Back to News

Circular Economy 360 Video Series – Gabriela Sonnleitner, magdas Hotel

Welcome to the second of our Circular Economy 360 Video Series featuring Gabriela Sonnleitner, CEO of magdas Hotel in Vienna, brought to you in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland. In this series SIS Associate Naomi Johnson speaks with inspiring leaders from around the world to find out their amazing experiences within the Circular Economy sector.


Throughout the live Circular Economy 360 Series we have returned to the notion that environmental and social justice go hand-in-hand. In the second of these interviews we’re delighted to be joined by Gabriela Sonnleitner from magdas Hotel. During our chat with Gabriela, we talk about finding the positives in both all people and all materials, ensuring everything around us can achieve its maximum value.

Having had a successful career in marketing and communications Gabriela joined magdas Social Business Group (a subsidiary company of Caritas Vienna), of which magdas Hotel is a part of, as managing director in 2015. Being managing director at magdas Social Business is the perfect combination of Gabriela’s profit and non-profit experience.

Magdas Hotel started as an employment initiative for refugees. Having observed that many employers focused on skills gaps, namely that of language. They looked at what individuals had rather than what they lacked. In hospitality the ability to speak many different languages was a huge benefit that could be harnessed.

They took the same approach in considering materials. While a building was available but could be repurposed it’s still needed to be renovated to meet the needs of the new business. As with many socially led organisations, budgets were tight but imagination and positive attitude run high. The decision to re-use and up cycle as much as possible was taken. However, as with all enterprise activity it was important to understand and meet customer needs and expectations – reduce and up cycling could not mean shoddy, mismatched or second-best.

We hear in this interview how magdas Hotel went on to win national design awards achieving recognition for their environmental and circular economy approach. We consider how this now aligns with customer profiles, future business development and environmental impacts across their wider business moving forwards.

If you’re keen to hear another speaker from closer to home touching on issues around environmental and social justice you may also wish to view this extract from our live session on business benefits of the circular economy with Celia Hodson from Hey Girls. For those of you keen to know more about customer profiling, the recently launched SIS Retail for Change – Social Sessions would also be worth a look.


Gabriela Sonnleitner, CEO of magdas Hotel, Vienna
Gabriela Sonnleitner

Being managing director at magdas Social Business is the perfect combination of Gabriela’s profit and non-profit experience. She started her career at the Vienna Tourist Board in the PR and marketing department. After five years she went to London and started working for a marketing company and for Marks & Spencer, the international department store.

Back in Vienna she became head of communications for the Austrian Hilfswerk. Two years later she joined Caritas Austria in the same position, where she was in charge of national and international campaigns as well as fundraising and social media activities. In 2011 she went to work for Ketchum Publico as creative director and senior consultant.

In 2015 she became managing director for the magdas Social Business Group (a subsidiary company of Caritas Vienna), of which magdas Hotel is a part of.