GWR strives to be as innovative as possible. It is one of the few organizations that collects wood destined for landfill and then reuses that wood to create quality furniture. The wood is usually crafted into standardized stock for resale. However, GWR also produces custom-made products upon request, catering to specific customer needs. The business is accredited by Revolve, which is run by Zero Waste Scotland. Zero Waste Scotland is a Scottish Government program whose mission is to influence and enable change by motivating practical behavior change in individuals and organizations (visit: https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/ ). Revolve accreditation means that the company has met a number of exacting standards, such as ensuring all GWR resources are recycled when possible. This, in turn, reduces the company’s overall pollutant footprint and protects the environment.
Glasgow Caledonian University
GWR actively promotes the idea of the circular economy through involvement in partnership projects with eco-schools, nurseries, and other community groups to create furniture for both indoor and outdoor spaces. Furthermore, the business runs successful in-house, up-skilling training programs in design and carpentry for people who suffer from social isolation, to “improve their social mobility while learning new skills."
According to Kris, the business "first started up in Drumchapel as a portacabin, with some volunteers." As previously mentioned, with a background in social work, the founder, Peter, noticed that there were not very many programs available to help people to deal with social exclusion and reduced mobility. In Glasgow, 46% of all people living in Glasgow have suffered from social isolation at some point in their life. Peter was looking for a way to tackle this. After discovering an existing wood recycling model in Brighton, Peter began communicating with the Brighton team. His newfound knowledge inspired him to create GWR.
GWR offers several services and products, which both directly and indirectly affect their stakeholders and the environment. These include their social volunteer programs, bespoke private construction contracts, involvement in eco-school programs and many more. Peter Lavelle used GWR as a "vehicle to help and support people." GWR’s schemes have allowed the business to secure development funding from the Big Lottery, the Scottish Government, and the European Union for their involvement in social and environmental projects. Kris stated that the EU funding is believed to be "guaranteed…for the duration of the program” regardless of uncertainty over Brexit. The funding supports a "growth project" and will last for at least three years. These projects enable GWR to contribute to the achievement of the United Nation’s SDGs, with an emphasis on Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. GWR's business model creates a positive social impact, reduces their ecological impact, and has a multiplier effect from teaching others how to do the same. The business model also improves their brand image. Trained staff volunteer their time and expertise to take part in these projects; this not only provides internal and external customers with a sense of fulfilment, but also ensures the company promotes a positive public image, pleasing customers and attracting new volunteers.
The business focuses on minimizing its environmental impact. In recent years the business has introduced less harmful chemicals during their assembly process (less toxic glues), they continue to source recycled wood before it is taken to a landfill, and they regularly get involved in personal smaller environmental schemes, such as ring pull collection and "can recycling…so they can become wheelchairs.” The business is aware that environmental impact and sustainability is a continual process as they strive to “go as green as we can within our financial limitations."
This Scottish recycling business model has proven to be a successful social and environmental program, which has stimulated competition and growth in the sector. A similar recycling business has recently opened in Edinburgh, giving GWR “a bit more competition." GWR sees the positive side of having a new competitor, highlighting: “It’s also good…another possibility for a second recycling organization in Scotland" to tackle environmental issues and social isolation not only in Glasgow but throughout Scotland. The increased employment, capital injection, and reinvestment are expected to boost local markets and the surrounding economies.
As GWR continues to grow, the company has also seen an increase in its overall impact. As the business continues, it expects that its overall impact will grow on a similar trajectory.
During the company’s 13-year existence, they have produced consistent positive financial growth. Kris revealed: “Since I joined 4 years ago, the sales have grown like 15% year on year.” GWR generated an impressive turnover of £440,000 in 2018 and fortunately, due to the business's consistent financial growth, Kris, along with two contract staff, have been able to become permanent full-time employees, receiving a regular wage. At present, there are a total of 20 full-time staff members (4 of whom were volunteers), as well as a steady flow of skilled volunteers who pass on their knowledge to GWR’s beneficiaries. This creates an even greater impact and helps GWR to pursue their SDGs further. The company has also rented a second large storage space. Expansion of their premises is essential to ensure that GWR can grow their processes comfortably and safely.
Alongside their commitment to the environment, the company also offers customers individual items upon request: “40% of the furniture made is bespoke.” With GWR being the size it is, the business can accommodate their customers’ individual needs. Combining the custom aspect of the business with their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint boosts the company's overall brand image and allows them to attract new customers, further justifying the increased growth and turnover. The company also works alongside the likes of schools, community groups, and nurseries, which adds to their positive brand image. They also tap in to a customer base they might not have previously had the means of reaching.
GWR produces clear objectives, followed throughout the entire business operation. One of these goals includes "proving they work for the business and then... roles become permanent and sustainable.” The business also places a focus upon reviewing and monitoring continual improvement: "There is a continual improvement all the way, as we do like to believe in that, and at no point will you have the finished article." It is clear that the steps are being taken for the business to improve on the experience they already provide. As stated earlier, the disadvantages of potential competition are converted into positives. This outlook allows the company to communicate positively in the future with similar businesses, potentially generating beneficial relationships.
GWR gives back to the local community by offering a wide range of opportunities, for example, woodwork and design training programs geared towards unemployed or socially isolated members of society. People can apply to the course by emailing or phoning the company themselves, but most often people are recommended to the organization through family, friends, or referral agencies. Kris elaborates on the service on offer. “At the moment we’re running two training programs called ‘wood unlimited,’ which is designed to help issues in and around social isolation.”
Partly funded by the Big Lottery, these health and well-being courses consist of one half-day session that runs every week for eight weeks, and one two-day course which runs for six weeks. Support is offered from a full-time development worker and trainer, alongside the regular workshop staff. The trainees learn practical woodwork skills, which they can utilize to take part in producing goods from recycled wood. The courses also engage individuals in group activities and community projects to teach new skills; however, according to Kris, “That's not the primary outcome of the courses. It's to get people out of the house, get them working, get them talking to other people." Volunteers see a positive benefit from these programs as they continue to volunteer at the organisation for many years: “50 volunteers come through our doors every week. Some people have been here 6, 7 years.”
GWR tries to be as green and eco-friendly as possible within their financial limitations. When asked specifically about what the company does to reduce the negative impact on the environment, Kris explained, “In relation to the environment, obviously we gather wood waste … stop it going to landfill, still give it extra life.”
The organization's core business relates to the United Nations 12th Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns. Specifically, the company directly contributes to the achievement of target 12.5, which aims to substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling, and reuse by 2030. The organization does this by making efficient use of a natural resource through reusing and recycling wood. Additionally, the company promotes a circular economy in which resources are used and then regenerated instead of being wasted. This reduces the negative environmental impacts of production and consumption.
In conclusion, GWR may seem to be solely focused on environmental issues; however, upon further inspection of the business, they were found to consider a lot more. Social issues, environmental concerns, brand image, and stakeholder satisfaction are at the forefront of the business’s operational goals. It is these targets which have helped GWR to grow to the successful business they have become, with no signs of slowing down. The business is a prime example of a sustainable business model.
Kris Paterson, Workshop Manager
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Business Website: https://glasgowwoodrecycling.org.uk/
Year Founded: 2006
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
Glasgow Wood Recycling (hereafter GWR) was founded by Peter Lavelle in 2006. Having a background in social work, Peter had been looking for ways to support people within the community, by building their confidence and helping them to learn new skills in the process. Peter took inspiration from a wood recycling business already set up in Brighton, and so he opened a depot in Glasgow. GWR was born! GWR currently has 20 full-time staff members as well as around 50 volunteers each week.
When interviewed, manager Kris Paterson identified their status as “a registered charity, as well as being limited by public guarantee." He emphasized that GWR’s principal objectives are to promote recycling, create products using reused materials, generate sustainable jobs, and tackle social isolation, all contributing towards the United Nation’s 12th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG): Responsible Consumption and Production.