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Sustainability Mission Statement of Bielefeld University

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Sustainability Mission Statement for download

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If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact the Sustainability Office.

As part of our sustainability strategy, we have jointly developed a Sustainability Mission Statement for Bielefeld University. With short-, medium- and long-term goals, we want to pursue sustainable developments in different areas of the university. The Sustainability Mission Statement signals the willingness of the university members to dedicate themselves to the sustainable development of Bielefeld University. With the Sustainability Mission Statement, we give ourselves a guideline for action for future developments at Bielefeld University.

The participatory process took place until the end of 2022, giving all university members the opportunity to participate in the creation of the Sustainability Mission Statement and to contribute their ideas. On 5 July 2023, the Sustainability Mission Statement was approved by the Senate, and finally by the Rectorate on 11 July 2023. A drafting group will make changes and adjustments in the near future, which will be discussed again in the Senate and Rectorate in the winter semester.

The Sustainability Mission Statement is not a catalogue of measures for immediate implementation, but includes long-term goals. In the future, we want to prioritise these goals, compare them with other goals of the university, address conflicting goals and translate them into an ambitious catalogue of measures according to our possibilities.


In this statement, we - the members of Bielefeld University - formulate our goals for a more sustainable university, in relation to its core tasks in research and teaching and also to its operations and staff. The mission statement was developed in a participatory process that was open to all members of the university.

In our Sustainability Mission Statement, we are guided by the goals and values of the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development [1] and the Paris Climate Agreement [2]. This means that we as a university are also making our contribution to achieving the 1.5 degree target. This is because the planetary boundaries represent the outer limits of human development and there is a risk of irreversibly exceeding tipping points in the Earth system. Accordingly, sustainability aims to preserve our livelihoods and those of other living beings. As a university, we support the far-reaching climate policy and social transformation processes resulting from this situation. In this sense, we want our university to be a model of sustainability. The mission statement sets goals in research, studies, teaching, campus life and operations and shows all members of the university ways to translate these goals into practice. In doing so, we also endeavour to adapt to the changing climatic conditions in a sustainable manner and, as a university, participate in the development of innovative solutions for the necessary transformation efforts.

We regard sustainability as the basis for social interaction. This applies to both present and future generations. We therefore see sustainability as a cross-cutting task for the university. In implementing our sustainability goals, we coordinate with other cross-cutting university areas such as inclusion, diversity, equality, digitalisation, health, good cooperation and sustainable human resources management. Where we come up against legal, economic, material, financial or systemic limits in the implementation of our goals, we engage in regional and supra-regional dialogue with other universities and relevant stakeholders to create the necessary political framework conditions.

We see the implementation of the mission statement as a joint task, the success of which depends on and is supported by all members of the university. To achieve this, we set ourselves specific sub-goals and develop a catalogue of measures. We use monitoring and controlling mechanisms to record, manage and report regularly on progress in achieving our sustainability goals. When implementing our goals, we ensure that there are no greenwashing or rebound effects.

We take individual and collective responsibility in order to make the necessary contribution to a sustainable, future-oriented organisation of our universities. As a university, we act as a role model for society, critically reflect on our basic cultural assumptions and make our contribution to the social transformation towards a sustainable way of life.


We understand sustainability-orientated research as future-oriented research that is geared towards larger contexts and contributes to a global balance in the interaction of humans with ecological, economic and social environments. It includes basic research as well as applied research from all disciplines and is related to the areas of study and teaching as well as operations.

At Bielefeld University, research on sustainability topics is conducted in a variety of innovative ways in all Faculties. In particular, we promote joint research between the humanities, social sciences, technology, natural sciences and medicine. In this way, we strengthen the understanding of complex interrelationships in sustainable thinking and behaviour and develop solutions for a society geared towards sustainability.

In the context of profile development, we create and shape the appropriate conditions to initiate or deepen the dialogue on sustainability issues between different disciplines at the university and diverse groups in society and to sponsor innovative research projects and approaches.

We conduct research at Bielefeld University as resource-efficiently and sustainably as possible. We sensitise all researchers and employees at Bielefeld University to the issue of sustainability and encourage them to design their research with sustainable development in mind. We emphasise the global and local relevance of our research and use our location in the East Westphalia-Lippe region with its numerous medium-sized cities and diverse natural landscapes to research and shape the sustainable transformation of society. We involve students and employees as sources of ideas for research and support their own initiatives for research work on sustainability topics. By disseminating research results internally and externally in a target group-oriented and low-threshold manner, we increase their benefits and visibility for all members of society and promote scientific and public discourse on sustainable development.

During the history of their academic qualification, we offer our researchers the opportunity to familiarise themselves with, reflect on and pursue paths towards a sustainable orientation of their research practice. We support researchers at all career levels with the aim of developing qualifications for future-oriented research. In this way, we enable students and researchers to sharpen their personal profile in the sense of lifelong learning in the field of sustainability through further education and training.

Networked perception, thinking and action are among the core elements of sustainable and future-oriented university development. We promote cross-disciplinary and cross-status group exchange at our university and thus the opportunity to develop project ideas and collaborations for sustainability-oriented research. We value transdisciplinarity by integrating citizens, companies, non-governmental organisations and local authorities into our research where possible and appropriate. Through national and international exchange, we network with other universities and make a constructive contribution to ensuring that sustainability-oriented research becomes a central concern and funding priority in the research landscape.

Study & Teaching

Studying and teaching play a central role in the transformation towards a society orientated towards sustainability and climate justice. Bielefeld University offers itself as a field of reflection, research and learning for the necessary far-reaching climate policy and social transformation processes. Teaching staff, instructors, lecturers and students benefit from an intensive exchange on sustainability. As an on-campus university, we teach as resource-efficiently and sustainably as possible.

We pursue a structural anchoring of the topic of sustainability in teaching and learning. Our aim is to familiarise all students with interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, intercultural, transcultural and non-Eurocentric perspectives on sustainability within the framework of their subject-specific cultural characteristics. Targeted courses offered expand the possibilities for individual specialisation. Students are enabled to recognise and evaluate creative and scientifically sound solutions - for example for the transition to climate justice - and to develop options for action. Together with their teaching staff, they deal with the structural framework conditions of sustainability and the associated responsibility within the framework of a global claim to justice in appropriate contexts with the aim of raising awareness of the social, ecological and economic effects of our actions or inactions.

We enable teaching staff, instructors and lecturers to identify sustainability issues relevant to their teaching and to integrate these into their teaching as well as to develop an understanding of sustainability. In cooperation with other universities, we create more comprehensive programmes for all students and work politically to ensure that limiting requirements and regulations are adapted. Courses with a public focus combine specialised knowledge and everyday issues relating to social transformation and promote students' perception of effectiveness. We make education publicly available through open educational resources.

Operations & Campus Life

We aim to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality [3] in Bielefeld University's operations by 2035 and expect the state government to be responsible for implementing and financing the necessary infrastructural adjustments. Under this condition, we want to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 40% by 2025, 60% by 2027 and 82% by 2030 compared to the reference year 2019 [4]. This applies in particular to the areas of new construction, renovation and energy supply.

We are consistently working to identify and utilise potential energy savings. We source renewable energy from certified suppliers wherever possible. The use of our own systems to generate and utilise renewable energy is examined and implemented wherever possible. We present our energy consumption by energy type in an easily understandable way.

We also strengthen green IT by utilising potential savings and efficiency improvements in the procurement and current operation of systems and provide comprehensive information on this with recommendations for action.

We act in the spirit of the circular economy. To this end, we endeavour to reduce our consumption of resources and the amount of waste generated on campus. We prioritise regular maintenance and repair in order to improve the useful life of equipment and materials as much as possible. We promote their internal and external reuse and establish a practice of sharing. We recycle unusable equipment and materials where appropriate and possible. We strive to reduce fresh water consumption and are always looking for ways to use grey water and rainwater. We provide information about and promote the measures necessary to achieve these goals.

We define criteria for sustainable procurement. Instead of simply comparing prices, we take into account the life cycle, manufacturing conditions, transport routes, flexible use and recyclability. To this end, we are also committed to sponsoring a favourable political framework. We promote sustainable purchasing through product labelling and accompanying communication measures.

At a political level, we are committed to ensuring that the building fabric of the university is renovated in line with ambitious energy standards. We construct new and replacement buildings and pathways as resource-efficiently as we can with the resources available, also with a view to the areas to be sealed. The university's outdoor areas should increasingly be of high ecological quality and climate-adapted. We are improving the microclimate and the quality of life on the grounds and in the buildings. We utilise rooms and outdoor areas efficiently in terms of time and space, taking into account the applicable work and usage regulations.

Through infrastructure-related and behaviour-changing measures, we are helping to increase the proportion of environmentally friendly modes of transport, i.e. walking, cycling and public transport, in the commuting behaviour of university members to ideally at least 75% by 2030 and are engaging in direct dialogue with local stakeholders to this end. We promote an electromobility-friendly design of the campus. When employees travel on business and students travel abroad, we act in the interests of greenhouse gas neutrality and raise awareness of sustainable travel options. We avoid short-haul flights and make conscious and responsible decisions about the necessity and extent of medium- and long-haul flights in our respective areas of responsibility. Where reduction is impossible, our projects are complemented by compensation.

On our campus, we attach great importance to sustainable, resource-saving catering with increasingly healthy, plant-based, ecologically produced, regional and seasonal products. These criteria are to be applied increasingly in the procurement and purchasing of services. We support the consumption of drinking water from the tap. The use of reusable containers is encouraged. We provide information to make developments transparent and accelerate them. To achieve these goals, we cooperate in particular with the Studierendenwerk; however, these criteria also guide our cooperation with other providers. When planning and organising events, we ensure that they are implemented as resource-efficiently as possible.

At Bielefeld University, people work and learn in a globally demanding and competitive environment. We organise change processes not only in a transparent, comprehensible and gender-equitable way, but also with consideration for existing resources. We improve knowledge management, including on sustainability issues, encourage lifelong learning and promote awareness and commitment to sustainability among all members of the university.

We, the members of Bielefeld University, are committed to taking joint and long-term responsibility for achieving the goals of this mission statement. We do this through individual and collective action in order to make the best possible contribution to the preservation of our livelihoods and a sustainable Bielefeld University.

Adopted at the Senate meeting on 15 May 2024 and at the Rectorate meeting on 28 May 2024.

Supplementary Explanations

[1] The "Agenda 2030" contains United Nations goals for a more ecologically, economically and socially sustainable world. The total of 17 goals (Sustainable Development Goals) were based on the Millennium Development Goals and came into force on 1 January 2016 with a term of 15 years:

[2] At the 21st UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015, the international community committed to limiting global warming to well below 2 °C, if possible to 1.5 °C, compared to pre-industrial levels.

[3] Greenhouse gas neutrality means that the climate-impacting emissions recorded as part of greenhouse gas accounting are avoided and reduced and compensated for by the corresponding absorption elsewhere in order to counteract an increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere ("net zero emissions").

Bielefeld University uses the globally recognised "Greenhouse Gas Protocol" (GHG Protocol) for its accounting. In addition to the mandatory recording of all direct emissions from its own sources (Scope 1) and indirect emissions from the purchase of energy (Scope 2), Bielefeld University also records other indirect emissions (Scope 3), such as upstream emissions attributable to commuting or business trips by university members, depending on the availability of data. As more data becomes available, the "Scope 3" area will be successively analysed more comprehensively and appropriate measures introduced "on top".

[4] This goal encompasses all areas of Bielefeld University with the exception of the clinical areas of the Faculty of Medicine.

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