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions. It can be applied to the locations and performances of companies or individuals, as well as related to products and services. Another term for a carbon footprint is the CO2e balance. Through a carbon footprint, targeted measures can be taken to reduce the footprint – that is, the emissions – and achieve set environmental protection goals. Complete climate neutrality is rarely achievable. Therefore, many entities have adopted the practice of offering compensation for CO2e emissions, in addition to reducing their emissions, which should always be a priority. This involves investing in climate protection projects such as afforestation, wind and hydropower plants, and more, through relevant providers, in proportion to the emitted CO2e. This does not prevent emissions but ensures that actions are taken elsewhere.

Abbreviation for Corporate Carbon Footprint.

The term primarily refers to the current change in climate conditions caused by humans. In general, it refers to long-term changes in climates, which can also have natural causes.

This term covers factors that influence temperature and humidity at a particular location. Natural climate factors include geographical location, distance to water bodies or the sea, soil conditions, but also factors such as settlement and industry.

UPS offers a climate neutral shipment programme, and also invests in various climate protection projects:

Emissions of greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide (CO2) are converted into the unit CO2e or CO2 equivalent for better comparability according to their global warming potential. CO2 is equivalent to 1. These greenhouse gases include, for example, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).

CO2e subsumes all greenhouse gases.

A Code of Conduct is a code of behaviour that defines how certain stakeholders of a company should act in a legally correct, ethical and socially responsible manner. A code of conduct is intended to specify, for example, equal treatment, the avoidance of discrimination and corruption, and the corporate culture. It demonstrates towards stakeholders which values and standards apply within a company and strengthens the positive external perception of a company.

Compensation of CO2e emissions refers to the payment for financing environmental protection projects to "offset" emissions caused by companies, individuals, or organizations that cannot be reduced. It is a financial contribution to climate protection. CO2e emissions are not avoided; rather, the same amount of CO2e is theoretically saved elsewhere through the investment in the project.

The continuous improvement process (CIP) describes measures to improve and optimise costs, process and service quality. For this purpose, a fixed cycle scheme is usually followed (Plan - what is the goal, Do - what do we do and how, Check - where do we stand, Act - what do we have to adapt) in order to constantly update the CIP.

Cradle-to-cradle is also abbreviated to C2C and stands for products that can be completely recycled either as biological substances into biological processes or as technical substances into technical processes. The idea is that, as far as possible, no substances are created that cannot be reused. Cradle-to-cradle was developed in 2005 by Braungart and McDonough. The opposite of cradle-to-cradle is cradle-to-grave, in which the entire product can no longer be used at the end of its life cycle and may also enrich nature with pollutants.

This term is mainly used in the context of CO2e balances. In a Cradle-to-customer-plus-end-of-life approach, all emitted emissions resulting from raw materials, production, packaging, transportation, recycling, or disposal are considered in the calculation using standard values from a database.

Cradle-to-gate is an alternative standard value calculation of emitted emissions in the context of CO2e balances. It includes the environmental impacts of raw materials, production, packaging, transportation, recycling, or disposal up to the factory gate. Emissions occurring after leaving the factory gate are not considered.

CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility is the social responsibility of a company in terms of sustainable and fair business. The economic, ecological and social aspects along the supply chain are considered in this regard. The basic principle of CSR is voluntary. CSR efforts are usually based on reference documents such as the ILO Declaration of Principles, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights or the UN Global Compact.


Disposable products are those that are filled or used only once and subsequently discarded.


The Ecocockpit provides a simple and web-based basis for the preparation of a product-, process- and site-related CO2e balance according to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and the cradle-to-gate approach. The data in the Ecocockpit comes from recognised databases such as Gemis and Probas.

The Ecoprofit project is a cooperation between municipalities and regional businesses which aims to promote sustainable economic development within companies and to enable them to establish their own environmental management. Ecoprofit was developed by the city of Graz in Austria. Since 1998, it has been successfully implemented in more than 100 German cities and districts. Several regional businesses follow a one year programme of workshops, individual support by experts. At the end of the process they are audited by a panel of experts and are awarded the title of Ecoprofit business.

An ecosystem is composed of abiotic (non-living) and biotic (living) elements. The totality of animals and plants is referred to as biocenosis. It colonises the inanimate habitat, the biotope.

EcoVadis is a cloud-based SaaS (Software as a Service) platform that enables companies to be assessed in the areas of environment, labour and human rights, ethics and sustainable procurement and to review their sustainability management. It is a paid service based on documented evidence. The assessment is presented on scorecards with scores from zero to one hundred and medals (bronze, silver and gold). In addition, the scorecards also identify areas where the company needs to make improvements and develop a corrective action plan. The assessment is valid for one year.

The proportion of energy that can actually be used and is not lost through waste heat or other processes. A high efficiency means that little energy is lost.

The Effizienzagentur NRW (EFA) is a centre of excellence for resource efficiency in NRW and has been operating in NRW for over 20 years as an independent service provider on behalf of the NRW Ministry of the Environment. It offers a variety of training courses, e.g. on CO2e accounting, the circular economy, resource efficiency and circular design, and advises companies on these topics. With the Ecocockpit, users have the opportunity to draw up a CO2e balance free of charge.

Emission refers to the emission of substances and energy, in particular greenhouse gases and air pollutants, into the atmosphere.

Emissions are all discharges or releases of substances or pollutants into the environment. CO2e emissions refer to the emission of greenhouse gases into the environment, especially into the earth’s atmosphere. The resulting effect of greenhouse gas emissions is global warming.

E-mobility refers to the use of vehicles such as e-cars, e-bikes, electric motorbikes or e-driven buses. They carry a rechargeable battery that draws its energy from the power grid.

e.g. gas, oil, sun, etc. - substances that e.g. give off energy during combustion or conversion.

Here, effort and benefit are compared - what amount of energy of an energy source is required to ensure the necessary goals, such as a warm building, within one year.

The amount of energy that can be saved through appropriate measures.

Environmental indicators include electricity and heat consumption, mobility and travel data, specific consumption of lighting, machinery, and devices, comparative figures, waste and hazardous substance data, water consumption, biodiversity, occupational safety, and ideally associated costs. They are usually recorded and evaluated annually.

In the environmental program, a company sets its environmental goals for a year.


Fossil fuels are energy sources that have developed over millions of years from the decomposition products of plant material and the remains of animals. Fossil energy sources include coal, peat, natural gas and mineral oil.


The German Sustainability Code offers companies an introduction to sustainability reporting and supports them in the creation of sustainability strategies. The structure set up by the DNK helps large companies to fulfil the CSR reporting obligation and small and medium-sized companies to develop their environmental policy. Through the DNK, companies can submit a DNK statement explaining their own sustainability efforts. The Sustainability Code checks for formal completeness and provides qualified feedback. The DNK is free of charge and also offers webinars to get started. Sustainability reports can be uploaded as part of the DNK declaration and published via a database.

Information on the energy mix, which is composed of the primary energy sources used in Germany.

see also climate change. The accelerated warming of the earth's surface due to a changed climate caused by the greenhouse gas effect.

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol) is a standard for calculating and managing greenhouse gas emissions of companies within the supply chain. It can be used to derive measures for reducing emissions. The GHG Protocol distinguishes between three scopes to which emissions can be assigned. Scope 1 covers direct emissions caused by the company's on-site activities (e.g. gas consumption), Scope 2 covers indirect emissions that are purchased, e.g. electricity, district heating, cooling, and Scope 3 covers the upstream and downstream supply chain. Scope 1 and 2 should be determined within a carbon footprint in any case, Scope 3 is voluntary but recommended.

Green IT subsumes efforts to act in an environmentally friendly and resource-saving way in the use of IT technology. This begins with the production of IT hardware and software, concerns the energy-efficient operation of the corresponding equipment and computers, includes the optimisation of server rooms and extends to the recovery or recycling of the equipment. Another aspect of green IT is the use of information technology to replace other resource-demanding activities. This includes, for example, holding video conferences instead of meetings that would require travel.

The greenhouse gases produced on earth raise the temperature on the earth's surface due to the greenhouse effect. Two types of greenhouse effect exist: a natural greenhouse effect, which has existed since the development of the Earth's atmosphere, and an extra greenhouse effect, which is caused by humans. The latter causes climate-changing problems.

Energy generated from renewable energy sources.

Greenhouse gases are gaseous components within the atmosphere that are of natural and man-made origin. Greenhouse gases cause the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases e.g. include water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone.

A green roof is a house greening solution involving plants on the roof surface of a building.


Companies can use hazardous substance management to regulate the proper handling of hazardous substances in the company. These include, for example, cleaning agents, disinfectants, paints, solvents, auxiliary materials and fuels. The aim of hazardous substance management, which requires the keeping of a list of hazardous substances and the creation of operating instructions, is to reduce the risk to employees to a minimum.

A Health and Safety Policy is a document that describes how a company ensures health and safety within the organisation. It defines which health and safety standards are followed, who is responsible for implementing measures and which methods and audit mechanisms are used.

Hydroelectric power is a regenerative energy source. Using the energy generated by the water in its position or movement, electricity is, in turn, produced with the help of hydroelectric machines.

REFLECTS® supports, upon a customer's request to contribute to a product's CO2e balance, the 18 MW Kemphole Mini Hydro Scheme hydropower project in Karnataka, India. Electricity is generated both by the natural water flow of the Kemphole River and the use of horizontal Francis turbines. This project contributes to the social development of the region, promoting fair working conditions within the project and fostering economic growth in the area. It also contributes to covering the power needs of the southern region.


The ILO core labour standards were developed on the basis of a convention of the International Labour Organisation and sets social standards within the framework of the world trade order. The five basic principles underlying the ILO core labour standards are:

  • Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
  • The elimination of forced labour
  • The elimination of child labour
  • The prohibition of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation
  • Occupational health and safety

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, international organisation from the UN Environment Programme. This is where all the information on climate change is collected. Scientists within this body research, collect, evaluate and publish results.



Unit of measurement for work and energy. Energy is present, for example, as electricity or heat. The amount of energy depends on the power in watts and the time, here for example hours.

Abbreviation for Key Performance Indicators. KPIs can be used to measure and compare the progress or fulfilment of a (business) goal.

Binding agreement by 150 participating countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the meantime superseded by the Paris Agreement.


Light Emitting Diodes or LEDs are tiny electronic chips made of semiconductor compounds. When current flows through it, the LED starts to glow and emits light.


They are made of renewable, natural or recycled raw materials, they bio-degrade quickly, the manufacturing process can be carried out with as little energy input as possible or at least a long-lasting quality or degree of re-usability is guaranteed.

The master device plugged into the master socket automatically switches the devices connected to the slave plug on or off according to certain criteria.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that is twenty to thirty times more harmful than CO2.

A motion detector is an electronic sensor that detects movements in its immediate surroundings, and only then automatically switches on the light. After a certain illumination time, it switches off again automatically.


The Provider Nature Office has established a database solution enabling CO2e accounting for products and compensation through a financial contribution to a climate protection project.

Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas that is about 300 times more harmful to the climate than carbon dioxide (CO2). Nitrous oxide is mainly found in nitrogenous fertilisers in agriculture and animal husbandry and in the chemical industry during combustion processes.



Packing is only carried out if the customer expressly requests it, and orders additional packaging. Otherwise, the product is not repackaged.

Abbreviation for Product Carbon Footprint.

“Perlators”, also known as aerators or mixing nozzles, are nozzles that are screwed onto the water tap. The jet regulator widens (and slows down) the water jet. This means that less water is needed.

Permeable paving is water-permeable and, therefore, infiltrative paving. These ensure that rainwater seeps directly into the ground and flows back into nature. In the absence of such a measure, rainwater flows into the sewage system, becomes wastewater and must then be treated again in the sewage treatment plant. Subsequently, the sewage system and sewage treatment plant would be more heavily loaded. Permeable paving also promotes the conservation and recharge of groundwater, which is an important source of drinking water.

Photovoltaics is a technology with the help of which solar cells convert solar energy into direct current and through a so-called inverter into usable alternating current.

Placing on the market is a legal term that defines the first making available of a product for use or distribution on a given market, whether in return for payment or free of charge.

The PSI Sustainability Award is presented annually in the categories economic excellence, environmental excellence, social excellence, environment initiative, social initiative, sustainable product, sustainable campaign, innovator of the year and sustainable company of the year.


Quality management refers to measures taken to optimise processes and requirements in order to improve the quality of a product and ensure customer satisfaction. In risk management, risks are systematically recorded, assessments carried out and measures taken to minimise or eliminate the identified risks.


The REACH Regulation (EC)1907/2006 is the European Chemicals Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals.

A product is recyclable if it can be recycled after separate collection and/or waste treatment.

All those energy sources that are available for a virtually unlimited period of time, such as the sun, water and wind are renewable energies. They are contrasted by fossil energy sources such as oil and gas.

Reusable products are products that can be refilled or reused several times. Reusable products usually mean fewer waste and reduced resource and energy consumption.

A risk assessment for workplaces is mandatory for companies. It documents potential hazards within the scope of an activity and determines suitable measures to reduce the risks to a minimum. This ensures that occupational accidents and work-related illnesses are avoided. Operating instructions are also drawn up as part of the risk assessments.


Sedex is a membership organisation that provides one of the world's leading online platforms for companies to manage and improve working conditions in global supply chains.

Stakeholders are interested groups or also those affected inside or outside an organisation or a company. They have a legitimate concern for the actions of an organisation or company.

The Supply Chain Due Diligence Act obliges companies with a size of 3000 employees or more (2023 - 1000 employees or more) to comply with certain due diligence obligations. The due diligence obligations apply both to the company's own business area and to direct suppliers, i.e. those with whom a direct business relationship exists. A reduced, occasion-related due diligence obligation applies to indirect suppliers.

The core elements of the due diligence obligations include in particular:

  • the prohibition of child labour, slavery and forced labour
  • obligations regarding health and safety in the workplace
  • fair wages
  • the right to form trade unions or workers' representatives
  • access to food and water and the prohibition of unlawful appropriation of land and livelihoods
  • the prohibition of unequal treatment in employment
  • the prohibition of causing harmful soil degradation, water pollution, air pollution, harmful noise emissions or excessive water consumption
  • the prohibition of the production of products containing mercury in accordance with Article 4(1) and Annex A, Part I of the Minamata Convention on Mercury of 10 October 2013
  • the prohibition of the use of mercury and mercury compounds in manufacturing processes
  • the prohibition of the treatment of mercury waste contrary to the provisions of Article 11 (3) of the Minamata Convention
  • the ban on POPs (POPs Convention)
  • the ban on the import and export of hazardous and other wastes.

The core elements of human rights due diligence for companies of the above size:

  • establishment of a risk management system
  • adoption of a policy statement on respect for human rights
  • anchoring preventive measures and taking corrective action
  • establishment of a complaints procedure
  • documentation and transparent reporting

Originally, this term comes from forestry. There, only as many trees were supposed to be harvested as were capable of regrowing. Sustainability concerns the balanced, conscious use of the environment and all naturally available resources.

In sustainability reporting, information about a company goes beyond the usual economic aspects to include ecology, ethics, and social aspects. Companies with more than 250 employees and revenues exceeding 40 million euros, or whose balance sheet totals more than 20 million euros, are required to compile a sustainability report.


Ecology, economy and social issues form the three pillars of sustainability in companies, organisations and states. All three pillars are considered equally important. Ecological sustainability is understood as a responsible use of natural resources that ideally does not take more out of the system than it is capable to reproduce. In addition to higher energy efficiency and the preferential use of renewable energies, this also includes the reduction of pollutants for the environment and the use of environmentally friendly materials.

Tonne-kilometres are kilometres travelled multiplied by the quantity of trade goods transported in tonnes.


The UN Climate Change Conference takes place annually. Since 2005, the conference has been supplemented by the meeting of the members of the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol was followed by the 21st UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, which established another treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the 21st UN Climate Change Conference in 2015 (COP 21), almost all the countries of the world signed a treaty with the Paris Agreement, according to which they want to make efforts to achieve the 1.5 degree target.

Companies can sign a carbon neutral shipment agreement with UPS. The UPS carbon neutral shipment option supports projects that offset emissions caused by the transportation of the shipment. These are projects such as reforestation, methane and landfill gas destruction and wastewater treatment that UPS has chosen to offset. The option is verified by Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS). In addition, the UPS carbon neutral process is certified by The CarbonNeutral Company.



Waste separation denotes a situation where different types of waste, which can be classified according to their types of recycling, are collected and recycled separately. This is also familiar from consumer households: as a rule, paper, glass, plastic and residual waste are separated from each other, collected in different bins by the local waste collection services, and then taken to the respective recycling sites.