In our continuing series profiling corporate heroes making a difference in our communities, SEE Change spoke with Gary Lohan, Chief Engineer of One Aldwych about the London hotel’s award-winning sustainability efforts and how it continues to push the green envelope. Those initiatives have resulted in the hotel being awarded a Green Business Award from the European Regional Development Fund for the biggest total carbon saving in 2012, gold grading from the Green Tourism for London 2010, London Development Agency and the Luxury Eco Certification Standard (LECS) from Sustainable Travel International (STI) in association with The Leading Hotels of the World. One Aldwych is one of only six hotels to gain the independently assessed accreditation worldwide, the first in the United Kingdom.
Lohan, meanwhile, was recently awarded the Considerate Champion of the Year Award, recognizing individuals who inspire others toward sustainability.
Why did One Aldwych decide to make sustainability and the environment a priority? What inspired the steps forward?
The owner’s vision ensured that One Aldwych led the way with sustainable design from its concept in 1998. This meant recycling an entire grade 2 listed building dating from 1907, including installing both a water efficient drainage system and a heat reclaim system. Rooms were designed on Feng Shui principles. Philanthropic ideals such as supporting Save the Children and local theatres as well as purchasing an original modern art collection were all put in place from the outset.
Please describe some of the more significant environmental initiatives the hotel has implemented
The hotel has a chlorine-free pool and a program of LED lighting upgrades. It uses carbon neutral eco-friendly paints, a micro-fibre cleaning system to save water and chemicals, along with a full recycling system. The kitchen waste is turned into biogas and fertilizer.
The employment policies and benefits ensure some of the best rates of pay, training and conditions for the staff, while green standards are in place to reduce waste and save energy and trade locally and seasonally. In 2014, One Aldwych raised £35,000 for Children with Cancer UK, our house charity.
What are the main challenges you face in adapting these initiatives?
People! You have to get everyone on board to understand what you are doing to support the ideas and to assist with the changes until it’s integrated into the daily operations, such as food waste recycling.
What are you most proud of in terms of your sustainability programs?
One Aldwych is the first hotel in the UK with STEP: Luxury Eco-Certification Standard accreditation. This system allows us to manage every aspect of a sustainable business with audited and international standards bespoke for luxury hospitality. Also, it enables the Leading Hotels of the World to confidently promote One Aldwych as an accredited luxury eco hotel. One Aldwych has received Gold accreditation annually with the Green Tourism Business Scheme for many years
How have your patrons responded to your initiatives?
We believe in the intelligent guest, they are aware of our ethos and they keep coming back.
Where did the Green Team come about and how significant are they to the success of these programs?
The Green Team was with us from the start in 1998 and we now also have a Green committee which oversees the hotel’s sustainable agenda. This has enabled us to evolve from operating an hotel with a green agenda to becoming an accredited sustainable business.
Looking forward, any new initiatives on the horizon?
We are currently exploring a partnership with Fairtrade to pilot a scheme where hotels can ensure that guest room linens have an ethical provenance.
Any lessons learned for other hotels looking to adopt environmental initiatives?
I recommend that hotels experiment with projects and roll them out if they are proven to be beneficial and to visit other hotels if they already have schemes in place. It’s invaluable to join a scheme such as the Considerate Hoteliers Association for support and exchanging ideas.
In the UK, the Green Tourism Business Scheme has an excellent accreditation scheme and really helps us focus on being a sustainable hotel. These organizations have been set up to promote and support sustainable hospitality. At One Aldwych, all new staff members get a Green Card.
We have a programme to encourage and raise awareness of our responsibility to the planet and to follow our Global Citizen Code:
1. Encourage sustainability
2. Conserve resources, energy, water, products
3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,
4. Purchase local, fair trade, free range, organic
5. Support charity, Arts and culture
6. Protect biodiversity and the environment
7. Initiative, take responsibility act now