Novotel Blackfriars: Sustainability in central London

The Novotel Blackfriars brings sustainable practice to central London

The Novotel Blackfriars brings sustainable practice to central London

City hotels aren’t always the first properties that spring to mind when you think of sustainability but Arnaud Herrmann, VP Sustainable Development, AccorHotels explains how even in one of the busiest parts of London, good environmental practice can still be a priority.


Novotel London Blackfriars was a significant opening for AccorHotels serving guests in a busy tourist area of London near the Tate Modern and Globe theatre. The company has a firm commitment to preserving the environment and this can be seen through the many eco-friendly practices which have been implemented in the Novotel Blackfriars.

The property has been given an “excellent” rating for its environmental performance and is continually trying to change the mindset of guests so that sustainability becomes something they actively seek out when choosing a hotel. The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) rating ranks the hotel among the top 10% of UK new non-domestic buildings. We are committed to continually reducing the environmental impact of our hotels and the Blackfriars hotel is a showcase of this.

GH: When did your green initiatives start?

In 2009, AccorHotels launched its sustainable development strategy, PLANET21, innovative within the hotel industry. PLANET21 has seven themes: health, nature, carbon, innovation, local, employment and dialogue. These cover a comprehensive list of sustainability goals ranging from ensuring interiors are healthy, reducing water use and encouraging eco-design, to protecting children from abuse, buying responsibly, conducting business openly and improving the quality of life at work.

Half the savings in laundry costs raised by encouraging guests to reuse towels go to reforestation projects, and AccorHotels has planted more than 2,000 trees a day since 2009. In 2013, Accor Morocco joined forces with Pur Projet to plant 2,000 olive trees with “Femmes du Rif”, a collective in Chefchaouen, Morocco. Now it uses olive oil produced from the trees in local hotels.

GH: Why did the group start down the sustainable route and what effect has it had?

Sustainability has always been an important part of our business. We recognise that due to the nature of our services, the hotel industry has a significant carbon footprint. We have been working hard to bring greener and cleaner practices to ensure the longevity and success of the industry.

We have a dedicated sustainability team that is committed to reducing the overall environmental impact from all of our hotels, as well as helping to drive the industry towards a sustainable future. One of the ways in which we do this is by educating our various stakeholders, both internally and externally, about the importance of environmental conservation through training and learning schemes. Green initiatives, such as Plant for the Planet, are only successful because of the contribution of our guests and employees.

In 2014, well over 70 million guests passed through our hotels in 92 different countries, all of which came into contact with our PLANET21 programme. Our size allows us to reach a huge global audience and educate about the small changes they can make, that will help to make a big green impact.

GH: Why is sustainability important to Accor?

The world is changing and the threats we are facing are very real. Changing our habits is no longer optional - it’s an imperative need. If we were to continue to consume energy at our current pace, we would require the resources of three planet earths. Companies have a key role to play in educating and inspiring consumers about sustainability.

At AccorHotels we believe we have a duty and responsibility as a leader, reinforced by our capacity to engage so many people. At any one point, we have roughly half a million guests across our hotels. Our size and scale means that we play a key role in ensuring the longevity of our industry as well as protecting the world we live in. We do this by educating stakeholders about sustainability and the choices they can make to contribute to a greener, more sustainable future.

Every organisation must make sustainability a core part of their business as well as educating consumers about the benefits of making greener choices.  Initiatives can only be successful with the contribution from guests, employees and wider stakeholders.

GH: Talk us through your sustainability initiatives.

We are committed to act together for the well-being of our world. We have a number of green initiatives at Novotel London Blackfriars that we are very proud of. Through these initiatives we have been able to educate and excite our guests and employees about a greener future.

Energy & Carbon

A combined heating power system (CHP) is installed in the building. This system extracts thermal heat from the exhaust ventilation and uses the energy to generate electricity and heat water. CHP provides a means to substantially reduce the hotel's fuel, or 'primary energy', consumption without compromising the quality and reliability of the energy supply to our guests

CHP is estimated to save 31.2 tonnes of CO2 per annum, compared to 13 tonnes from using solar panels


  • Installed water flow regulators on basin faucets/taps
  • Installed water flow regulators on the showers
  • Installed water-efficient toilets
  • Propose to guests to reuse towels
  • Propose to guests to reuse sheets
  • A tank collects rainwater from the roof for flushing purposes

Education & training

E-Learning - AccorHotels introduced this initiative to improve the environmental and societal performance level of all our hotels through learning online. The course in available in eight languages. It was created by and for the hoteliers, this tool has already enabled us to train over 16,000 employees globally. The tool has two primary goals: raise awareness on the impact of sustainability in the hospitality industry as well as to train our employees on daily best practices

Shared knowledge platform - We believe in the power of collaboration, especially when it comes to progressing sustainable development. ‘PLANET 21 research’ is our sustainable development platform, that is free to access and available to all in the hospitality industry


In 2014, AccorHotels teamed up with Pur Projet to support community groups within its supply chain. In 21 countries, across South America, Europe, Asia and Africa, AccorHotels is partnering with farmers in the regions close to its hotels

In Morocco, AccorHotels has formed a unique partnership with a women’s cooperative and invests 10,000 euros in employing local women to plant and tend for 2,000 olive trees producing 3,000 litres of virgin olive oil, part of which is sold back to Accor’s hotels

GH: What have been the main benefits of implementing these green initiatives?

In just five years, the Plant for the Planet programme has:

  • Financed the planting of nearly 4 million trees in 21 countries around the world – approximately 2,000 trees a day
  • Pioneered commercial agroforestry models in the UK and promoted sustainable food production
  • Provided a valuable platform introducing agroforestry to UK farmers, land managers, conservation bodies and the population

In addition the PLANET21 programme has won and been shortlisted for various awards:

  • Shortlisted for Built category, Guardian Sustainability Awards 2015
  • Shortlisted for Sustainability Team of the Year award, Business Green Leaders 2015
  • AccorHotels’ inclusion in the United Nations Global 100 validates the Group’s CSR policy, 2013
  • AccorHotels named Eco Group of the Year, UK AA Hospitality Awards 2013
  • Gold Medal from The Pacific Asia Travel Association 2013

GH: Do you have plans to expand on your green initiatives in the future?

We have three commitments and quantifiable objectives for 2015 and beyond. This includes:

  • Reduce our water use. 2015 target: 15% reduction in water use between 2011 and 2015 (owned/leased and managed hotels) 2014 results: – 5,6 % (% change between 2011 and 2014 at comparable scope of reporting)
  • Expand waste recycling. 2015 target: 85% of hotels recycle their waste. 2014 results: 88%
  • Protect biodiversity. 2015 target: 60% of hotels participate in the Plant for the Planet reforestation project. 2014 results: 46%

GH: And finally, what would be your top three bits of advice to hotels setting out on their own sustainability journey?

I would say sustainability needs to be integrated throughout your business and it needs top down, bottom up support. People should think that no matter how small a change you are making, it all contributes to a cleaner, greener future, and also this is not an industry specific issue, this is a global issue. Don’t limit yourself when it comes to learning from others.

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