Sustainability in the hotel industry

Fassade des Renthofs in Kassel

Sustainability in the hotel and catering industry – from an idea to a way of life

Together with two other hotels, the Renthof Kassel is the most sustainable accommodation and restaurant address in Kassel and northern Hesse. Michael Kugel from FairWine spoke to director Jasmin Ohlendorf about sustainability.

M. Kugel: Ms. Ohlendorf, you are Deputy Chairwoman of the DEHOGA Federal Committee for Energy, Environment and Sustainability. How do you get a job like this?

Photo Jasmin Ohlendorf
Jasmin Ohlendorf, Director at Renthof Kassel

J. Ohlendorf: I was asked about this through my membership of DEHOGA. We have been involved in sustainability at the Renthof for a long time and are also very active. As a result, we and our concept attracted the attention of DEHOGA.

M. Kugel: It’s not just the DEHOGA that’s talking about it in Kassel.

J. Ohlendorf: We are very pleased about that too. We want to set an example and encourage the entire industry to become more sustainable. I am convinced that we can no longer avoid serious, sustainable management. DEHOGA will also see it that way, so I am pleased that my experience is in demand and that I can contribute with “best practice examples”.

M. Kugel: What does “sustainability” mean in the hotel business and what does it include?

J. Ohlendorf: It all started with the idea of using mainly regional products in our restaurant kitchen. During the corona pandemic, our house was closed for over 5 months. This gave us time to draw up a concept and work out what sustainability means for us. We took a closer look at our hotel from the basement to the top floor, from the restaurant to the kitchen to our hotel. We have defined sustainability as follows:

  • We want to reduce our ecological footprint and contribute to saving emissions, energy, waste and water per guest as well as strengthening biodiversity and animal welfare.
  • We want to support our region by sourcing goods and services locally whenever possible. We are interested in long-term partnerships – with partners who share the same values as we do.
  • We want to be a social and fair employer that is there for its employees just as much as it is for its guests. Our house should be open to everyone – we are only united against exclusion.

The more you get to grips with the topic, the quicker it becomes clear that there is still so much that can and must be worked on in the future. Sustainability is not a project, but a way of life and a task. You also reach your limits and have to make compromises, especially if you are hosting an international, discerning clientele. Especially at the beginning, you ask yourself the question: how can I manage this?

M. Kugel: What happened with this idea?

J. Ohlendorf: We have developed a strategy with all of the company’s employees and drawn up a sustainability concept.
Sustainability connects and creates a process that we must continue to work on together. We not only want to present a concept for our hotel, we also want to take all our guests with us. This starts with not cleaning the room every day and doesn’t end with a tip about saving water when showering.

M. Kugel: That sounds like work.

J. Ohlendorf: That’s also true – a huge mountain of work that can be tackled well with sufficient motivation and energy. We have made the decision to take a sustainable path for our company and there is no turning back for us. We looked for support at one point or another and came across GreenSign, for example. For us, this is a credible certification – with an integrated environmental management system that suits us and our company. Together with Armin Wolff – a Sustainability Auditor from GreenSign – we were able to successfully complete the certification process.

Logo Greensign

M. Kugel: Let’s talk briefly about this mountain, what does it take to get to the top?

J. Ohlendorf: In addition to purchasing, regionality and mobility, we are also concerned with social and economic responsibility. Of course, we also have the classic environmental issues such as waste avoidance, energy and water consumption. We are responsible for the management, organization and implementation of the goals that have been set.

All employees must be involved and sensitized to the key issues. This can only be achieved with a good communication strategy and continuous training.
The issue of quality is also under constant scrutiny. Work processes and products are scrutinized and always evaluated before procurement.

Our internal and external communication also had to change. A mission statement was drawn up. In the end, it concerns over 100 criteria divided into 8 areas. These include ISO 14001 (EMAS/environmental management), ISO 26000 (corporate social responsibility) and the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. However, the United Nations goals that are currently on everyone’s lips – the so-called SDGs – also had to be recognized, explained and implemented for our company. More at

M. Kugel: Your building has GreenSign Level 4, what comes next?

J. Ohlendorf: We are already good, but not yet where we want to be. The certification is also only valid for 3 years. Another year is almost over. We are already working on the topics that need to be achieved for Level 5. We want to be demonstrably better every year. That is quite a challenge. Our industry is not having such an easy time at the moment. Shortage of skilled workers, higher prices for food and energy. But that’s the only way. We do not pay lip service to sustainability. We want to show that it is possible and that we can do it.

We are currently focusing heavily on the topic of energy efficiency. We carried out an energy audit last week and are now waiting for the evaluation so that we can take further action here too.
An important point here will be to find a solution to the issue of solar energy together with the Protestant church office (the Brüderkirche is directly adjacent to the Renthof) in harmony with the protection of historical monuments. This is also an exciting topic.

Facade of the Renthof in Kassel

M. Kugel: I know that you take it first. In my capacity as a wine expert, I took a closer look at your wine list. This one is good and I like it. It contains wonderful wines, great wineries and almost consistently everything from Germany.

J. Ohlendorf: Thank you for liking the map. I like it too, but here I can perhaps briefly mention the compromises I mentioned earlier. Wine does not grow in northern Hesse and even if one day wine were to be grown on our doorstep, it would not be enough just to serve our guests this wine. Nevertheless, we wanted to take the “shortest route” and have therefore consistently opted for wines from Germany. You will also only find spirits from Germany on our spirits menu. This is also a further step for us in terms of sustainability.

M. Kugel: “FAST”!

J. Ohlendorf: Yes, almost. This (almost) has to do with the fact that we still have stocks from the time before we made this decision. The wines from Spain, France and Italy are great, and we are now selling them, which also has to do with sustainability, namely handling the goods responsibly. But soon these wines will be finished and we will have room for more wines from German regions.

M. Kugel: How nice, because we have already talked elsewhere about the Fair Wine Award, a new wine competition that is also very much concerned with the sustainable issues of the wine industry. Wineries can currently register their sustainably produced wines for the award. More at The winners will be announced at EUROVINO on March 6, 2023. More at

J. Ohlendorf: I know, I’m also prepared to include the winning wine in our wine list. Then we not only have the argument of “short distances”, but also of sustainable production.

M. Kugel: Great, then I’ll get the tickets for Karlsruhe, that’s the venue for the competition, and we’ll go there together.

J. Ohlendorf: That sounds like a good plan and I’m looking forward to Karlsruhe.

M. Kugel: Thank you very much for the interview and all the best for the future in terms of sustainability

J. Ohlendorf: I would also like to thank you for your interest in our company and look forward to many more joint sustainability topics.