Environment, economy, society

The Kölner Studierendenwerk is geared toward an intact environment, which is the basis for economic, social and cultural development. The topic of "sustainability" finds its home with us in many places: from the new Werks-Bowl in the gastronomy to the BAföG e-files to the home office. You can find out which measures have already been adopted by our Sustainability Commission, how they are shaping up and what their current status are here on this page.



These are our successes on the way to more sustainability + outlook on what we are still working on.


Student financing

Student financing

Implementation of e-files // Digital BAföG file

Measure: In recent years, approximately 14,000 applications for benefits under the BAföG, which are recorded using a computerized procedure, have been received annually at the Werk. The BAföG files are maintained with several, usually one-year, approval periods. Due to legal requirements, each approval period contains at least 50 pages of information. On average, 600 files are created per employee per year, 50 cases per month. Due to the possibility of delivery by e-mail and through the additional application portal BAföG-Digital, the applications as well as all correspondence outgoing from the applicants, including all attachments, must be printed out beforehand at Student Financing and added to the funding file. For more than a year, there has been a considerable increase in the number of printing tasks.

The implementation of a digital BAföG file would therefore save a considerable amount of paper. In addition, employees can access the e-files regardless of their location. This is an important contribution to enabling home offices and more mobile working.

Another advantage of the digital BAföG file is archiving. All employees in the student finance department can view and process the files; archiving and transporting them to a remote location and returning them on request is no longer necessary. This will eliminate the need for annual archiving or storage space and the transport by van of approximately 15,000 files in the future.

Current status: The programming of the file and the associated archive is largely complete. Only minor improvements are still being made as required. After a long approval process, the district government has approved our in-house scanning process and also the scanning of the file inventory by a service provider - the selection process including test scanning was already carried out in February 2021. Incoming mail for the Gummersbach branch office is already being digitized and forwarded to employees. Scanning of the inventory files will begin at the end of November. In this phase of the project, double file management will still be used; in addition to the e-file, the paper file will continue to be used. In the first quarter of 2022, processing in the external office is to be converted and carried out exclusively digitally.

Internal Service - Personnel

Internal Service - Personnel

Increase the home office quota

Measure: In the future, more employees at the Werk should be able to work from home. This promotes the compatibility of family and career, relieves the traffic infrastructure and reduces traffic-related CO2 emissions.     

Current status: In the past year, the home office rate increased sharply to 60%. However, this is a result of the Corona pandemic in particular. The rate is calculated from all employees who have a desktop workplace. Employees without a desktop workplace, e.g. production employees from gastronomy, are not included.

Internal Service - Purchasing

Internal Service - Purchasing

Development of sustainable purchasing guidelines

Measure: Sustainable purchasing guidelines for food/non-food purchasing are to be developed and established. Social or ecological aspects have not played a systematic role in our procurement processes to date and this shall change by adapting the procurement regulations accordingly.

Current status: Internal Service Purchasing submitted a proposal to the Executive Board in the second quarter of 2021 to modify the Procurement Ordinance, which has been approved and applied in the meantime. This concerns, for example, the price requests for copying paper as well as meat from species-appropriate animal farming from the company Neuland.

Supplier and manufacturer ratings

Measure: Manufacturer and supplier assessments regarding sustainability procedures are to be included in the guidelines. Manufacturers and suppliers are asked to submit their own sustainability concepts to the Werk. These in-house sustainability concepts are evaluated on a scale of 1-6 together with other criteria that are important for the supply (e.g. delivery reliability). All documents and concepts received from manufacturers and suppliers are filed in folders that can be viewed by the relevant departments. The aim of this measure is to proactively request data from manufacturers and suppliers and make it visible to our employees. This applies above all to suppliers who supply the Werk directly.

Current status: The supplier and manufacturer evaluation, which was proposed by our purchasing department, has been implemented since 2021 and is carried out in an enterprise resource planning system (TL 1) as well as in a publicly accessible folder that can be viewed by the demand centers. Currently, the supplier evaluation is still limited to the collection of sustainability concepts, of suppliers and manufacturers. Due to the pandemic and in view of the purchasing portal (EK-Portal) of the Studierendenwerke NRW, we are also currently developing an evaluation matrix. This will evaluate the economic, social and ecological criteria. The aim is to carry out the evaluation together with the gastronomy and then to select the number of suppliers required in accordance with the procurement regulations to carry out the procurement of the individual products via the EK portal.

At the beginning of 2023, there will also be a change that will evaluate the reasons for complaints in the area of food ordering. In the year 2022, the reasons for complaints (e.g. missing goods) will be entered by the establishments so that we can subsequently evaluate the reliability of deliveries. Due to the effects of the pandemic and the disrupted supply chains caused by the Ukraine crisis, it remains to be seen to what extent this evaluation will be meaningful. 


Minimize delivery stops

Measure: In the tendering process of the food/non-food sector, delivery stops are to be optimized. The aim of the measure is to improve and minimize delivery stops by closely monitoring them, i.e. how often the Werk was supplied by suppliers in a given period of time. The delivery stops are to be managed more strategically and cost-effectively: On the one hand, we relieve road traffic by delivering less frequently; on the other hand, we expect the suppliers of the Werk to minimize their costs.

Current status: In the future, this is to be done under the leadership of our purchasing department in coordination with the gastronomy. The delivery stops are to be controlled by a key figure from purchasing in the next few years. Due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic, the Ukraine crisis and the lack of skilled workers, reduced shipping days and minimum order quantities are currently common practice. In the future, it will be necessary to transfer this practice to a new "normal". This has already been coordinated for the first time between the gastronomy and Internal Service - Purchasing.

Increase eco-paper share

Measure: The plant's business paper is to be switched to certified (" Blauer Engel") paper in the short term. The "Blauer Engel" paper consists of 100% recycled paper. Further information on the " Blauer Engel" seal can be found here: https://www.blauer-engel.de/de.

Current status: The copying paper has been changed to 98% rec. paper. Sampling of recycled towel paper is currently in progress. Switching postage envelopes to rec. envelopes is to be implemented next year (2023).

Development of recycled paper content in the Werk:

Internal Service - Facility Management

Internal Service - Facility Management

Expansion of photovoltaic capacities

Measure: In order to increase the share of renewable energy in the Werk, it must be checked where and to what extent we can place photovoltaic systems on our real estate. The current system capacity (40kWp) is to be doubled by 2023. (Budget € 120,000)

Current status: In order to be able to place photovoltaic systems, special criteria such as ownership and the technical requirements must be taken into consideration. Therefore, all locations where the Werk obtains electricity directly from suppliers were initially included. This is currently a total of 47 locations. After checking the feasibility, 20 locations remain to be considered.

The following points are to be checked on these during a local inspection: 

  1. Shading situation
  2. Installation possibilities
  3. Structure and condition of the existing roof construction
  4. Use of energy storage systems

In the next step, the load-bearing capacity of the ceiling, wind force and fastening system must be analyzed by a structural engineer.

Green electricity mix

Measure: The share of renewable electricity purchased directly from suppliers, set at a minimum of 50% in the procurement process, is to be increased to 100%.

Current status: the measure has been implemented and electricity from renewable sources has been put out to tender for all supplier offices; delivery will take place from 01.01.2022.



Support for recycling // Recycling of IT hardware

Measure: The IT department works with an external partner, AfB ("Work for People with Disabilities"), to recycle old IT hardware, e.g., user-related IT components such as desktop PCs, notebooks, smartphones and IT infrastructure such as servers, routers and switchers. In the first step, the IT hardware to be scrapped is collected from us. In the second step, the partner company AfB collects the IT hardware and takes care of the recycling: the used business IT is taken over, deleted in a certified manner, refurbished and remarketed. Equipment that can no longer be marketed is dismantled and professionally recycled. The process is environmentally friendly. The company also operates barrier-free: people with and without disabilities work hand in hand.

Current status: The measure has been implemented.

Corporate Communications

Corporate Communications

Advertising medium more and more paperless

Measure: Corporate Communications (Ukom) at the Werk plans and manages the digitization of various advertising materials. These include all departmental flyers (e.g. the student finance flyer), Studying in Cologne (SiK for short), advertising materials for the first-semester welcome and universal mini-flyers. The information will be posted on our website and social media channels in the future. A planned universal mini-flyer (working title "beer mat"), which we can use at first-semester welcomes and trade fairs, would then refer to our online offering. (cross-media via QR code). The advertising materials also include giveaways that are handed out at university events and trade fairs, for example. Here, the offer is severely limited and restricted exclusively to sustainable products.

Current status: Paper almost completely disappears for the departmental advertising flyers: paper consumption dropped by 76%. Ukom has canceled all flyers, the flyers were already on the website as PDF files before. Currently there are no department flyers and no SiK, a separate site is planned for SiK. The first semester welcome was accompanied by a landing page on which all relevant information were presented in a clear form.


Production of sustainability tutorials for students and employees

Measure: Sustainability is not just an organizational or abstract issue. We ourselves can behave more sustainably or less sustainably. So it does not only concern the company - the Werk - but our own personal behaviors. There is a lack of descriptive explanations on how to be sustainable in everyday study or work. For these reasons, Corporate Communications has proposed to produce and publish tutorials on sustainability. In this way, we reach not only our employees, but also the students.

Current status: In August 2021, the first two tutorials were published. The topics were the production of a plastic-free trash bag and the beeswax cloth - an alternative to cling film. Further videos are planned and will be produced in 2022.

Daycare center

Daycare center

Include sustainability in the educational concept of the daycare center

Measure: Various sustainability measures are integrated in the Werks daycare centers: Among other things, toys are made from everyday materials (e.g., balls or buttons are filled into used juice bottles or homemade plug-in cans) or from objects that are actually no longer usable (e.g., the St. Martin's lanterns were made from "garbage"). When purchasing new toys or furniture, the aspect of sustainability is taken into account. In addition, the children are taught sustainable behavior through play, e.g. waste separation or - in two kindergartens with their own compost - food composting.  In two daycare centers with their own high-beds, the children also learn how to plant vegetables, herbs and fruit. In conclusion, the kindergartens pay attention to a sustainable way of working. For example, parents are no longer informed by paper notices but by e-mail, info on the whiteboard or on the blackboard, organic waste is fed to the in-house snails and half portions of food are ordered. In addition, materials are re-used, such as snippets from cutting for other craft work.

Current status: Sustainability is becoming more and more present in the kindergartens, both in our own work and together with the children. Due to the Corona pandemic, attention to sustainability has been somewhat lost. Increased hygiene measures, the use of disinfectants, masks and also paper towels became necessary, but are unfortunately not very environmentally friendly. Further projects, such as a visit to the waste management companies and greater involvement of parents, are planned for the coming kindergarten year, should the development of the pandemic allow it.

Dormitory Tutor Program

Dormitory Tutor Program

Organize offers with sustainability characteristics

Measure: As part of the dormitory tutor program, an offer on the topic of sustainability should be set up at one location (e.g. repair café, upcycling workshop, bicycle workshop, etc.). In this way, students and residents/non-student groups can be brought into contact with each other.

Current status: Occasional events such as clothing exchanges, flea markets and the planting of raised beds have already taken place. However, concrete steps towards the measure could not yet be fully implemented. In advance, we have to find out what the students are interested in, what they would use and where they would contribute. We have developed a questionnaire for this purpose.