June 13, 2023
min reading

RSI 2023: How has the DAX Performed in Terms of Circularity?

How have the DAX companies performed in terms of circular economy and recycling? The Resourcify Sustainability Index Report 2023 will show you.

RSI 2023: How has the DAX Performed in Terms of Circularity?
Table of Contents

Up to 900 billion euros. This is the estimated "cost of climate change" by 2050 according to a study by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK) commissioned in February 2023. In order to reduce these costs, the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies is to be driven forward. Whilst this is absolutely essential and necessary, these efforts alone are not enough. A decisive approach to solving the problem is still being neglected - the circular economy. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation calculates that we can save 45% of emissions through circular resource use. By avoiding the need to re-produce products and by reusing the planet's already scarce resources, vast amounts of CO2 can be saved.

At which stage is the economy in the implementation of a circular system? Where do Germany's largest corporations stand on the topic of recycling and the circular economy?

We examined the sustainability indicators of the DAX companies last year and are looking at developments for the first time this year. In order to collect reliable figures within this context, we took another closer look at the yearly publications and sustainability reports of Germany's 40 largest companies. What emerged is the Resourcify Sustainability Index Report 2023, which you can download here.

The key insights summarised:

  • On average, Germany's largest companies recycle 69% of their generated waste, an increase of 13% compared to last year.
  • 25% of the DAX companies still do not provide any information relating to their waste in the reports we have analysed, nor do they provide any information when asked.
  • "Circular economy" is the most frequently used buzzword around circularity in annual reports, overtaking "recycling" as the most frequent buzzword in 2022.
  • RWE (4,542,000 t), BASF (2,200,000 t) and Bayer (1,038,000 t) produce the most waste and have low to medium recycling rates (16%, 47% and 54% respectively).

No Waste Figures for 25% of DAX Companies in Germany

In the course of our research this year, we again found that companies do not disclose numerous sustainability indicators such as waste figures or recycling rates in their annual reports. Just like last year, 25%, i.e. a total of 10 of the 40 largest companies in Germany, do not disclose waste figures in their annual or sustainability reports or when requested for such information. Considering the upcoming changes in the area of the circular economy brought about by the new CSRD updates, it is high time for these 10 DAX-listed companies in particular to seriously address the implementation of sustainability regulations. The first step is to collect and report the key performance indicators in their annual reports.

31% of Waste Generated is Not Recycled

On average, the companies surveyed recycle 69% of the waste they produce, which is an increase of 13% compared to 2022 (61%). At the same time, however, it is noticeable that the amount of waste produced by many companies increased significantly last year. Without the data of the ten companies that do not provide information on their waste and recycling figures, this would conservatively be about 4 million tonnes of recyclables per year that do not find their way back into the value chain.

Circular Economy is the Topic Most Frequently Mentioned by the DAX 40

In order to understand which measures the companies discuss in their annual reports, we defined keywords around the topic "circular economy". We chose "recycling", "circular economy", "recovery" and "waste management". Last year, "recycling" was the most frequent buzzword; this year it landed in second place behind "circular economy". The two companies VW (recycling rate: 95 %) and Covestro (recycling rate: 77 %) talk most often about the circular economy.

Comparability Thanks to the Resourcify Sustainability Index

In the course of our research, we were able to find a multitude of publicly available data. To enable comparability between companies over the years, we have combined all of the researched metrics around circular economy into one index - the Resourcify Sustainability Index (RSI). As the companies are active in different sectors, the index is almost entirely based on relative figures in order to establish a certain degree of comparability. The composition of the RSI and the standardisation of the key figures made for this purpose allows the measures of the companies to be evaluated at a glance. An important part of the Resourcify Sustainability Index is the recycling rate of the companies. For example, BMW, despite producing 818.387 tonnes of waste, manages to perform best alongside SAP (due to the industry, SAP produces "only" 212 tonnes of waste) with a recycling rate of 99%. In the overall RSI index, Volkswagen, Zalando and SAP perform best because the companies pay attention to the implementation of circularity in the annual reports with the stated measures, use many related buzzwords and have good recycling rates.

For a more in-depth understanding, it is recommended to take a closer look at the individual key figures. You can do all of this in our free report. Download it here.

At a Glance: This is How Sustainable Germany's Largest Companies Are


The data obtained from the key figures serve as the basis for the index figures and were also recorded in the form of two BCG matrices in which not only the RSI but also other variables such as company revenue and the number of employees were visualised. As a result, the analysis illustrates which DAX companies perform best in the areas of sustainability, waste management and circular economy. The quadrants are named as follows according to their sustainability efforts according to the RSI combined with the revenue level: Green Champion, Sustainable Pioneer, Rookie and Up-and-Comer. For deeper insights and results from our matrix, our advanced report is essential. You can download it here.

"As we look at the recycling figures of the DAX companies for the second time in a row, this allows us to draw conclusions about developments in the companies within the last twelve months. Here it is encouraging to see that the recycling rate of the DAX companies has increased by 13 % on average compared to the previous year. In addition, planned measures to promote a circular economy are taking on greater significance in the company reports of many businesses. The positive trend should now be supported by the legislature through new laws. For example, thermal recovery, i.e. burning waste, should no longer be counted as recycling." 
- Gary Lewis, CEO and Co-Founder, Resourcify

Study Methodology

The aim of this analysis was to determine which DAX companies perform best in the areas of sustainability, waste management and circular economy. All information and data of the companies were taken from the current corporate or sustainability reports, depending on availability, through a quantitative content analysis. As there is automatically a higher waste production depending on the industry, different categories around sustainability were considered, which are included in the RSI with different weights. More detailed information on the methodology and evaluation can be found in the detailed report.

Gary Lewis
Gary Lewis
Co-founder and CEO

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