Company Shop was founded by John Marren (Chairman) in 1990. Following their ‘zero landfill’ philosophy, both John and Mark Game (Managing Director) share a passion for stopping good food going to waste by working with retailers, manufacturers and large brands to redistribute nearly 30,000 tonnes of residual stock each year. From its headquarters in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, the business employs over 500 people, across a national network of 18 members stores from Glasgow to Southampton, as well as 17 e-tail ‘click and collect’ factory shops servicing the employees of large manufacturers. With long-standing relationships with all but one of the major retailers and as much as a million tonnes of waste generated by the UK food industry each year, the business has growth on its mind and an emphasis on “more stock, more stores”. As they scale, John and Mark face some difficult questions, such as how to communicate their growth plan whilst ensuring the continued support of their retail stakeholders; what governance structures should they introduce to speed up decision-making and ensure strategic alignment amongst the senior management team; and can ‘Community Shop’ provide the social dividend model to hit their growth targets whilst engaging stakeholders around a vision of delivering social and environmental impact, brand protection and economic returns to their partners.
It was September 2012, and the Energy for Development (E4D) team were returning from their first visit to Kitonyoni, an off-grid, rural market district in Makueni County, Kenya. An hour into the flight, they were discussing why so many rural electrification projects in developing countries tend to fail and fall into disrepair. Determined not to let this happen in Kitonyoni, they recognised their main challenge was to build a socially and economically sustainable model for rural electrification. This raised many questions, such as: How could they devise a service model which would generate sufficient revenues to sustain the system but remain affordable despite low and seasonal incomes? Which ownership or governance model would ensure community engagement; whilst at the same time recover the capital cost of installing a photovoltaic (PV) micro-grid? Finally, how could they reduce their capital costs by optimising the system design to meet local energy demands?
In September 2013, the Energy for Development (E4D) team celebrated the Kitonyoni project’s first year in operation. An end-line survey revealed a noticeable transformation in activities around the trading centre and the lives of the villagers, as well as providing the research team with a full year of data to appraise energy demand, business model and system performance in order to relate it to overall project replication in East Africa. The project is now a beacon in Africa having many local and international visitors from Japan, Germany, UK, Zambia, the World Bank and other funding agencies.