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Hospice charity announces sustainability commitment

Royal Trinity Hospice has published a detailed plan for improving the sustainability of its charity shops and retail operations.

A white van with the branding of the Royal Trinity Hospice.

The Royal Trinity Hospice is committing to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels by moving to hybrid or electric vehicles when its van leasing contracts come up for renewal. (Photo: Annette McGill, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Date published

Royal Trinity Hospice has published a detailed plan for making its retail operations more sustainable. The charity runs 21 shops across London to help fund free end-of-life and palliative care for Londoners, and last year its shops resold more than 350,000 used items.

Seven priorities for action

The charity conducted a sustainability review of its retail operations in 2022. It identified seven priority areas for action on sustainability. These are:      

•   transportation

•   procurement

•   waste

•   reuse and recycling

•   printing

•   utilities

•   people


A comprehensive action plan

Royal Trinity Hospice has now expanded these seven priority areas into a comprehensive action plan (pdf) that sets out 24 specific goals to improve the sustainability of its operations. Each goal has a rationale and a method and a timeframe.

So, for example, under the heading of procurement, the goals are: 

  • Use only non-toxic, sustainable cleaning products with re-fill options where possible
  • Reduce the number of deliveries to deliver supplies
  • Eliminate unrecyclable plastic in Gift Aid fobs
  • Improve circularity in new shop fits.

 The sustainability action plan then sets out the details of each goal under the headings of 'How', 'Why' and  'By' and uses a traffic-light indicator to show the current status of the goal.

 The result is a simple, very clear commitment to improving sustainability within the charity's operations which can be understood by staff, volunteers and other stakeholders.

Saving energy

Under the utilities heading, the charity sets out how it will aim to reduce energy consumption. The measures include assessing the efficiency of all heating/cooling appliances being used in its shops and how energy efficiency can be improved. Other actions include replacing all lighting across the estate with LEDs, looking into motion-based light sensors for back office areas and installing timers for lighting in shop windows.

Royal Trinity Hospice shops will also aim to use only green energy tariffs by March 2024 to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.

Fashion: a growing global problem

When it announced its plans, the charity highlighted how much the fashion industry contributes to climate change. Research by the consulting group McKinsey shows that the sector was responsible for some 2.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, or about 4% of the global total. This means that the fashion industry emits about the same quantity of greenhouse gases each year as the economies of France, Germany and the United Kingdom combined.

Fashion is also a significant polluter: the World Bank estimates that the garment industry accounts for 20% of industrial wastewater pollution worldwide.

Despite this, consumers are buying more new clothes than ever before - and they are discarding more clothes, too. A lot of unwanted clothing ends up in landfill. But the items don't go away: a recent study suggested that polyester clothing (which is made from fossil fuels) can take up to 200 years to decompose.

Support from customers

Royal Trinity Hospice has positioned its shops as an alternative to this destructive cycle. Its shops use the marketing strapline "London's answer to sustainable fashion".

The message seems to be getting through: the charity says a recent customer survey found that wanting to buy sustainably was the main reason for people coming to their shops.

Daniel Holloway, Director of Retail at Royal Trinity Hospice, says the charity wanted to do more than recycle clothing. He said: "Genuine sustainability is not only about the number of preloved items we sell or save from landfill. Running 21 shops means there is ample opportunity for further reducing our environmental impact. 

"Each of the commitments outlined in our plan, whether they are quick wins or will require a more radical transformation to the way we operate over time, will take us closer to realising our ambition for authentic sustainability and minimal environmental impact.

"The goals that we have identified give an idea of how much goes into running charity shops and how much scope there is to limit waste and choose better options across transport, procurement, utilities and more."