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.


CO2 balance 2022

The Werk continues to make progress in terms of sustainability and presents its carbon footprint for 2022. The next data collection is already in preparation and will be carried out regularly in order to obtain a valid data series.


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


Food service

Food service

Waste prevention

To help reduce the packaging material used in the to-go offers in our food service operations, we introduced a deposit system in November 2020. There are currently more than 15,000 Mepal Werks-Bowls’ in circulation.

‘Bring your own box’
Since August 2022, our canteen guests can also take away their hot meals in their own containers

‘Bring your own cup’
Since March 2023, guests can bring their own to-go mugs or a cup for their coffee break.

Packaging material
In 2022, our food-service operations began using wax film as a substitute for cling film and aluminium foil, as well as containers with lids.

Waste measurement

Kölner Studierendenwerk is ‘peeking in the bin’

Back in June 2022, we spent a week studying the food left over in the canteen at the German Sport University Cologne. The second round of measurements was conducted in September 2022. Where is most of the food waste in the canteens to be found? To answer this question, as part of the ‘MehrWert21’ project and the NEiS project sponsored by the Consumer Association of North-Rhine Westphalia (Verbraucherzentrale NRW), food waste was collected for a week in the canteen at Sportpark Müngersdorf.

The canteen at Sportpark Müngersdorf offers its guests a wide-ranging lunch menu featuring three or four different meals – including vegetarian and vegan options – along with a salad buffet. Sustainability initiatives have a role to play, and to meet the shared goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2030, these efforts will be stepped up in cooperation with the twelve Studierendenwerke in NRW.
One way to make an important contribution to this is to prevent food waste.

However, how much of the food produced actually ends up in the rubbish bin at the end of a day?
To answer this question, from 19-22 September 2022 leftovers and food waste were measured and compared to the food actually produced. This was done with the active support of lots of student assistants recruited by the General Students’ Committee (AstA).

With a total waste rate of around 5% over the entire week in which measurements were conducted, it is clear that the levels of canteen food waste are already low, as it reuses leftovers and does the best possible job of keeping waste to a minimum.

The  food waste left on plates totalled to 81 kilogrammes over five days of measurement, but for some 3,750 guests, this averages out to just 20 g of food leftovers per person. In other words, the portion sizes are well targeted, and athletes’ appetites are sufficient that little food is left over.  At 1.2 %, the levels of food left over in the kitchen are very low, too. These leftovers mainly consist of individual components from the salad buffet (beans, lettuce, couscous, etc.) or sauces.
This confirms the figures collected in June, when the rate of waste (measured in just one day) stood at 5% and the rate of food discarded from plates (measured over five days) was 17 g per person. 

‘We are pleased with the result, which confirms that our daily menu plans are already quite well calculated.’ (Carolin Brink)

‘We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the helpers, without whose assistance we could not have conducted these measurements! Many thanks as well to the canteen staff at Sportpark Müngersdorf, the colleagues at MehrWert21 project, as well as NEiS and the AStA at German Sport University Cologne for their commitment!’ (Mareike Wiggers)

Certified organic quality

Organic pasta 

Since early 2020, guests at the pasta station of MG Süd Restaurant in the canteen on Zülpicher Straße can enjoy meals made with certified organic pasta. This means that at least 95% of the ingredients for each meal served there must come from organic farming. The origin of the goods must accurately be documented and verified based on control numbers for organic foods. The suppliers of organic products must be certified as well. This is how organic products can be traced back to their producers. Officially, approved private inspection bodies audit the entire operation at least once a year. The work of the control bodies, in turn, is state-controlled.

We currently offer it once a week, on Fridays, in the canteen Zülpicher Straße.

Fairtrade University

Since 2018, the University of Cologne has been designated a ‘Fairtrade University.’ A variety of criteria needs to be met to earn the ‘Fairtrade University’ title. Since 2014, TransFair e.V. Deutschland has awarded the Fairtrade University seal to universities with a demonstrated commitment to fair trade, as measured based on certain criteria. With this in mind, in 2017 a steering group was created at the University of Cologne, consisting of representatives of the student body, the Studierendenwerk food service, and the university’s central purchasing department. 

Kölner Studierendenwerk supports this effort by offering a wide range of products from fair trade in our canteens, bistros and coffee bars.

In addition to coffee and chocolate drinks, the entire range of teas comes from fair trade and is offered in organic quality.

This helps workers secure their livelihoods while improving the quality of life through health protection. We sold more than 800,000 hot drinks made from fair-trade coffee, cocoa and tea in 2022.

The university food service also offers fair-trade bananas, chocolate and a wide assortment of food bars.

Enjoying vegan and/or vegetarian offers

Vegan and vegetarian
increased student demand has led to a sharp rise in the supply of vegan and vegetarian meals on offer. More than 50% of our menu is already vegan or vegetarian. Every day, you will find at least one vegan or vegetarian dish in our canteens. The salad buffets in some of our food service operations also offer a wide vegan/vegetarian selection. Our bistros and coffee bars offer vegan baked goods, food bars and plant-based milk. The range varies based on the size of the food-service operation.

We purchased more than 23,300 litres of plant-based milk in 2022.

Vegan #Vriday
As part of our contribution to protecting the climate, all of our canteens exclusively offer vegan food on vegan #Vriday. Vegan #Vriday is always the last Friday of the month.

Offers from animal friendly farming

We have sourced meat and other products from NEULAND since August 2022. For more than 30 years, the NEULAND brand has stood for delicious, high-quality meat from animal-friendly farms – products you can enjoy with a clear conscience. NEULAND says ‘yes’ to environmentally friendly, rural agriculture and a clear ‘no’ to industrial livestock farming. With its NEULAND range of quality meats, it takes ethical responsibility for the well-being of livestock and the environment. We have been officially certified since the beginning of 2023.

In addition, for years we have avoided overfished species of fish such as tuna, redfish and plaice as our contribution to combating global overfishing.

Most of the processed eggs we purchase come from free-range farming.

Regional focus

Wherever possible, the food we source comes from the region, because to us it is important to keep the trip from suppliers to our canteens, bistros and coffee bars as short as possible. This is why more than 50% of our suppliers come from North Rhine-Westphalia and make this possible. Thanks to centralised purchasing, we’re also able to keep transport routes short, which reduces harmful emissions.


Procurement regulations
We recently updated our procurement regulations to incorporate policies and guidelines on sustainable purchasing. The updates require us to base our procurement processes on criteria of social and environmental sustainability, and to consider sustainability in addition to economic aspects when assessing our procurement options.

Energy efficiency

In 2019, the canteen Lindenthal (Robert Koch Straße) launched pilot operations based on new approaches to saving energy. In the dining room we installed an intelligent LED system featuring motion detectors, among other things.

Based on this, we installed a working group on energy efficiency in 2022. The group conducts inspections to identify potential improvements in energy efficiency that might be put to use in other operations, preferably leading to energy savings.

The use of smart dishwashers saves not only electricity but water as well. These machines can recognise load sizes and tailor water levels and detergent dosages accordingly.

Our employees are also receiving training as energy managers, among other things.

Some of our operations use district heating to prepare the food they serve. The proximity to combined heat and power plants makes district heating a convenient and climate-friendly source of heat. Rheinenergie produces district heating through the cogeneration of power and heat. We use natural gas  to generate electricity and heat at the same time. Waste heat is generated during electricity generation; this, in turn, heats water that is pumped through pipes to homes in the city. Once the water has dissipated its heat, it returns to the combined heat and power plant, where the cycle begins anew.

The use of combined heat and power means that more than 85 percent of the energy is put to use. This minimises CO2 emissions compared to other conventional technologies for energy generation.

For 2023, we have set ourselves the target of saving an additional 10% of electricity compared to 2018 in our food-service operations.

Cooperation arrangements

Kölner Studierendenwerk is part of the NEiS project of the Consumer Association of North-Rhine Westphalia (Verbraucherzentrale NRW). The project is conducted in a cooperation arrangement involving universities in three locations in NRW. Founders are the Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Consumer Protection of North Rhine-Westphalia.

As part of the NEiS project, in the canteen of the German Sport University Cologne, in conjunction with the MehrWert project, the amount of food waste was measured and concluded that only approx. 20 g of food was left uneaten on plates in the canteen. That is the rough equivalent of two slices of carrot.

Billy Green
Façade greening at canteen Zülpicher Straße: Insulation and heat storage.

Billy Green is an innovative, self-supporting system that employs plant shade sails for the greening of glass façades and building walls with large window areas, but without compromising views to the outside. The greening of façades helps save energy, reduce urban heat-island effects, curb noise levels and preserve biodiversity. It also optimises energy efficiency in buildings and filters pollutants from the air. Façade greening is thus an important part of the strategy for adapting urban areas to the impacts of climate change.

We are currently clarifying the expansion of façade greening.

Training and continuing education

Not only training, but also continuing education in the Studierendenwerk are important to us, as this is an investment in sustainability at the same time. Our employees receive training as energy managers, among other things.

In cooking courses, for instance, employees and students alike have an opportunity to learn new things about healthy and sustainable nutrition.

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:

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.