Sweet smell of sustainable success at Friends House

By Paul Grey, CEO of Friends House (London) Hospitality Ltd

Friends House (London) Hospitality Ltd just celebrated its 10th anniversary! For the last decade, we have built the success of our company and its operations – event venue, café, restaurant and guest accommodation in London (opposite Euston Station) and Cumbria – around one core idea: we are a sustainable Quaker business.

Quakers are committed to simplicity and sustainability. Every day, we have worked towards these values, bearing in mind that success and profit do not have to be made at the expense of people or our environment. Our journey towards sustainability is shaped by our faith, reflected in this advice from Quaker faith & practice, “We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life.”

Our sustainable journey can be summed up in ten key achievements:

  • Using 100% green energy

We purchase 100% renewable energy from Good Energy. For 2015-2016, our electricity fuel mix was made of Wind (54%), Solar (21%), Hydro (4%) and Biogen (21%) energies. We do not use any fossil fuel and nuclear energy sources.

  • Being a low-carbon community

In 2009, following the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, Quakers in Britain pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 30%. Eight years on, we have reduced carbon emissions by 29% at Friends House, falling only 1% short of the target, and achieved Carbon Smart’s Gold Certification.

  • Reducing our water usage

We tackled water usage by replacing all our toilets and wash basins. They are now all equipped with short flush and tap control systems. Water usage at Friends House has decreased by 47% since 2009. In 2016, we also launched a rain water harvesting system in our garden.

  • Reducing, reusing and recycling waste

We have a zero waste to landfill policy. We do not send anything to landfill. When waste cannot be recycled, it is incinerated to create renewable energy.

  • Paying staff fairly

We think that this is essential for a sustainable business. Paying staff fairly, and above the London Living Wage, is key to us. We believe that wages in the Hospitality industry should enable everyone to sustain themselves. This is why we are also a Pay Compare employer with a maximum of 1:4.7 ratio between the highest and lowest paid member of staff.

  • Making a difference in the community

Since 2015, we have been working with Douglas House Project (DHP). This scheme helps men diagnosed with personality disorder transition from hospital or prison back into the community. With our support, they set up their social enterprise, a bakery, and we sell their lovely cakes and fudge in the Quaker Centre Café. Now renamed as ‘Chefs in the House’, there are plans for expansion. We are protecting the Camden ecosystem. As bees’ habitat is threatened, we have thriving beehives on Friends House roof and at Swarthmoor Hall. 

  • Designing innovation

In 2014, we transformed the Large Meeting House into The Light, our auditorium. We reused the old benches and natural light now streams through a new skylight.

  • Relying on local sourcing and ethical procurement

It is possible to do local sourcing in London. Many local businesses sell seasonal fruits and vegetables. Our salads come from Organic Lea in Walthamstow, for example. In 2013, our restaurant was awarded “London Sustainable Restaurant of the Year” by the SRA.

  • Adopting cruelty-free food

Our food in our café, restaurant and meeting rooms, is cruelty free. Our eggs and poultry products come from farms where animals are cage-free. We were one of the first venues to gain a Good Egg and a Good Chicken Award, given by Compassion in World Farming.

  • Putting faith back into business

Ten years of running a successful, ethical, fair and sustainable business in Friends House have shown we can work towards a more sustainable world with our profits supporting Quaker action for peace and social justice.


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