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15 Hatfields, London, SE1 8DJ, tel: 020 7827 5920
Welcome to 15 Hatfields, one of the most eco-minded venues in London. Its GM Warren Campbell talks to V&E about spreading the green dream.
Warren Campbell knows what a wet goat smells like. The distinctive odour was commonplace during his childhood in Jamaica. So in early 2008, when the general manager of 15 Hatfields found himself sourcing carpets produced from Kashmiri goat hair, he knew exactly how to test their authenticity.
Now, the story of Campbell pouring cups of water onto carpets before holding them up to his nose – to the bemusement of the supplier, no doubt – has become the stuff of legend at the Blackfriars venue.
This is just one of the lengths he’ll go to in his bid to make the headquarters of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) the most sustainable space in the capital.
On the homepage of the 15 Hatfields website, an orange goat – the symbol of Campbell’s endeavours – proudly declares some of the other recycled materials that have gone into the venue’s makeup. The bright orange cushions in reception, for example, are made from recycled airline seat belts. All pens started life as CD cases, coasters as car tyres and heat mats from plastic coffee cups.
And that’s just the tip of this inner-city iceberg. The stones on the walls were once off-cuts from paving slabs, with wood chip sourced from a disused power plant making up the partitions. The paint used throughout the building is clay based, which is not only better for both human and environmental health, but more durable. The cleaners are happy too – marks can be washed off more easily.
All of the venue’s furniture comprises natural dyes and 100% compostable fabric. The distinctively curved front reception desk, along with a coffee and juice bar, are both made from recycled bottles of Lenor.
‘It has been a challenge ensuring that sustainability is at the heart of everything we do, especially when we were originally faced with decisions over sustainability versus environmental health because of who our landlord is [the CIEH],’ says Campbell.
When the building first opened, the team went through six months of what became affectionately known as ‘Biscuit-gate’. Attempts to reduce the amount of packaging used for delegate biscuits were met with ‘fingers in the biscuit tin’ resistance from environmental health.
‘In the end, sustainability won through and remains the key focus of every decision we make. Biscuits, along with teabags and other consumables are provided loose in cookie jars with accompanying tongs.’
Campbell, who was a vegetarian for 25 years, claims life-long membership of Greenpeace and is exuberant to the point of exhaustion about the credentials and service levels of 15 Hatfields. His passion has ensured that the venue’s preferred suppliers, such as last year’s Square Meal Canapé Cup winner Eden Caterers and AV specialist Present Communications, have shared every step of this sustainability journey with him.
‘In 2008, the only recycled glassware products available were half sawn-off beer bottles and jam jars. I could find six recycled tumblers online, but I needed 1,000 Champagne flutes and 600 wine glasses.’ By investing in his suppliers, and then promoting their services to his client base, Campbell has helped create a demand for said products, ensuring the sustainability of the business he asked his suppliers to create.
‘Recycled glassware may cost 25% more but over the course of a year, you have 100% less breakages because it’s thicker and tougher than normal glass. So it’s a total no-brainer.’
Campbell believes that hydration is the over-riding thing that keeps delegates going for the duration of an event, so he doesn’t charge them to drink water from his recycled glassware. In fact, by providing decanted water – served in recycled bottles that have been cooled in the fridge – 15 Hatfields is saving up to two million half-litre plastic bottles from ending up in a landfill each year.
‘In my last job, we spent around £3,000 per quarter on bottled water. My bottled-water system costs £186 a month to rent and we have 600 branded bottles that cost me £800. It’s another total no-brainer,’ Campbell explains.
‘It takes an additional six hours of a fridge running at full power to cool water in plastic bottles because it’s being thermally insulated by the plastic. So when the water is decanted into recycled bottles and placed in the fridge to cool, we’re using less energy, reducing carbon and saving money.’
Campbell’s eight-strong team are very used to their boss’ enthusiasm and idiosyncrasies. They’ve even coined the term ‘Warrenism’ to describe some of his more ambitious ideas for promoting 15 Hatfields as a unique and sustainable space to hold meetings, events, exhibitions and product launches.
In 2011 for example, the venue gave away 3,000 Holm Oak sapling trees to visitors at our very own Venues & Events exhibition. An interactive map online allowed anyone who received one of these trees to register it and see where all the other oaks had been planted.
For the last year’s V&E exhibition, Campbell wanted to go one better. ‘We’d decided to focus our campaign on the dwindling bee population in UK cities by giving away two million ‘Seeds for Bees’. Visitors to the show could then grow wild flowers at home. I’d decided that we would need a proper meadow as part of our stand design, so the team spent the best part of the year growing one on the roof of 15 Hatfields.’
Six weeks before the show, London experienced torrential rains, which washed the creation away. ‘We managed to find a meadow supplier, so we still had our meadow on-stand, complete with hanging bees. The grass was then replanted in my dad’s garden after the show.’
For the 2013 V&E exhibition, 15 Hatfields will look to emphasise how they go that extra mile to provide sustainable event solutions. Its stand will be designed around recycled pedometers and the team will be giving away seed sticks so that visitors can grow herbs with medicinal qualities such as basil, chives and thyme.
‘Sustainability doesn’t have to mean biting off more than you can chew. It’s about focusing on areas of business that can be realistically changed one step at a time. There’s a lot of green-wash in the events sector currently, which gets right on my wick. We simply want to encourage other venues, as well as agencies and suppliers, to walk the walk if they’re going to talk the talk. That could mean putting in simple steps such as reducing energy use by 5% or reducing waste. Clients are so much more savvy about sustainable solutions these days and they demand much more.’
It has been almost six years since the CIEH gave Campbell carte blanche to spend £1m on creating London’s most sustainable events venue and, in the process, free reign for all his innovative ideas.
Within six months of opening, HRH Prince Charles cut the ribbon on a Legal Sector Alliance event, which saw 200 top law firms from around the world sign up to a 25-step program reducing their impact on the environment. Since then,15 Hatfields has been regularly used by the likes of Google, the Carbon Trust, the Soil Association, Food for Life Partnership, TalkSport and others with a corporate social responsibility remit or just the desire to make a difference.
In the venue’s basement library, which stores CIEH general council minutes dating back to the year 1888, there’s a portrait gallery of 28 former presidents of the institute looking down from the wall. Sir Edwin Chadwick, who started the CIEH in 1883, is smiling, no doubt at the success of the institute’s events business and perhaps, the thought of a goat playing such a key role.
Bridget Everett, events officer at Food for Life Partnership: ‘We pride ourselves on encouraging schoolchildren to learn about how sustainable ingredients are used in cooking and how food gets from farm to plate. When we decided to acknowledge schools with an awards ceremony, we needed a venue with a strong emphasis on organic locally sourced catering and attention to sustainable details.We staged an awards lunch for 100 guests and 15 Hatfields ticked all the boxes. From freshly squeezed organic juices to locally sourced roast meats, it served as a shining example of what we represent. The venue team couldn’t have been more helpful. They were very responsive and incredibly organised. It was a memorable event.’
EARTH A bright and airy space with natural daylight and integrated AV facilities. There’s room for up to 90 people
WATER HD videoconferencing suite and webcasting facilities can be integrated into events for up to 72 delegates
AIR Popular for training seminars or meetings for up to 110 delegates. Directly connected to Water and Fire, the space can be opened up for conferences
FIRE A 72-capacity space with two screens – handy for larger conferences. The projectors can be synchronised, allowing flexibility for presentations
SUSTAIN Filled with natural light, Sustain is joined to adjacent Fire. It’s particularly popular as a breakout or stand-up catering area for up to 50 people
RENEW This bright glass-walled room works well for catering during a meeting, but also as a breakout room for up to 40 standing guests
ENERGY One of the venue’s smaller rooms, daylight-flooded Energy is popular for intimate exec-level meetings or as a conference breakout space
This article was first printed in Square Meal Venues & Events, spring 2013.