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Entrepreneurship initiative fights e-waste

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Tracey Gilmore, COO of The Clothing Company.
Tracey Gilmore, COO of The Clothing Company.

By donating their customer-returned merchandise and other products, big brands are helping The Appliance Bank (TAB) support unemployed individuals, while reducing e-waste.

TAB, which forms part of non-profit organisation, The Clothing Bank (TCB), was piloted in 2015 as a result of a strategic partnership with the Clicks Group, and is now operational in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.

According to Tracey Gilmore, COO of TCB, the success of the initiative is a leading example of how corporate South Africa can collaborate to solve poverty.

The initiative provides a two-year training programme for unemployed men or women who are looking to establish their own sustainable businesses.

When customers return appliances like toasters, kettles or hairdryers, many of these items end up getting thrown in the bin, explains Gilmore. TAB was created to teach people how to repair these household appliances and sell them for a profit. But that’s not all, she adds.

Over the course of the two years, it has also given extensive financial, business and life-skills training, as well as coaching and mentoring, to help them on their business journey.

The idea behind TAB is to prevent damaged appliances from being disposed of in landfills and helping impoverished communities to access refurbished appliances at more affordable prices, notes Gilmore.

TAB also wants to shift people’s perceptions around creating their own employment opportunities, she adds.  

“We really wanted to utilise the waste you find within the retail supply chain as a tool to empower unemployed men and women,” says Gilmore. “Our partners have very generously contributed 56 000 items last year, which allowed us to support 67 businessmen, who in turn collectively generated profits of R3.3 million.”

TAB would like to encourage more companies to come on board as it is planning to expand the programme to aid 220 men by 2020, concludes Gilmore.

“Our whole programme is designed to lower people’s anxiety because when you’re less anxious, you make better choices. We’ve seen a massive transformation in the people we’re working with; they’re so committed and dedicated to the work they’re doing.”

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