Sustainability: International guidelines and standards for companies 4 minutes spent reading

Sustainability: International guidelines and standards for companies

Stephanie Dirnbacher-Krug
Als selbstständige Journalistin übermittelt Stephanie Dirnbacher-Krug für voestalpine komplexe Themen einfach und verständlich. Zu ihren thematischen Schwerpunkten zählen Wirtschaft, Recht sowie Gesundheit und Nachhaltigkeit.

What ecological and social rules do companies have to follow? And what sustainability standards apply in business?

When it comes to promoting environmental and social responsibility in the economy, the European Union is putting its money where its mouth is: it is currently working on a number of measures to tighten up companies’ sustainability obligations. Here is an overview of the existing and planned EU rules for sustainability in business:

For decades, voestalpine has been regarded as the industry's environmental and efficiency benchmark

For decades, voestalpine has been regarded as the industry’s environmental and efficiency benchmark


  • NFI-Directive/CSRD
    Since 2017, companies have been required to report on their goals and measures related to social and environmental matters, employee and human rights protection, and the fight against corruption and bribery. This is stipulated in the Non-Financial Information Directive (NFI Directive). In Austria, the NFI Directive is implemented in the Sustainability and Diversity Improvement Act (NaDiVeG). The directive is currently being revised. As of 2023, it will be known as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and will set new standards for sustainability reporting, extending the reporting scope.
  • Emissions trading
    The European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) regulates greenhouse gas emissions from major industrial enterprises, the energy sector, and aviation. These companies must buy emissions allowances for their CO2 emissions. There is a limited number of allowances for each trading period, creating an upper limit for total emissions.
  • EU taxonomy
    Since January 1, 2022, listed companies in the EU are obliged to classify and publish their economic activities as per the Taxonomy Regulation. They must classify their economic activities according to environmental sustainability and disclose the respective share of turnover, capital expenditure, and operational expenditure.
EU Taxonomy & EU Supply Chain Act

EU Taxonomy & EU Supply Chain Act

  • EU Supply Chain Act
    The EU Supply Chain Act requires large companies to prevent their supply chains from having any negative impact on human rights and the environment. They must implement appropriate preventive measures and take immediate corrective action in the event of violations.
"The requirements for sustainability reporting are becoming increasingly demanding."
Claudia K., Head of Corporate Responsibility
Claudia K., Head of Corporate Responsibility

Claudia K., Head of Corporate Responsibility

International standards for companies

Beyond the mandatory requirements, there are numerous standards for sustainable action and sustainability reporting.

  • GRI Guidelines
    The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines are an internationally recognized standard for preparing a sustainability report. The GRI guidelines contain the most important principles, categories, and required disclosures for reporting. They are also the basis for NaDiVeG reporting and are used for the voestalpine Corporate Responsibility Report.
  • SDG: Sustainable Development Goals
    It is now customary for companies, especially large internationally active companies, to align their business activities with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs cover many topics ranging from poverty reduction to ecosystem protection. We actively contribute to twelve of the SDGs.
voestalpine: Sustainable Development Goals

voestalpine: Sustainable Development Goals

  • UN Global Compact
    The UN Global Compact is a United Nations initiative for an inclusive and sustainable economy. Companies that participate in the UN Global Compact agree to support ten principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption. voestalpine has been a member of the UN Global Compact since 2013.


UN Global Compact

UN Global Compact

Certification for sustainable steel production

The Linz-based Steel Division is one of the first steel companies worldwide to have been officially certified as a sustainable production site by the non-profit organization ResponsibleSteel. The prerequisite for certification was to fulfill 200 criteria which included the responsible procurement of raw materials, reducing carbon emissions, and the management of labor and human rights.

International standards not only fulfill the legally binding requirements, they also offer valuable guidance for our sustainable actions. Our Corporate Responsibility Report is prepared in line with the GRI guidelines. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide an essential framework when developing our sustainability strategy. In our business activities, we actively contribute to achieving twelve of the SDGs. We participate in the UN Global Compact and are thereby obliged to publish an annual progress report and provide information on the ten principles of the UN Global Compact.


Stephanie Dirnbacher-Krug