"Sustainability must be an attitude in business management".

The topic of sustainability also plays an important role for us. And has been for many generations! Because in our family-run businesses, sustainability in planning and company management is part of our DNA, meaning it is "inherited" and practiced as a matter of course.

However, it is not only sustainable thinking in our own company that is important to us. We also want to preserve our beautiful Sauerland region for the future and for future generations.

Tour CERT for sustainable tourism

The Sauerland was certified by Tour CERT in April 2024 and awarded the title of "Sustainable Destination". In this context, we have qualified with Tour CERT in the area of "Sustainable Tourism" and are now working together with the region in a continuous improvement process.

We regularly look at our measures and scrutinize internal processes, the use of resources, working conditions and cooperation with our partners. We have appointed a sustainability officer who supports us and helps us to formulate individual and joint improvement measures.


The independent certification organization Tour CERT advises and supports tourism companies and destinations in the implementation of sustainable and successful business practices. More information is available here at Sauerland Tourism.


More info

In our "Mission Statement", we have summarized our stance on sustainability in very concrete terms. You can find out more about us hosts and the hotel cooperation under " About us". Further down on this page you will find an interview with the cooperation manager and sustainability officer, which provides an insight into the implementation of the sustainability concept.


As cooperation manager and sustainability officer, Elke Stahlmecke is responsible for concerted measures and the handling of joint topics such as network development, training, employee recruitment and retention, further training and guest marketing. She previously worked for a hotel chain for many years. The focus here was on quality management and process optimization. She had already encountered the topic of sustainability back then. This interview was conducted as part of a student research project.

What experience have you already had with the topic of sustainability in the hotel industry?

Even earlier, there was a development that could be attributed to sustainability: I remember the introduction of bathroom stickers for towel changes, shower gel and soap dispensers instead of elaborately packaged soaps and shampoos, and the elimination of the small waste bins on the breakfast tables because individually packaged food was dispensed with for breakfast. However, the main motivation for these process optimisations was actually always cost reduction.

In my perception, there is a fundamental change in people's attitude towards the protection of the environment and nature.

In my opinion, there is also a re-evaluation of the sustainability principle in the hotel industry. For example, in new buildings, renovations and furnishings, much more emphasis is placed on reusability and regionality. Even the work clothes of the employees are made of natural materials; a laundry service is offered because less energy is consumed with the large hotel washing machines. Car pooling to the company is supported and the catering, including that of the employees, preferably consists of regional products.

The CO2 discussion and movements such as "Fridays for Future" are bringing the issue of sustainability ever further into the public focus.

How do you define sustainability yourself?

Sustainability means thinking in the long term in everything you do and aligning measures in such a way that they are gentle on people, the environment and resources. I see the opposite of sustainable management in business models for the purpose of quick success and in those that consciously accept the waste of resources.

Why should sustainability also be an issue in the hotel industry?

Just as more attention is now being paid to sustainability in private homes, the same should also be done in the hotel industry. The topic of energy in particular is an important aspect: automatic control of heating systems, conversion to renewable raw materials, energy recovery systems as well as special technology in swimming pools continuously contribute to reducing the CO2 value.

Isn't the topic of sustainability used more for publicity purposes and cost savings?

Sustainability must be an attitude in business management. Success can only be achieved if the topic is viewed and dealt with holistically. Only when this is the case can it also be used in external presentation. If the goals are formulated sharply and the measures are implemented consistently, costs can then also be saved.

How can guests minimise their own ecological footprint?

Travel by public transport comes to mind here. Currently, we are internally discussing waste separation in the rooms. We are also considering letting guests decide whether or not their room should be cleaned every day. We still have to find creative solutions for the big issue of laundry cleaning, especially for cloth napkins and bathrobes.

Is there already a concept for implementation? Which aspects play a special role?

In the Schmallenberg Sauerland, all guests receive a guest card that allows free travel on public transport. Of course, they can also make use of transfer services provided by the hotels or explore the landscape in a sporty way with e-bikes. It is important that it takes little effort for the hotel guest to move sustainably. If implementation involves effort or reduced comfort, a corresponding concept that contributes to sustainability is less likely to be accepted. The reason and goal of the stay is and remains: a relaxing holiday.

Where do you see possible difficulties?

Guests should first and foremost be able to relax. Too many rules and restrictions have a negative effect on well-being. We must try to control processes and procedures so skilfully that no restriction or even a lack is perceived. We provide bath towels for the wellness area packed in bags in the room and give out more in the wellness area only on request. Shelves with towels that are constantly refilled entice people to take a fresh one after a short use. However, I think I have noticed a change in behaviour, especially among younger guests. They are already much more aware of sustainability and environmental protection.

Do you think it is important to be labelled with sustainability seals?

A seal is desirable as an internal tool so that the criteria necessary for this are implemented by the entire hotel team with full conviction and continuously internally and externally. In this way, the attitude towards this topic becomes authentic and tangible for the guest. Aiming for a seal only for marketing purposes and not implementing the measures consistently makes little sense. Guests will quickly notice this on site and may comment negatively.

A classic example: In the bathroom, a sticker informs the guest that towels will be replaced if they are on the floor.

The guest hangs towels on the towel rack because he wants to use them again. Nevertheless, they are often changed daily by housekeeping.

A seal can actually tip the scales in the booking decision. In case of doubt, the guest will opt for the certified hotel.

As with organic labels, however, there are unfortunately many different labels for sustainability, and the criteria on which these certifications are based vary greatly and are therefore confusing. For this reason, we have decided not to seek certification for the time being.

What role does sustainability play in employee recruitment?

When recruiting staff, especially in a rural region, it is important to establish oneself as a reliable and fair employer. One admission criterion to be a member of our cooperation requires that an entrepreneurial family owns and manages the hotel. This means that the employees have a fixed contact person and can plan for the long term. Shift changes with the renunciation of partial services as well as fixed, plannable closing times, duty rosters worked out far in advance and job security are also part of the issue of sustainability for me.

Do you think hotels can be role models for their guests in terms of sustainability?

As important as the topic is, guests should first and foremost relax in the establishments and have a good time. It is not our goal, nor is it desirable, as hosts to introduce the topic of sustainability into the holiday with a "raised forefinger".

Where within the cooperation is attention already being paid to sustainability, what has already been implemented?

The companies have done a lot, especially in the area of energy management. For example, there are heat recovery systems and combined heat and power plants, as well as a switch to LED technology, motion detectors or timers for lighting. Rainwater is collected for watering the green spaces. As far as possible, products are purchased directly in the region - this applies to food, but also to services and other products. In housekeeping, the focus was on

environmentally friendly cleaning agents and in many places consumption has been reduced by means of dosing dispensers.

And as already mentioned, in addition to the daily change of towels, the guest is also increasingly being given the option of daily room cleaning.

In terms of business management, the family-run businesses of the Sterne im Sauerland have literally absorbed the topic of sustainability with their mother's milk. A long-term orientation of the business and the handover to the next generation are traditionally the driving forces of the owner families. For the employees, this means great planning security for their jobs.