I am a big fan of charity shops. I buy from them, donate goods to them and, having previously done some work around charity shop volunteers at Oxfam Ireland, have a professional understanding of the myriad benefits they bring. But without doing the research, I would be hard pushed to value those benefits.
It was with great interest, therefore, that I read about a Social Return On Investment study commissioned by the Charity Retail Association in the UK. This found that during 2022, the year under review, a staggering £75+ billion of social value was generated by UK charity shops. For every £1 invested, an impressive £7.35 of social value was created. The highest social value per person was created for volunteers and the highest total social value was for customers. The most important outcome was the feeling of giving back to other people, followed by the sentiment that charity shop staff meet customers with friendliness and compassion, followed by a sense of protecting the planet.
The Charity Retail Ireland Impact Report for the same year instead adopts the Triple Bottom Line methodology, using key output indicators to illustrate financial, social and environmental ‘impact’, such as number of garments sold, number of people employed and number of tonnes diverted from landfill. These also draw a fascinating picture of an important sector.
Which of these approaches do you find more meaningful? Why?