Our Social Mission
In today’s blog, we’d like to tell you a little bit about our ‘social enterprise’ actions here at ApparelXchange. A social enterprise business is one that has a clear social or environmental mission (we have both!). Like traditional businesses, we aim to make a profit, but the difference with a social enterprise organisation is that we are committed to re-investing or donating that profit. So our primary commitment is to our social and environmental mission, rather than to money.
What does this mean in real terms? Let us tell you about Summer 2020, behind the scenes at AXC.
It’s June. We’re three months into a government-required lockdown and our shop is still closed. Life feels complicated and uncertain. But families are looking ahead, hoping that their children will be able to get back to school in August and start benefitting again from all the social and educational support that being in school provides. But how to make sure that those children are ready and equipped for that moment when at last it comes?
Leanne McGuire, from Glasgow City Parents Group (GCPG), had been working hard throughout lockdown, using her team’s considerable energy and initiative, to help solve the multiple problems that COVID-19 was causing for Glasgow families. In June, she started receiving messages from people worried about how to access school uniform for August, given the financial and practical restraints that the pandemic had brought with it. For any family to feel safe and confident, it needs to feel there is a reliable source of food and clothing available. COVID-19 was making parents feel newly vulnerable in this area, a feeling that can have a really detrimental effect on mental health and well-being. Leanne knew that providing support in a discreet and practical way would be crucial in helping families to feel able to cope with the pandemic’s next stage.
This is where we were able to help… AXC has always had a free school uniform service, offered to pupils through schools, but we needed to change tack, given the extended school lockdown. We stepped up to the challenge and AXC with Glasgow Preloved Uniforms and GCPG began working together at the end of June. Together we came up with a system that allowed parents and carers to access free school uniform in excellent condition, without having to disclose personal circumstances. Offering services to Glasgow Social Work Services, Children 1st, Women’s Aid, G53Together, Castlemilk Youth Complex and Interfaith Glasgow, with GCPG coordinating the administration and referrals, AXC became a delivery partner and got to work.
Over the course of the summer, thanks to customers’ support through shopping and donating with us, we were able to deliver on 189 referrals, which amounted to over 3000 garments being gifted to families in Glasgow. We were honoured to be able to help with such a crucial community drive.
Like everyone in 2020, the families we were helping had been experiencing very complicated changes in circumstances. The very long school closures had created an enormous rise in family food bills; the funds left over for clothing were just getting squeezed. Beyond this, as news stories this summer made clear, families seeking asylum in Scotland were really struggling on very, very little financial support. We were eager to do what we could to help relieve a little of their burden.
Those families told us that the uniform package ‘made a big difference’ to them. As always, our key priority was to be respectful and sensitive in how we offered our help. Families told us, "It's a relief for the parents to receive this support. The uniforms were presented in such good condition & all wrapped. We felt very much respected, it was easy to access the service, everyone who supplied the uniforms were considerate and it was confidential’.
It's not easy being a social enterprise company. It’s not easy being a parent or carer. It’s not easy being a clothing organisation that wants to be gentle in its environmental impact. But all of these things are important to us. So we make it work. Whenever you shop with us, or donate clothing to us, you help make it work too.
Thank you. It’s good for us all when we have a shared mission.
Izzie and the team xx