Statutes of the Max Planck Sustainability Network have been negotiated by the Interim Steering Committee on December 17, 2019. Additional changes have been approved by the network on 28 May, 2020.

German version / PDF Version

The bilingual PDF version can be found in the network's ownCloud via this public link.


A vocabulary list with terms included in the statutes can be found here.


The Sustainability Groups of the Max Planck Institutes and other institutional entities of the Max Planck Society (in the following statutes abbreviated as ‘MPIs’) aim at establishing a Sustainability Network to foster communication among themselves as well as with the body of the Max Planck Society (MPG).

§ 1 Name

In German context the official name of the network is “Max-Planck-Nachhaltigkeits-Netzwerk”. In English context the official name is “Max Planck Sustainability Network“.

§ 2 Language

The network strives to operate bilingually. For reasons of practicality and maximal inclusion, the General Meeting (§ 5.2.1) will be held in English. In order to keep language barriers as low as possible, the network endeavours to use simple English, especially at the General Meeting, and to explicitly allow and support the translation of German contributions during the General Meeting. English is also chosen as the reference language for these statutes.

The network endeavours to use non-binary, gender-inclusive language. In German a neutral form is chosen if possible (e.g.: “Das Direktorium sowie alle Mitglieder und Studierende sind zu dem Vortrag eingeladen.“), otherwise the generic femininum with gender asterisk (e.g.: “Unsere Direktor*innen wurden dazu angehalten, jede einzelne Mitarbeiter*in in ihrem Arbeitskreis zu unterrichten.“), and in English the ‘singular they’ (e.g.: “Maybe ask your managing director if they are interested in supporting us.“).

The network omits to mention academic titles in (among other things) written salutations, name tags and presentations in order to promote dialogue at eye level.

§ 3 Objectives

The main objectives of the network are to optimize the operation of research and administration in the MPG towards a more exemplary and sustainable ecosystem as well as facilitate communication among local Sustainability Groups.

§ 3.1 Internal Communication

The primary objective of the network is to improve communication between Sustainability Groups (§ 5.1.1). Apart from the General Meeting, this is to be achieved mainly through the work of the Working Groups (§ 5.2.5).

§ 3.2 External Communication

The Sustainability Network is based on the self-conception of the representation of interests within the MPG. Its goal is to improve the work and function of the MPG in terms of sustainability while taking into account the freedom of basic research required by the MPG.

§ 4 Participation

The Sustainability Network explicitly invites all MPG-affiliated individuals to participate. Within these statutes, all persons who have autonomous access to MPG resources are regarded as MPG-affiliated and can take part in the Sustainability Network by participating in a local Sustainability Group as defined in § 5.1.

§ 5 Organizational Structure

§ 5.1 Local Structure

§ 5.1.1 Sustainability Groups

Following the high level of autonomy of the MPIs within the MPG, the organizational structure of the local Sustainability Groups as well as their work in accordance with the network goals is only subjected to minimal requirements in order to participate in the election procedures of the Sustainability Network. Apart from that, Sustainability Groups are not submitted to any restrictions or regulations from the Sustainability Network. A Sustainability Group is a general community of interest within one or more MPIs, which is open to all MPG-affiliated individuals as defined in § 4 of the MPIs to which this Sustainability Group is affiliated. Its goal is to optimize the operation of research and administration of its own MPIs as well as the whole MPG in terms of sustainability in consideration of the necessary freedom of fundamental research within the framework of the MPG. A new local Sustainability Group can be established at an MPI where no group is yet existing by holding elections according to § 5.1.2 and communicating the election result to the “Elections & Research” Working Group.

§ 5.1.2 Local Chair

Following § 6.1, the Sustainability Groups host an election of a Local Chair at least annually (preferably in the first quarter of each year, but not later than three months before the General Meeting – individual exceptions can be granted at the discretion of the Steering Committee). The Local Chair should consist of at least one person and should not contain more persons than the number of MPIs involved in the respective Sustainability Group.

§ 5.2 Central Structure

§ 5.2.1 General Meeting

Once a year, the Sustainability Network organises a General Meeting to which initially all Local Chairs and then all interested members of the local Sustainability Groups are invited. The invitation must be sent out at least six weeks before the start of the General Meeting. The main objective of the General Meeting is to determine the strategic development of the Sustainability Network and to link the Sustainability Groups together. A further goal of the General Meeting is science communication through lectures from experts on the subject of sustainability. The General Meeting will be chaired by the Steering Committee.

§ 5.2.2 Steering Committee

A Steering Committee is elected annually by the Local Chairs in accordance with § 6.2.1 in order to represent the interests of the Sustainability Network within the MPG and, within the network goals, to collaborate and communicate with stakeholders outside of MPG in sustainability-relevant topics. The Steering Committee is responsible for implementing the strategic development of the Sustainability Network approved by the General Meeting. In addition, the Steering Committee is obliged to inform the local Sustainability Groups about progress and decisions of the Sustainability Network as well as to ensure the existence of the permanent Working Groups mentioned in § 5.2.4.

The Steering Committee consists of five persons, with at best at least one person from each of the three personnel groups ‘Scientific Personnel’, ‘Technical Personnel’ and ‘Administrative Personnel’. The classification of the candidates into the categories takes place at their own discretion before the election.

The Steering Committee is supported in its work by the Advisory Board and the Working Groups.

§ 5.2.3 Advisory Board

The Advisory Board is a committee set up by the Sustainability Network, consisting of former members of the Steering Committee as well as additional individuals and provides technical advice and organisational support for the Steering Committee on request. The accession of new members to the Advisory Board is ratified by the General Meeting for a period of three years. The selection of additional candidates is the responsibility of the Steering Committee; this selection, ratified by a majority vote of the Steering Committee, must be published via the official channels of the Sustainability Network at the latest with the invitation to the General Meeting and requires a justification. After three years, the function as member of the Advisory Board ends unless the member is being re-elected by the General Meeting.

In individual cases, the Advisory Board may request the early removal of an Advisory Board member, for which it requires a two-third majority and the approval of the Steering Committee.

§ 5.2.4 Working Groups

The Working Groups form the heart of the Sustainability Network. They implement the strategic development defined by the General Meeting. Each Working Group is subject to a responsible person who is appointed for one year at the Annual General Meeting. Only exception is the “Network & Report” Working Group, which is headed by the Steering Committee. For this, the Steering Committee may internally appoint a Chief Executive Member. In addition, members of the Steering Committee as well as the Advisory Board may only chair a Working Group if no person without a further function is available. All MPG-affiliated individuals as defined in § 4 are invited to participate in the Working Groups. All Working Group leaders report regularly to the Steering Committee.

The following four Working Groups will be established on a permanent basis:

  • Working Group “General Meeting“ (Organization of the General Meeting incl. invitation of the speakers)
  • Working Group “Network & Report“ (Improvement of the infrastructure between the Sustainability Groups and preparation of a regular Sustainability Report)
  • Working Group “Elections & Research“ (Execution of the elections, engagement with sustainability research, and preparation of a proposal list of potential speakers for the General Meeting)
  • Working Group „PR“ (Public image of the Sustainability Network)

In addition, further Working Groups may be set up by the Steering Committee or by majority vote from the Sustainability Network. Informal Working Groups can be set up anytime and be formally acknowledged in retrospect by the Steering Committee or by majority vote from the Sustainability Network. The permanent Working Groups referred to above may be divided into two or more Working Groups by decision of the General Meeting if necessary.

§ 5.3 Terms of Office

The terms of office of the members of the Advisory Board, the Working Group leaders, and the Local Chairs are decided on an individual basis. The term of office of the Steering Committee usually begins on 1 July and ends on 30 June of the following year, but not before a successor has been elected.

If a member of the Steering Committee leaves office before the end of their term of office, the Working Group “Elections & Research” will cast an online vote following the general procedure of § 6.2.1 to determine the successor. This shall take place within one month of the departure of the predecessor and shall be announced through the official channels of the Sustainability Network. Should a member of the Steering Committee lose the status as MPG-affiliated individual as defined in § 4 during their term of office, the Steering Committee will attempt to decide on the individual case before the resignation of the affected person. The resignation of a local Chair or a Working Group leader must also be compensated for by new elections to the respective Sustainability or Working Groups.

All elected members of the Sustainability Network commit themselves to an appropriate transfer of knowledge to their successors. The outgoing Steering Committee trains the newly elected Steering Committee from the moment of election until the change of office. At least one member of the retiring Steering Committee shall be admitted to the Advisory Board in accordance with § 6.2.2.

§ 6 Elections and Votes

Within the Sustainability Network there are different forms of elections for different positions.

§ 6.1 Local: Election of Local Chairs

The Sustainability Network interprets itself as a grassroots network. In line with the high degree of autonomy of the individual MPIs established within the MPG, the central guidelines for the implementation of the local work or the election of the Local Chairs are kept as low as possible within the goals of the network with the intention of ensuring the democratic legitimacy of the network. The only requirements are the seamless documentation and communication of the election results to the “Elections & Research” Working Group.

In the event of justified discrepancies, the Steering Committee reserves the right to cancel an election. A best practice recommendation for the election of the Local Chairs is summarized in Appendix 1.

§ 6.2 Central

Elections at the central level of the Sustainability Network mainly include elections to central offices and ratification of amendments to these Statutes. The following elections are conducted by the Local Chairs of the local Sustainability Groups and are conducted anonymously and electronically in compliance with the legal data protection provisions as well as the data protection provisions of the MPG. Based on the overall structure of the Network as well as the whole MPG, each MPI holds one voting right. Hence, Chairs representing more than one MPI have a number of votes equal to the number of MPI’s they represent.

§ 6.2.1 Election of the Steering Committee

The Steering Committee is elected once a year in accordance with § 5.2.2. The election shall take place at the General Meeting. An adaptation of the “Majority Judgement” is defined as the election system:

All MPG-affiliated individuals as defined in § 4 can run for election. Candidates for the Steering Committee shall opt for one of the three personnel categories at their own discretion before being elected:

  • Scientific personnel
  • Technical personnel
  • Administrative personnel

To cover each of the three categories, at least one candidacy from each personnel category is desirable. Candidates can give reasons for their candidacy; academic titles and professional position within the MPG beyond these categories should not be mentioned. A gross violation may, at the discretion of the current Steering Committee, lead to exclusion from the election.

Afterwards all Local Chairs can express their opinion on each candidate by assigning them none (abstention) or one of the following mentions:

  • Excellent
  • Good
  • Tolerable
  • Insufficient
  • Unacceptable (Rejection)

In order to ensure that all the categories of personnel are represented by at least one person, three candidates associated to the best median mention in each category as well as the two candidates with the best remaining medians across all categories are selected. These five elected members form the new Steering Committee. If two or more candidates have the same medians mention, median votes are progressively removed from candidates with the same median mentions until the median mentions become different and thus result in a decision.

The election will be conducted by the Working Group “Elections & Research” in close coordination with the current Steering Committee. Election results must be made publicly available. If the election is not held at the General Meeting, the current Steering Committee, in close coordination with the “Elections & Research” Working Group, is obliged to present the exact procedure of the election at the General Meeting and to have it ratified by the General Meeting via an informal vote in accordance with § 6.3.1.

§ 6.2.2 Election of the Advisory Board

The Advisory Board elections are held after the election of the new Steering Committee. There are three types of candidates who can be appointed to the Advisory Board for three years each:

  1. Ordinary candidacy: Members of the outgoing Steering Committee who have not been re-elected may stand for election to the Advisory Board.
  2. Extraordinary candidacy: As described in § 5.2.3, the current Steering Committee may propose (with scientific justification) individuals for extraordinary admission to the Advisory Board.
  3. Re-election: After three years members of the Advisory Board can be re-elected. There are no restrictions on how often a person can be re-elected.

The Local Chairs can cast their votes to the candidates in the following categories:

  • For
  • Abstention
  • Against

In order to be admitted to the Advisory Board, two conditions must be fulfilled for the candidate:

  1. More than 25% vote for admission (the first quartile is "For")
  2. Less than 25% vote against admission (the third quartile is not "Against")

If both conditions are met, the candidate is admitted to the Advisory Board for a period of three years. If one or more of the conditions are not met, the candidate is not admitted.

§ 6.2.3 Ratification of New Statutes

The Steering Committee can create change proposals for these Statutes. The proposed changes must be communicated to the Local Chairs at least two weeks before the start of the General Meeting. The amendments must be discussed at the General Meeting. At the General Meeting, the proposals may be amended by informal voting in accordance with § 6.3.1 at the request of a person present at the General Meeting. In order to accept the amendments, a two-third majority of the Local Chairs entitled to vote is required.

§ 6.2.4 Election Representation of the Chair

If a Chair is unable to attend the General Meeting, the voting right can be transferred to a proxy by a written authorization. In addition to their own voting right, each Chair present at the General Meeting is entitled to vote with no more than one transferred voting right.

§ 6.3 Informal Votes and Elections

The Informal Votes consist of the votes on motions proposed by the General Meeting and the election of the Working Group leaders. All members of the General Meeting are entitled to participate in the Informal Votes. Informal Votes can be conducted verbally or by show of hands.

§ 6.3.1 Votes on Motions

At the discretion of the Steering Committee, an Informal Vote may be held immediately on a motion submitted by a member of the General Meeting. A successful proposal requires a simple majority of the votes of all members present at the General Meeting, in which case the proposal must be accepted. A motion may not be used to circumvent larger votes.

§ 6.3.2 Election of Working Group Leaders

With the exception of the “Network & Report” Working Group, the members of each Working Group shall conduct an Informal Vote to elect the leader of that group. Each election requires a simple majority of the votes of the members of the group. The result is reported to the Steering Committee in order to be valid.

§ 7 Entry into Force

These Statutes will come into force the day after their publication through the communication channels of the Sustainability Network, after they have been discussed with the Sustainability Network and approved by the majority of the members of the Interim Steering Committee.

Negotiated by the Interim Steering Committee, December 17, 2019.

Appendix 1 - Election of the Executive Board: Basic Conditions and Practical Recommendations

Basic conditions

The election of the local chairs of a sustainability group must meet the following conditions:

  • Compliance with the legal and MPG-internal data protection regulations.
  • democratic
  • Employees who are affiliated with several Max Planck Institutions should decide before voting at which MPI they wish to be eligible to vote.
  • Transparent procedure (procedure comprehensible for the steering committee).
  • Announcement of the election results
    • by email to the central Election Team of the MPSN (
      • Names of persons in the local election commission (if any)
      • Name(s) of the newly elected executive committee
      • Date of assumption of office (term of office: 1 calendar year from acceptance of election)
      • Assurance of the conduct of the election in accordance with our statutes
    • Updating of the own member profile by the elected chair
    • Updating the information on the sustainability wiki (including existing sub-pages, if applicable) by the local sustainability group
Active and passive suffrage

In principle, the right ot vote for a chair and to be elected as a chair can be defined as follows (taking into account § 4 of our statutes, see above):

  1. All members of the respective institution can elect the local chair or be elected as local chair.
  2. Only members of the local sustainability groups can elect the local chair or be elected as local chair.

The steering committee of the MPSN recommends option 1, however the local sustainability group can also choose option 2.

More details

The design of the further details of the election process is also left to the sustainability groups. The steering committee of the MPSN, however, recommends:

  • Establish an electoral commission with two people who are not themselves candidates.
  • Call for election and candidature with announcement of the time and place of the election as well as a contact of the election committee at least two weeks before the election in a central place (bulletin board) or by circular email.
  • Period of at least three working days for the election
  • Electronic or analogue voting procedure
  • Anonymous voting
  • Should a Board member leave office prematurely, a new election shall be arranged. This shall also be the case if a Board member loses the affiliate status according to § 4 or leaves the represented MPI for more than 4 months.

If needed for support, the Steering Committee or the Central Election Commission of the MPSN can be contacted.

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