Will the next five years be about more cuts, more waste and charities sticking plasters on the wounds in society? Craig Anderson, chief executive of the Furniture Reuse Network (FRN) – and an ambassador for RWM in Partnership with CIWM – offers his opinion
Whether it is food or furniture or some of the finer things in life that we all need or want, when it comes down to it, we all need food, shelter and basic home comforts to live and feel part of today’s society.
Reflecting on recent announcements on the bans and petitions to stop wasting food from supermarkets, the content of the Queen’s Speech for the opening of Parliament, and the EU Circular Economy consultation, this is a good time for a more holistic view to be adopted – be it policy or practice.
We cannot and should not look at any single issue from the confines of one viewpoint of whether something is bad for the environment, or about improving the economy, or whether people should be given access to the surplus food or furniture – the bigger challenge and question is: how can we ensure our thoughts on the economy, the environment and society are holistic and integrated to the needs of all parts of society?
The charity reuse sector has been transcending and reacting to these issues for many years, trying to fill gaps in our unequal society and the overall economy that forms this inequality. Only this morning a reuse charity desperately told us: “We are really struggling here and may have to close due to a drop in support which would really hurt the poorest”.
Challenge and Change
The charity sector is out there trying to close these gaps within their local communities – but they need those in power and those in control to look at the bigger picture. We are calling for a more joined-up approach to designing and managing the society we want to live in. Not everyone has the resources they need to live comfortably – supply chains and suppliers look at profit, markets and cost cutting in the current economy – but so many people are left out of this economy and excluded from the society that most people are used to. The added burden of austerity and further welfare budget cuts for people in crisis is having a knock on effect on the whole economy.
To put some of this into context, following FRN recently setting up a partnership with a major bed manufacturer, one of our reuse charities has written back to the manufacturer expressing their gratitude for their pioneering way of dealing with unwanted stock that would have normally have gone to waste and said that: “…the first mattress you sent us has gone to a family that had been in B&B accommodation for some time. They were recently offered an unfurnished flat at short notice but had no furniture of their own”.
Consumption and Community
On the day of writing, the Queen is opening Parliament and laying down the Government’s policy agendas for the next five years, and FRN is at a meeting in London with various other charity leaders to discuss what response is needed from the sector and from our Government leaders to support people in need and crisis across the UK.
Will the next five years be about more cuts and charities sticking plasters on the wounds in society – or will we begin looking at the wider implications of our policies and practices?
A circular economy is not just about the business side of resource use and product supply and its effect on the environment, it has to be about the people who have a need for these goods and to look at what society we have created and what it should be like in future. The circle must encompass all aspects of living with products and goods to survive – and it is with this in mind we need some joined-up thought leadership from our leaders and those that create these markets that control our society and economy – so that everyone benefits.
Craig Anderson is an ambassador for RWM in partnership with CIWM – www.rwmexhibition.com