“Noticeably sustainable!”: The German Employer Award for Education 2023 goes to HSBI and three other educational institutions from North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein.
Berlin / Bielefeld (hsbi). The Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände, BDA) has been honouring outstanding achievements in education for more than 20 years. The prize is supported by Deutsche Telekom AG and Deutsche Bahn AG. The award categories are early childhood and school education, vocational training and higher education, which come with a prize of 10,000 euros each. Each year, the award focuses on a new theme, this time it was “Noticeably sustainable.” Educational institutions that foster sustainable learning and responsible action were eligible for the award.
In the Higher Education category, Hochschule Bielefeld – University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSBI) convinced the jury with its motto “Act2Sustain.” As BDA’s rationale puts it, “economic, social and ecological sustainability is part of its overall strategy and is firmly anchored in the university governance, both in terms of personnel and institution. The implementation in all core areas of the university – “Study & Teaching,” “Research & Transfer,” “Governance”, “Campus” and “Buildings” – is being coordinated in interdisciplinary teams in a process that is open to everyone. Last but not least, the university presents its activities and events both internally and externally and invites university members and cooperation partners to join forces.”
Sustainability as a cross-cutting topic at HSBI
In the “Act2Sustain” programme that gives teaching staff, students and employees of the university the opportunity to participate, five working groups and 26 sub-teams work together on various measures supported by external experts and company representatives. All participants were able to propose topics and projects and to get involved in the working groups.
Some measures are already being implemented: for example, surplus food is regularly sold at HSBI, herb beds were planted and a tiny forest is being planned, shortly an Act2Sustain flea market will take place. In April, the first NRW-wide Transfer Day of Sustainability took place at Bielefeld’s Lokschuppen, presenting best practices in the cooperation between companies and the university with regard to sustainability. HSBI also recently hired a climate protection manager, e.g. to identify and implement potential strategies for saving energy and resources in its facilities. In addition, numerous activities have long been and still are happening at the university without having to be initiated by Act2Sustain. For example, research projects on sustainability topics in engineering and other disciplines have been part of the university’s diverse portfolio for many years – and their number keeps growing. The results from the Act2Sustain working groups will be presented as sub-strategies at the end of the year.
Sustainability in teaching and studies
In December 2023, the first university-wide, interdisciplinary sustainability week is set to take place. It will focus on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): “Each faculty will address how the 17 SDG affect the respective subject area,” says Prof. Dr. Natalie Bartholomäus, Vice President Sustainability, People & Culture at HSBI. “The intensive week will set our efforts to systematically anchor sustainability in teaching in motion. And we do not have to start from scratch: there are already a number of different approaches at the faculties,” Bartholomäus emphasises. First teaching units on the significance of climate change for care were thus developed at the Faculty of Health. At Bielefeld School of Business, the focus is on economic sustainability: here, students can set their own priorities and deal with issues ranging from ecological production to corporate ethics and sustainable accounting. The faculty also plans to start a new master’s degree study focusing on sustainability in 2024. At the Faculty of Social Sciences, there is already a master’s degree study Social Sustainability and Transformation Studies. At the Faculty of Engineering and Mathematics, sustainability is one of the focus areas, which will become even more important as part of the ongoing study reform. And at the Faculty of Minden Campus, topics such as intelligent building technologies are addressed across disciplines, also with a view to sustainability. The faculty has also established a Green Office, in which students and teaching staff can plan sustainable projects together. At the Faculty of Design and Art, sustainability is a frequent topic for students’ works. In the Fashion course, it is critically questioned with regard to the textile and fashion industries. In order to take into account the different starting points at the faculties, HSBI orients the integration of sustainability into the teaching programme towards a six-step concept in which the faculties can decide for themselves which steps they want include in their teaching concept:
Sustainability as a component of existing courses
Sustainability in the form of independent courses
Sustainability as an independent option for specialisation
Sustainability as a separate bachelor’s degree study
Sustainability as a separate master’s degree study
Sustainability in the field of doctorates
Sustainability strategy is a driver of innovation for the region
HSBI President Prof. Dr. Ingeborg Schramm-Wölk thanks all contributors for the award: “The German Employer Award reaffirms our strategy to think of sustainability as a cross-cutting topic at all levels of our university and to invite all status groups to participate in an open process. I would like to thank all Act2Sustain working groups and teams, and especially Prof. Dr. Natalie Bartholomäus, who is responsible for the strategy development process as Vice President Sustainability. And I would like to thank the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations for the award.”
Prof. Dr. Natalie Bartholomäus added her thanks: “We are very happy about this award. It proves that we are on the right track in our role as an innovation driver for one of the big societal challenges. I would like to express my gratitude to all Act2Sustain contributors. Of course, we will invest the 10,000-euro prize into another measure for more sustainability – into the development of an OER platform for best practices in sustainability-related teaching.” The platform is intended to make teaching and learning materials developed at HSBI available to interested parties as Open Educational Resources (OER), so that they can also be used in other educational institutions.
This year, the BDA deliberately handed over the award to the “young representatives” of the award-winning institutions: to trainees, pupils, students and graduates. For HSBI, Julian Dreier attended the award ceremony, representing the university’s student body. Julian Dreier graduated with a bachelor in Business Administration and recently a master in Human Resource Management and Organisation. HSBI selected him as an “ambassador” because he has been involved in the Act2Sustain programme from the beginning: he is an advisory board member and contributes to the working groups “Study & Teaching” and “Research & Transfer.” In addition, Julian Dreier’s final theses dealt with sustainability in human resource management for which he cooperated with companies in East Westphalia-Lippe. He presented some of his findings at the Transfer Day of Sustainability. For him, it was a special experience to represent HSBI at the German Employers’ Congress: “Act2Sustain’s opportunities for participation – involving the perspectives of HSBI’s employees and students as well as cooperating companies – reflects just what I have also been enthusiastic about during my studies: personal contact between students and teaching staff on the one hand and networking and close exchange with regional companies on the other. In this way, innovative teaching content and research ideas are developed that are truly relevant to companies and thus fall on fertile ground in practice. The fact that this works so well is certainly also a special characteristic of our region, OWL.” Natalie Bartholomäus agrees and adds: “When it comes to sustainability, in particular, it is important that we join forces within the university and do not work in isolation from each other – we cannot afford to do that in view of the pressing problems we are facing. And it is precisely this strength of a university of applied sciences that makes me feel positive: as HSBI, we can really make a difference!” (vku)
Aside from HSBI, the following institutions received awards:
Award winner early childhood education: CJD Kindertagesstätte Moosbeerenweg, Troisdorf (NRW)
Award winner school education: Kurt-Masur-Schule, Leipzig (Saxony)
Award winner vocational education: RBZ am Schützenpark, Kiel (Schleswig-Holstein)
Statements from the jury members on the German Employer Award for Education 2023:
Jury chair Martin Seiler, Board member for Human Resources and Legal Affairs of Deutsche Bahn AG, emphasises: “We asked the educational institutions how they designed sustainable learning and how they promoted the skills and the sense of responsibility of young people. This, after all, is the foundation for our future: our 2023 award winners show how more sustainability can work – ecologically, socially and economically.”
Birgit Bohle, Board member for Human Resources and Legal Affairs, Labor Director of Deutsche Telekom AG, emphasises: “Sustainability is one of the challenges of our time – economically, socially and ecologically. Only if we consider these three perspectives can we be successful together. So that future generations, too, will have a high quality of life and prosperity and innovation will be secured!”
Dr. Rainer Dulger, President of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations, explains: “Companies, too, play a crucial role in this important issue for our future: only those who act sustainably will be future-proof. This principle holds true for many different areas – be it the use of resources or the retention of skilled employees. Of course, qualified employees with economical, social and ecological skills are needed for that, too.”