15. November 2023

The clever sustainability strategy of Guldsmeden Hotels

... which I learned in Copenhagen

Kirsten Aggersborg - Sustainability & Communications Manager at Guldsmeden Hotels

The Guldsmeden Hotels are not only beautifully designed.

And offer an incredible guest experience.

They are also genuine "sustainability pioneers".

And not at all outdated.

With its five hotels in Copenhagen (Denmark), one hotel in Oslo (Norway), one hotel in Reykjavík (Iceland) and even a hotel in Berlin, the family-run hotel chain proves that sustainable hotels also make total economic sense.

By the way: Two more hotels are already in the pipeline: in Aarhus (Denmark) and in Bremen - in a former Kellogg's silo.

For many years, Guldsmeden Hotels hardly talked about their commitment to sustainability.

Not because they wanted to keep their secrets to themselves.

But because they still felt that hardly anyone was interested.

Fortunately, things are different today.

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Kirsten Aggersborg - Sustainability and Communication Manager at Guldsmeden Hotels.

We met at the Urban Eco Resort Bryggen Guldsmeden and had a very interesting conversation (followed by a tour of the hotel).

I'll show you what I learned in a moment.


You will learn:


  • How it pays off to do some things differently than usual in the hotel industry
  • Why the first step is sometimes the most important - and can still be quite simple
  • How new technologies are helping Guldsmeden Hotels immensely - and how you can use them to your advantage
  • Where even true sustainability pioneers still face challenges - and what you can learn from them
  • What Kirsten thinks about certifications and which certificates might also be useful for your hotel
  • Why Guldsmeden Hotels are happy to share their sustainability secrets and what you can learn from them.



Here are my top 8 learnings from Kirsten and the Guldsmeden Hotels:

1) Use things, that are already there!

Sandra & Marc - owners of Guldsmeden Hotels

Marc and Sandra are the owners of Guldsmeden Hotels and also the parents of three children (after whom three of the Guldsmeden Hotels are named).

Sandra, originally a graphic designer, is CEO of Guldsmeden Hotels.

Marc is an architect and interior designer.

Marc has been learning to use things that are already there since he was a child.

When Marc tackles a new hotel project today, the first thing he asks himself is: What is already there? How can I make further use of what already exists?

And that is very unusual for the hotel industry.


  • New buildings are usually built instead of converting existing buildings
  • Existing materials are often disposed of instead of being reused

Not at Guldsmeden!


Old floorboards find a new use here, e.g. as tables.

Existing furniture is upcycled and reused. And so on.

The result: resources, the environment and, of course, your wallet are protected!

2) Do not follow trends!

Kirsten is often asked: How often do you redecorate your rooms?

Kirsten's answer is: NEVER!

The oldest hotel in the Guldsmeden chain, "66 Carlton", has been in existence since 2001, but the rooms have never been refurbished since then (renovations are of course carried out when necessary).

This is very unusual for the hotel industry.

On average, hotel rooms get a completely new style every 10 years. Sometimes after just 7 years.

The reason: the room design is no longer trendy.

Actually logical. After all, if you always furnish hotel rooms (or other areas of the hotel) according to the latest trends, you quickly become outdated again.

The Guldsmeden Hotels take a completely different approach:

Marc always opts for natural materials.

And for original designs that don't follow trends.

Beauty and a feel-good atmosphere versus trends.

And that pays off: In your wallet. And in the protection of the environment and resources.

3) Build a sustainability team!

One of the most important measures to start the process of sustainability is:

Create a sustainability team!

At Guldsmeden, the "Green Team" includes representatives from housekeeping and F&B as well as Sandra and Kirsten.

If there are no representatives from the management on the "Green Team", it is advisable to report regularly to the management on what is happening in the company in terms of sustainability. This is the only way to give the topic the necessary attention and seriousness.

The Guldsmeden "Green Team" meets at least once a quarter and

  • discusses measures that have already been introduced or implemented
  • sets new goals
  • documents everything (important for the certifications, but more on that in a moment...)


4) Organic Food!

Babette Rooftop

It all started with bread.

Coincidentally, Copenhagen's first organic bakery opened right next to the first Guldsmeden Hotel.

Sandra ordered baked goods for the hotel there.

And the guests loved it.

The organic bakery knew other organic producers. And recommended them to Sandra.

This is how the organic range at Guldsmeden gradually grew.

Today, the Guldsmeden hotel restaurants have been awarded the Danish Ø label. This is an official government seal that is well known and trusted in Denmark.

The Guldsmeden Hotels have gold status, which stands for the use of at least 90% organic ingredients.

Guldsmeden currently stands at 99.5%.

But: the first step - using the first organic baked goods - was probably the most important step on this journey!


By the way:

A state organic label for out-of-home catering was also introduced in Germany in October 2023. So for restaurants, canteens, etc.

In addition, there is now a state advisory subsidy for companies that want to increase their organic content.

You can find more information here.



5) Track Food Waste!

Manon Les Suites - Rooftop

Waste avoidance starts with waste tracking!

Because only those who know how much and what kind of waste they produce can take effective measures.

In Denmark, companies are required by law to separate their waste into 10 different components. Similar to Germany: paper, glass, plastic, etc.

When it comes to food waste, however, Guldsmeden Hotels goes a few steps further.

Separating alone is not enough for them.

There are numerous waste garbage cans in the kitchens, all of which are equipped with a scale.

One garbage can each for food waste for:

*production waste from the kitchen, e.g. from peeling potatoes
*Plate waste from guests' plates at the breakfast buffet
*Plate waste from guests' plates in the à la carte restaurant
*Coffee grounds

Guldsmeden is supported by FoodOp, which provides the technology for the analysis. Measures for reduction are then derived from the evaluations.


Also a good idea:

A competition was held at Guldsmeden: which Guldsmeden restaurant produces the least food waste? Guests were also informed about this and encouraged to take part. Guldsmeden was initially skeptical about how guests would react. But the competition was rated very positively. And Guldsmeden has learned from it that you can definitely involve guests in sustainability campaigns.




6) Certifications

Axel - Junior Suite

When Guldsmeden Hotels decided to communicate their commitment to sustainability to the outside world, they wanted to do it right.

"Green washing" was never an option.

It quickly became clear that sustainable commitment could only be communicated credibly with a trustworthy certification.

They found what they were looking for with GreenGlobe, one of the world's leading certifications in the tourism sector.

Other certifications were added later:

  • GreenKey - sustainability certification from Denmark for tourism
  • GreenSign - sustainability certification from Germany for hotels, restaurants etc. worldwide
  • EcoCert - the world's leading organic certification organization (for the iLoveEcoEssentials products used in the rooms)
  • Ø-label - the Danish state organic label (which you have already read about above...)

Admittedly, it's not easy to find your way through the certification jungle.

But it's not impossible either.

And it's worth it.

After all, hotels working in the B2B sector in particular are increasingly being asked for proof of their commitment to sustainability.

This is partly due to regulations and laws from the EU, such as CSRD:
Large companies will have to report on their sustainable commitment as early as 2024. And in turn pass this pressure on to their suppliers.

Hotels that have the right sustainability certificates and a clear overview of their data therefore have a clear advantage.

Hotels without sustainability certificates will find it increasingly difficult. This is already a reality in Copenhagen.

So: sustainability certificates create competitive advantages - especially in the B2B sector. And they help hotels to "stay on the ball" and continue to improve.

7) Share your experiences!

Axel - Spa

I asked Kirsten how it is that she so generously shares her experience in sustainability - even with competitors.

Kirsten's (surprising) answers:


  • Those who generously share information and experiences with others also receive a lot of support themselves in return - including from competitors.
  • And support is important. Because sustainability is never finished. Standing still = falling behind.
  • This means you don't have to research every topic yourself, but benefit from swarm knowledge. And saves a lot of time. And time is money.
  • Together, the hotel industry (and all other industries) can develop much faster and more effectively. Everyone benefits from this.

Learning: the hotel industry benefits immensely from an open exchange of experiences - especially among competitors!

8) CO2 Footprint

Bryggen Guldsmeden - Pool

Finally, a project that Kirsten wishes they were further along with: determining the carbon footprint of Guldsmeden Hotels.

Not so easy.

Because calculating a realistic CO² footprint requires facts, figures and data. And lots of them!

Some data is relatively easy to determine. For example, the hotel's own electricity and water consumption. At least when it comes to annual consumption (just check your electricity and water bill).

Determining the consumption of individual appliances is a little more complicated.

Other data can be quite complex. For example, what is the carbon footprint caused by cleaning the table or bed linen? If the cleaning is carried out externally, you have to rely on the correct data from the laundry. And then it becomes more difficult. But not impossible.

In Copenhagen, hotel suppliers and service providers are already well prepared for such questions. And can provide the relevant data for each hotel.

However, collecting all the necessary data definitely takes time.

Therefore, the sooner a hotel starts, the sooner it can determine its carbon footprint.

And the next step is to take measures to reduce CO².

The Guldsmeden Hotels are certainly eager to do so. Stay tuned!



And what about CO² offsetting?

Experts say that offsetting makes sense for CO² emissions that you cannot avoid today. But only then.

The golden rule is: first measure - then reduce - then offset (only in this order)


What did you learn from Kirsten?


Those were my most important learnings.

I am certain that what is already a reality in Denmark today will also become completely normal in Germany in the medium term.

What sustainability strategies will you implement in the company? I am excited. And I'm looking forward to it!

Be great,

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