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    Campus of Bielefeld University
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Sustainability Mission Statement for Bielefeld University

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Sustainability Mission Statement for download

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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 mission statement, we - the members of Bielefeld University - formulate our goals for a more sustainable university. The mission statement is the result of a participatory process that gave all university members the opportunity to name their goals for a more sustainable university.

At Bielefeld University, we understand sustainability as the preservation of our livelihoods and those of other living beings. This refers to present as well as future generations. We see planetary boundaries as the external constraints on our development. We recognise the danger of irreversibly exceeding tipping points in the earth system. We support the far-reaching climate policy and social transformation processes that counteract this danger. Furthermore, we consider sustainability as the basis of social coexistence. In doing so, we keep an eye on the necessary adaptations to the changed climatic conditions.

We want our university to be a showcase for sustainability in all areas. The mission statement therefore identifies goals in research, studies, teaching, campus life and operations. In this way, we want to translate our understanding of sustainability along ecological, economic and social dimensions into lived practice. We formulate the goals for a more sustainable university in line with the university's goals in research, studies and teaching as well as the university's cross-cutting tasks such as inclusion, diversity, equality, digitalisation, health and good cooperation. Our Sustainability Mission Statement is committed to the goals and values of the United Nations' "Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development" [1].

Where we come up against legal, economic, material, financial or systemic limits in the implementation of our goals, we work politically in regional and supra-regional exchange with other universities and relevant stakeholders to create the necessary framework conditions. This applies to projects in all areas.

We understand the implementation of the mission statement as a joint task, the success of which is supported by all university members. A continuous development process requires the commitment of all. We assume individual and collective responsibility in order to make the urgently needed contribution to a sustainable, future-oriented design of our university. As a university, we act as a role model for society, critically reflect on our basic cultural assumptions and dedicate ourselves to the task of accelerating the social transformation towards a sustainable way of life.

To achieve this, we set ourselves concrete sub-goals and develop a catalogue of measures. We use monitoring and controlling mechanisms to regularly record, manage and report on the measures implemented and the achievement of our sustainability goals.


We understand sustainability-oriented research as holistic and future-oriented research that contributes to a global balance in the interaction of humans with ecological, economic and social environments. It includes both basic and 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 carried out in all faculties in a diverse and innovative manner and is funded by third parties. In particular, we promote joint research between the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. In this way, we strengthen the understanding of complex interrelationships in sustainable thinking and action and develop approaches to solutions for a society oriented towards sustainability.

In the context of profile building, we create and design the appropriate institutional structures to initiate or deepen the dialogue on sustainability issues between different disciplines and groups in society and to promote innovative research projects and approaches.

We conduct research at Bielefeld University in the most resource-efficient and sustainable way possible. We sensitise all researchers and staff at Bielefeld University to the issue of sustainability in research and encourage them to design their research with sustainable development in mind. We attach importance to a global and local reference of our research and use our location in the region of East Westphalia-Lippe with its numerous medium-sized cities and diverse natural landscapes for researching and shaping the sustainable transformation of society. We involve students and employees as providers of ideas for research and support self-initiated research 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 advance the scientific and public discourse on sustainable development.

We want to give all researchers in the history of their academic qualification the opportunities to learn about, reflect on and apply ways of orienting their research practice towards sustainability. We sponsor researchers at all career stages with the aim of expanding their qualifications for future-oriented research. In this way, we enable students and researchers to sharpen their personal profiles in the sense of lifelong learning in the area of sustainability through further education and training. We are committed to a sustainable human resources system in research that reflects gender relations and the diversity of society.

Networked perception, thinking and action are among the core elements of sustainable and future-oriented university development. We promote exchange across disciplines and status groups at our university and thus the opportunity to develop project ideas and cooperations of sustainability-oriented research. We value transdisciplinarity by integrating citizens, businesses, non-governmental organisations and communities into our research where possible and appropriate. In national and international exchange, we network with other universities and develop political momentum to make sustainability-oriented research a central concern and funding priority in the research landscape.

Study & Teaching

Study and teaching play a central role in the transformation towards a society oriented towards sustainability and climate justice. Bielefeld University offers itself as a research and learning field for the necessary far-reaching climate policy and social transformation processes. Teaching staff and students benefit from the intensive exchange on sustainability. As a presence university, we conduct teaching as resource-efficiently and sustainably as possible.

We pursue a structural anchoring of the topic of sustainability in the curricula of the degree programmes. The university-wide offer, especially of courses related to sustainability, is being systematically developed and expanded - also with regard to non-eurocentric scientific and (inter-)cultural perspectives. The aim is for all students to come into contact with sustainability within the framework of their subject-specific cultural differences. Dedicated (inter- and intradisciplinary) study programmes expand the possibilities for individual profiling. The aim is to develop personal and social options for action. These options are taught in the respective subject context and in a highly interdisciplinary manner. Students are enabled to find creative and scientifically sound approaches to solutions - for example for the change towards climate justice. Together with their teaching staff, students deal with structural framework conditions of sustainability and the associated responsibility within the framework of a global claim to justice. This also raises awareness of the social and ecological effects of our actions or inactions.

In order to enable teaching staff to identify relevant sustainability topics and to integrate them into their teaching as well as to develop an understanding of sustainability, we are establishing a structured training programme. In addition, we are developing interdisciplinary programmes and exchange formats that stimulate and promote engagement with the topic of sustainability at various levels of academic qualification. We strive to build networks with other universities and colleges in order to jointly create more comprehensive offerings for all students. In doing so, courses with public relevance combine subject knowledge and everyday issues of social transformation and promote the students' perception of effectiveness. Through Open Educational Resources, we make education publicly accessible.

Campus life & operations

We are committed to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and want to make the contribution we can to achieving the 1.5 °C target [2]. We aim for balance sheet greenhouse gas neutrality [3] by 2035 and expect the state government to bear the responsibility for implementing and financing the necessary infrastructural adjustments. Under this condition, we aim 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.

We are committed at the political level to ensuring that the university's building fabric is refurbished to ambitious energy standards. New and replacement buildings will be constructed as resource-efficiently as possible with the available funds. The university's outdoor areas should increasingly be of high ecological quality and climate-adapted. We improve the microclimate and the quality of stay on the grounds and in the buildings. We use spaces and outdoor areas efficiently in terms of time and space.

We consistently deal with the identification and use of energy saving potentials. Wherever possible, we obtain renewable energy from suppliers who have been awarded an energy label recommended by the Federal Environment Agency. The use of our own renewable energy systems is examined and implemented as far as possible. We present our energy consumption in an easily understandable way, differentiated by type of energy.

We want to act in the spirit of the circular economy. To this end, we strive to reduce our resource consumption and the amount of waste produced on campus. In the future, we want to focus more on regular maintenance and repair in order to improve the useful life of equipment and materials as much as possible. We encourage their internal as well as external reuse and establish a practice of sharing. We recycle unusable equipment and materials where appropriate and possible. We reduce fresh water consumption and aim to use grey water and rainwater. We inform about and promote the necessary measures to achieve these goals.

We set criteria for sustainable procurement. We take into account the life cycle, manufacturing conditions, transport routes, flexible use and recyclability instead of a pure price comparison. To this end, we set criteria and targets, create institutional structures and advocate for conducive political framework conditions. We promote sustainable purchasing through product labelling and accompanying communication measures.

Through infrastructure and behaviour-changing measures, we contribute to increasing the share of the environmental network, i.e. walking, cycling and public transport, in the commuting behaviour of university employees to ideally at least 75% by 2030. We promote an electromobility-friendly design of the campus. We act in the spirit of greenhouse gas neutrality when employees travel on business and when students travel abroad, and raise awareness for the choice of sustainable travel options. We avoid short-haul flights and only take medium- and long-haul flights if the trip contributes significantly to cultivating international cooperation, research or teaching. Where reduction is impossible, compensation complements our plans.

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 increasingly used in procurement and the purchase of services. The consumption of drinking water from the tap will be made easier and more attractive. The use of reusable containers is promoted. We provide information to make developments transparent and accelerate them. We want to achieve these goals in particular in cooperation with the Studierendenwerk [Association for Student Affairs].

At Bielefeld University, people work and learn in a globally demanding and competitive environment. We design change processes not only transparently, comprehensibly and in a gender-appropriate manner, but also with consideration for existing resources. We establish knowledge management that addresses sustainability issues, encourage lifelong learning and promote sustainable awareness and commitment among all members of the university.

We also strengthen Green IT by exploiting potential for savings and efficiency gains in the procurement and current operation of systems, and provide extensive information on this with recommendations for action.

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 a future-oriented Bielefeld University.

Adopted in the Senate meeting on 05 July 2023 and in the Rectorate meeting on 11 July 2023.

Supplementary explanations
[1] The "Agenda 2030" contains objectives of the United Nations for a more ecologically, economically and socially sustainable world. The total of 17 goals (Sustainable Development Goals) were developed on the basis of 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 itself to limiting global warming to well below 2 °C, if possible to 1.5 °C, compared to pre-industrial levels.

[3] Greenhouse gas neutrality in the balance sheet means that the climate-impacting emissions recorded in the greenhouse gas balance sheet are avoided and reduced, as well as compensated for by the corresponding uptake 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), depending on data availability, such as upstream emissions attributable to commuting or business travel by university staff. With increasing data availability, the area of "Scope 3" is successively considered more comprehensively and corresponding measures are introduced "on top".

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