There is a long tradition of providing hospitality and accommodation in many religions, but the Methodist faith has a particularly practical approach to the use of its buildings. From the very beginnings of the faith, it constructed and acquired buildings that the faithful needed for worship, instruction or other purposes. But unlike some earlier Christian traditions, the buildings were not seen to have a sacred, unchangeable purpose – if needs changed, then so did the buildings, sold off or converted to a new purpose.
Hence The Wesley – to the uninitiated, one of many smart hotels in central London; but to those who look a little deeper, an example of practical faith, and a commitment to sustainability, in action.
It claims to be the world's first ethical hotel, run as a business, but with every aspect run along environmental lines.
Gold standard: The Wesley hotel is the only hotel ever to win the UK's Social Enterprise Mark. It scrutinises every aspect of its performance, from waste management to employment practices, to make sure they all adhere to its moral standards Picture: The Wesley
The Wesley’s roots go back to 1950, when Hilda Porter founded the Methodist International House to welcome students from abroad who struggled to find accommodation. In the late 1990s, it was transformed into a new social enterprise, the Methodist International Centre, and took up residence in London Euston, in the building we now know as The Wesley Hotel.
Since 1950, The Wesley has supported tens of thousands of students with accommodation and hospitality. In its present incarnation, The Wesley provides hospitality for those seeking to live in a more sustainable way.
The Wesley’s social and environmental impact
The Wesley seeks to support its local community while minimising its environmental impact:
Gift Aid (a UK tax benefit) from all profits goes to support the Methodist Church’s educational activities.
The Wesley won the Investors in People Gold Award for its culture of learning and development.
Suppliers are handpicked and Fair Trade accredited.
The Wesley monitors its carbon footprint and is a Camden Council Carbon Champion. Since 2012, the Wesley’s C02 intensity per customer has decreased by 85% despite welcoming more guests.
It holds the Green Tourism Gold Award.
It recycles all food waste. All other wastes is carefully sorted to maximise recycling.
Laundry use is minimised, and plastics use reduced.
The Wesley has held the UK’s Social Enterprise Mark since 2010 and is still the only hotel to do so.
Reverend Stuart Burgess chairs the board of The Wesley. He previously served as the President of the Methodist Church of Great Britain (equivalent to the Archbishop of Canterbury).
Speaking to FaithInvest, he said: 'I've always been interested in property and in how to make property work for the well-being of the church. Historically, the Methodist Church back in the 18th century was a rural church and many of the rural buildings were only put up by the goodwill of farmers on their land, and were only there to last about 100 years. If a building isn't wanted, we get rid of it and move on.'
‘I think those are some of the social values of what the Gospel is about, and it’s important to hold onto those against the backcloth that you’ve got to make money' – Rev Stuart Burgess
The ethical dimension of The Wesley is based on Gospel values. Rev Burgess explains: 'Part of our values include looking after our people, making sure they're on the living wage, and paying them more than living wage, for example.
'It's about the management of waste. It's about your to attitude to people and how you value people and run the organisation in a caring and humane way. I think those are some of the social values of what the Gospel is about, and it’s important to hold onto those against the backcloth that you’ve got to make money.'
The Methodist church has historically shied away from ventures that generate income, but the vision behind The Wesley shows how faith groups can manage their assets, make money and channel that wealth into socially responsible projects. A second Wesley hotel is being planned in north London.