Press release

Welsh Social Enterprise recognised by Prime Minister for tackling food waste and unemployment

Crest Co-operative wins Big Society Award.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Crest Co-operative, a Welsh social enterprise whose sustainable recycling business also helps those struggling to find work, is the latest Big Society Award winner.

Crest Co-operative operates a number of recycling initiatives diverting functional, household and electrical goods and food away from landfill, selling restored household items at affordable costs and giving food to homeless and vulnerable people. The process also creates employment for the long-term unemployed, people with disabilities, and ex-offenders, who work in their warehouses and stores.

Since 2012, The North Wales organisation has worked to ensure in-date food does not go to waste. National and local food manufacturers donate quality surplus food to Crest Co-operative which is then redistributed to those who need it most. Crest Co-operative deliver the food to 28 community groups across North Wales, who then prepare meals for homeless and vulnerable people. This in turn generates employment opportunities and helps those who volunteer to develop essential skills.

In the last nine months Crest Co-operative has:

  • diverted 56 tonnes of in-date, quality food away from landfill, contributing to meals for vulnerable people at 28 community groups in North Wales. 
  • diverted 69 tonnes of household items destined for landfill and restored and sold them to the public at a low cost through its community stores.
  • created 509 work placements and employment opportunities, such as workshop assistants, van driver’s assistants, retail assistants and work placements assisting adults with learning disabilities. 
  • created almost 5,000 hours of volunteering opportunities
  • provided 2,391 hours of community service; those who work in this service are less likely to become repeat offenders

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Crest Co-operative has made a difference to a huge number of people across North Wales by making sure food which would otherwise go to waste is made available to vulnerable and homeless people. On top of this they work with unemployed people to deliver the service, helping even more people in local communities.

“Crest has an innovative and compassionate approach to tackling a range of social problems through one enterprise which really demonstrates what the Big Society can achieve. I’m pleased to be presenting Crest Co-operative with this award and hope they continue to grow and reach even more communities.”

Sharon Jones, Co-Founder and CEO of Crest said:

“It is all about changing behaviour as well as perception. From a household’s point of view, it is always easier to just throw something away unless there is an easy and cost free alternative. From an unemployed person’s point of view, the longer you remain unemployed the more confidence you lose.

“Crest provides simple solutions to these issues and while these changes do not happen overnight, it is wonderful to see employees gain confidence through a work scheme, and re-integrate into the community after what is often a very long struggle”, says Mrs Jones.

Ann Bland, former volunteer at Crest who was unemployed for six years after illness now has permanent employment in one of their stores. She said: “At Crest it was different. They didn’t just look at my disability, they could see the person.”

Notes to editors

More information is available on the Crest Co-operative website.

Crest Co-operative operates many different enterprises, including Crest Waste Collections, Crest Community Store, FareShare North Wales and Crest Community Services.

A community fund they recently created helped re-invest over £10,000 back into the local community initiatives who have recently suffered in light of the economic crisis. Grants of up to £500 were given to struggling community groups such as a homeless centre and children’s projects.

Since 1998 Crest has helped more than 1,000 people find jobs in the local community and has awarded more than 9,000 qualifications to employees, trainees and volunteers.

Other initiatives include:

  • Award winning housing association recycling projects: Crest Co-operative has worked with North Wales housing association Cartrefi Conwy for more than 4 years. Work to save kitchens and bathrooms from landfill won the UK Sustainable Housing Award 2010 and the Cylch Wales Innovation Award 2010. Work with Cartrefi Conwy has created over 300 social inclusion placements for unemployed people in North Wales in the last four years.
  • Regeneration: Work to regenerate the North Wales community was recognised in the Wales Green List 2012 and praised by the Welsh Minister for the Environment John Griffiths. The scheme involved transforming unoccupied housing association properties by clearing and painting them, ready for new tenants to move in.

The Big Society Awards

The Big Society Awards were set up by the Prime Minister in November 2010. The aim is to acknowledge individuals and organisations across the UK that demonstrates the Big Society in their work or activities. In so doing, the aim is also to galvanise others to follow.

The award focuses upon three specific areas:

  • Outstanding Contribution to Community
    • People, projects and organisations that enable communities to drive change themselves
    • Projects and organisations that allow the community to identify solutions 
    • People, projects and organisations that inspire others to contribute to their community
  • Improving Lives and Society Through Innovation, Collaboration and New Partnerships
    • People and organisations taking new approaches to public services
    • Successful collaboration and partnerships between public, private and voluntary sector - working together to benefit communities
  • Engaging in Social Action
    • People, projects and organisations taking action in their community
    • Working together for social change (e.g. through creating groups, campaigns, movements)
    • Generosity of time, money, skills and other resources - in support of social action

Launching the awards, the Prime Minister said:

“There are some amazing projects and remarkable voluntary work going on in towns and cities up and down the country, by all kinds of organisations from large enterprises to tiny grassroots schemes and inspirational individuals.

“These awards are a chance to pay tribute to those making a valuable contribution to their community, the real champions of the Big Society, but perhaps more importantly, I hope they will motivate many others to take action, get involved and drive change in their area.”

Nominations come in from the general public after which there follows a process of scoring and short-listing by civil servants and a further short-listing by a Panel of Ministers and independent external experts. This Panel makes recommendations to the Prime Minister who makes the final decisions about who to make the award to. Twelve winners are decided each quarter meeting and then announced once a week throughout the year.

Fifty-four winners have been announced to date, including:

  • Livity (Nationwide) - A youth engagement agency working with young people every day to co-create campaigns, content and communities. Their clients - including C4, Legacy Trust, Google, NHS, Virgin Media, BlackBerry and Big Lottery Fund - get uniquely deep youth insights and a precious pool of young talent, energy and ideas. Their young people get training, equipment, support and opportunities to build brighter futures.
  • The Furniture Recycling Project (Gloucestershire) - The Furniture Recycling Project is a charity that has been operating in Gloucestershire since 1996 collecting donated furniture and household white goods, repairing and testing the items, and selling them at their shops for a very low cost to the disadvantaged community in Gloucestershire.
  • Cherry Orchard Gardening Services (Staffordshire) - COGS is a social enterprise from Staffordshire that enables disabled people to maintain gardens of elderly residents. A team of trained gardeners, all of who have a learning disability, carries out the gardening for older people as well as the grounds of the Memorial Hall. Their work reduces the vulnerability of the elderly, as their property appears well maintained, whilst providing disabled individuals with useful skills and work.
  • Volunteer it Yourself (Nationwide) - VIY combines volunteering and DIY by challenging young people aged 14-17 to learn building and construction skills on the job by committing to fix local youth club buildings in need of essential repairs. VIY volunteers are mentored by professional tradespeople and gain vocational accreditations as well as access to further training, work placement and apprenticeship opportunities with local employers beyond the project.

Full list of winners at the Big Society Awards website

Published 22 January 2013