Innovate Blog
Jade Taft and John Larkin - Founder of Starfish Project
Our people: Kevin Ephgrave – managing the donation of surplus stock to help those in need

Thursday May 11, 2017

In 2016 Kevin Ephgrave, Stock Control Manager from Bunzl Catering Supplies decided he’d like to find a way to create social value from surplus stock, which was otherwise being treated as waste or being sold to ‘jobbers’. He has overseen the donation of goods with a retail value of £45,000 to charity In Kind, benefiting 419 charities in the UK.

Kevin is motivated by the desire to help people who have fallen on hard times – and he plans to help more local charities in 2017.

To find out more please read the full interview with Kevin below:

A series of blogs recognising and celebrating people in our business who actively support local and international community and charity projects.

An interview with Kevin Ephgrave (Stock Control Manager):

This was a big project and not part of your day to day role. Why did you decide to take it on?

I hate seeing waste. People think waste just disappears when it goes in the bin, it’s a case of out of sight – out of mind. Rarely do we stop to think, did that really have to be waste? Was there more I could have done with that material or product?

One of our processes for ex-stock was to sell it to a ‘jobber’ for a minimal price, but I couldn’t help thinking we could create more value from our ex-stock, not just financial, but reputational value as well.

I believed there must be a way of putting these products to good use in the local area, and I wanted to get our own people thinking the same.

So how did you kick things off?

Well, we’d already established a partnership with the charity In Kind. In Kind specializes in providing food, hygiene and disposable products to vulnerable communities. All it needed was for someone to take ownership over making sure what stock could be donated.

So I established a donation process which ensured that beneficial ex-stock would make its way to their doors. So far Bunzl Catering Supplies have donated to In Kind stock with a retail value of over £45,000, which has benefitted more than 419 charities across the UK.

I was keen to work with more charity partners, so I contacted Fareshare. Fareshare redistributes unwanted and surplus food to front line charities across the UK working to support the homeless and vulnerable communities. When possible we make monthly donations of tea and coffee as well as a range of hygiene products, which Fareshare distribute to where it’s needed most.

What plans do you have for 2017?

Another new initiative for us is to sell surplus stock to our employees and use the money to donate to local charities. But I didn’t do this alone, my colleagues have provided fantastic support: Lynsey Temple, Kirsty Clinton, Jade Taft, Lorna Starkey, Amy Haskett and Nakita Lovegrove. They found some local charities who they believed would benefit from the money including The Tamworth Food Bank, St Giles Hospice, Birmingham Dog’s Home, Donna Louise Children’s Hospice, Women’s Refuge, Home Start, Starfish Project, SPIN – Special People in Need and Youth Clubs.

As well as donating money we also purchase items on their behalf. For example, recently we bought several pop up tents and sleeping bags for Starfish Project, which is a charity supporting the homeless in Tamworth.

So far our efforts have been really successful and we now have others in our business asking how they can help.

My vision for next year is to inspire our other branches to look at charities they can work with, to share what we have achieved, and to inspire others to do the same. We have to remember that it is not just about donating money; the charities have benefited from our employees volunteering their time too.

What you have achieved in such a small space of time is remarkable. How does it make you feel to see the impact you have had?

Really humbled. I feel so humbled to be able to help so many people in need. You really don’t see what good such simple everyday products have in helping someone who has fallen on hard times.

It touches a nerve with me because I have been there. Not so long ago, I lost my wife, and then my home. I had to start over so I know how hard it is. The smallest gesture of kindness can feel like a lifeline.

Why do you think such work is important for business to do?

What I do is tiny, there are people who give up their lives to do this.

Businesses should encourage people to be passionate about helping their local community, and give them the support to do this. The more of us who give, the less effort it takes.

The processes we have set up makes giving much easier now. Next on our to-do list is a ‘sustainability board’ where we capture testimonials from the charities and individuals we are supporting – to make sure everyone can see the difference we are making.

Successful companies see people as their biggest commodity. Bunzl Catering Supplies recognizes this, and that is great for us, and for the work we are doing.

I want to leave you with a quote from John Larkin – the founder of charity The Starfish Project –

“Unfortunately society sees these people as losers. We just see them as lost”

The reason this quote touched a nerve was, like most people, I have in the past been unsympathetic to those less fortunate and it humbled me to hear John say this with such compassion.


Image: Jade Taft and John Larkin – Founder of Starfish Project