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Campus & Student Life

Sustainability & Climate Neutrality at CBS

Sustainability on our campuses

Anja Karlshaus

Creating tomorrow: sustainable studies, life, and research

Our mission is "creating tomorrow" - for a better and sustainable future. As a sustainable university, we are committed to the goals of the United Nations and have voluntarily joined the UN Global Compact. In practice, this means that over the past ten years we have established aspects of sustainable management in all areas of teaching and research. As tomorrow's experts and managers, our graduates are ideally trained to establish sustainability in companies and to manage them responsibly. We are already doing this today and have become a carbon-neutral school - for more sustainability and a better tomorrow.

What does sustainability mean and why is it important?

The concept of sustainability has been around for a long time. It originated in forestry in the 1700s and meant that only so many trees should be cut down in a forest so that the forest would be preserved in the long term. Resources should be conserved in order to use them economically in the long term. In the 1980s, the idea of "sustainable development" became established in the definition of sustainability. It is based on three fundamental principles that are still valid today. The most discussed is environmental protection: pressing problems are CO2 emissions, pollution of the oceans and water, species extinction, poisoning of soils, and climate change. The second important principle is social development: employees should be treated fairly and ethically and all people should have opportunities for learning and development. The third fundamental principle is economic development: a company should be profitable and make its profits sustainably, i.e. not at any price and not at the expense of the environment or employees.

In its 2030 Agenda, the United Nations concretised these three basic principles and defined the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Among other things, it is about fighting poverty and hunger, education, justice, peace, decent work, economic growth, and climate protection.

Globalisation shows that problems such as environmental pollution and dwindling natural resources affect us all. If we do not change our way of thinking and living, we will destroy ecosystems, exacerbate inequality between rich and poor and deprive future generations of the basis of their livelihoods. That is why sustainable development is existentially important.

We are a carbon-neutral university

What does carbon neutral mean?

At the Paris Climate Summit in 2015, the international community decided to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius if possible. Experts have calculated that Germany must be carbon neutral by around 2035 in order to make an appropriate contribution to this goal. The definition of climate neutrality states that only as much greenhouse gases are emitted as are absorbed by nature or other carbon sinks. Carbon sinks are the mechanism by which more carbon is absorbed than is emitted. Forests, soils, and oceans are the most important natural sinks and store huge amounts of carbon. Fires or deforestation reduce these natural carbon stores and the stored carbon is released into the atmosphere as CO2. 

A state, a city, a university, or a company can also be CO2-neutral or carbon neutral. This is achieved when its citizens, services, or products do not increase the amount of climate-damaging gases in the atmosphere. This can be achieved in two ways. They can technologically change their processes in the production of goods so that they produce in an environmentally friendly way. For example, switch to green electricity or organic farming. The second way is to offset the C02 emissions through carbon offset and climate protection projects elsewhere. Both ways create carbon neutrality.

How does CO2 compensation or carbon offsetting works?

For climate change and global warming, it is irrelevant where greenhouse gases are produced. Nor does it matter where the emissions are reduced. The main thing is to reduce them. That is why companies can, for example, offset their CO2 emissions in another country or region. If you fly from Germany to the USA, you can offset the CO2 emissions caused by donating to a climate protection project in Asia, for example.

For CO2 offsetting, it is calculated how much emissions are caused by a specific activity. For example, the production of coffee cups, a car journey, or the electricity and heat supply of an office building. Certificates or emission reduction credits are issued for the number of emissions, which are used to offset the same amount of emissions in climate protection projects. It is important for the significance of climate compensation that these climate protection projects were created "on top" as a climate protection measure and that they would not exist at all without the principle of CO2 compensation.

What does a carbon neutral company mean?

Even if a company operates in a sustainable and economical manner, it still causes CO2 emissions. However, this amount of emissions can be measured and recorded. Climate protection then means reducing and avoiding this amount. This can only be done to a certain extent. To become carbon-neutral, companies can offset this unavoidable residual amount through climate protection and carbon offset projects. Then they are CO2-neutral. In this way, companies are also responding to the growing environmental awareness of the population: four out of five Germans pay attention to whether a company is environmentally friendly when making their purchasing decisions. This was the result of a survey on climate protection and consumer behaviour conducted by the consulting firm PwC in 2015. Above all, companies bear more responsibility for climate protection, the respondents said in the study.

ClimateParter_Climate neutral

How we became climate neutral - the 4 most important steps

Calculate carbon emissions

Together with ClimatePartner, we have calculated our CCF - Corporate Carbon Footprint. This includes emissions from sources such as energy and heating, business travel, office supplies, and everything else that we use in the operation of our company. In 2019, our CO2 emissions amounted to 692,816 kilograms. This is equivalent to the annual CO2 footprint of 82 European citizens or the annual CO2 sequestration of 55,425 beeches or a car journey of around 2 million kilometres.

Avoid and reduce carbon emissions

Our CCF calculation clearly shows us where we can further reduce CO2. We update our footprint regularly, so we have an overview of our reduction success and can identify additional areas of improvement. We have already taken numerous climate protection measures to reduce as much CO2 as possible. For example:

  • Since 2013, we have integrated sustainability into our teaching

  • Since 2015, we have been continuously involved in resource conservation and sustainable awareness-raising as part of Ökoprofit Köln. For example, we have switched to digital submission of homework and final papers, introduced a re-cup system in the refectory, purchased an electric car and charging stations, switched to recycled paper, cooperated with a local bicycle shop for staff and students, have partially converted to LED and only use green electricity.

  • In 2016, we founded the Center for Advanced Sustainable Management (CASM). Here, actors from science, business and politics network deal with questions on CSR, international business ethics, sustainability and social innovation.

  • Our CBS Eco Ambassador Team and the student initiative CSR Student Team are committed to more sustainability in teaching, research and university operations.

  • In 2020, we became a member of the United Nations Global Compact

  • Our Urban Gardening Campus Garden project makes sustainability a tangible experience on campus

Carbon offset

For the time being, some emissions remain unavoidable. We offset them by supporting two project from the ClimatePartner portfolio the regional project 1111 "Planting trees in Germany" and project 1078 "Clean drinking water" in India. Climate Partner adds 10% to our CO2 emissions when offsetting, thus offsetting a total of 1.276.777 KG of CO2 through carbon offset projects.

Create transparency

Interested parties can track our carbon neutrality in the ClimatePartner ID tracking via our "carbon-neutral company" label and the ID number 15875-2105-1001: www.climatepartner.com/15875-2105-1001

Carbon offset projects: sustainable and certified

Along with emission reduction, all carbon offset projects must fulfill four basic criteria: additionality, exclusion of double counting, permanence, and regular verification by independent third parties.

To offset our CO2 emissions, we support two recognised climate protection projects certified according to international standards. They also contribute to achieving the 17 global sustainable development goals. For example, promoting quality education, fighting poverty, and improving living conditions in emerging and developing countries.

762.099 KG CO2

We have offset 762,099 KG of CO2 with these carbon offset projects

Move the slider to get a comparison of our carbon emissions.

t CO2

The amount corresponds to ...

... km driven by car
... wash cycles (60°C)
... the yearly CO2-capture of beech trees
... the production of pairs of running shoes
... the production of kg of beef
... the melting of m² summerly ice in the Arctic
... economy flights from London to New York
... the yearly carbon footprint of average global citizens

Sustainable degree programmes

Sustainability is not only important to us at CBS. Companies and students also attach importance to sustainability and see it as an important success factor. And rightly so: Those who study sustainable management learn to critically question economic processes and develop innovative solutions for the world of tomorrow. We offer two sustainable degree programmes that open up the best career opportunities with a Master's degree in sustainability. In the Master's programme "Sustainable Management", students acquire a scientific and application-oriented understanding of sustainability, combined with business education and aspects of digitalisation. The growing tourism industry is also focusing on sustainable tourism. Our English-language Master's programme "Tourism and Sustainable Management" trains experts who strive for sustainable, socially just, and economically successful tourism.


Sustainable living: With these tips, you can lead a more sustainable lifestyle

Sustainable living is not that difficult anymore. There are plenty of things you can do in your everyday life to save resources and be more environmentally friendly. For example, switch to green power and buy locally. It's fun and sometimes saves time and money. Check out our valuable tips for a more sustainable lifestyle. 

Center of Advanced Sustainable Management

Our Center for Advanced Sustainable Management (CASM) aims to make Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainable management an integral part of business research and management education. CASM sees itself as a network player and, together with the CBS-Eco Ambassador Team and the CSR Student Team, is committed to more sustainability in teaching, research and university operations. With this holistic approach to management education, we play a pioneering role in the German education system. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the university's climate concept, please feel free to send an e-mail to: casm@cbs.de . More here.

Our Sustainable Publications

Our researchers regularly publish in renowned journals and publishers on the topic of sustainable living. Above all, our President Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Fröhlich is a sustainability expert and publishes in the "Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals", among others. We support the research work at CBS with our own publication formats such as working papers, monographs, and anthologies. We make the most important results available as a print on demand or PDF download. More here.