From school supplies and bedding to clothing and electronics, not-for-profit organisation Good360 redirects excess stock from brands to vulnerable communities in need. And since Covid-19 hit two years ago, demand is at an all-time high. Here, managing director and founder Alison Covington discusses how the process works and the changes she’d like to see in the retail industry.
Inside Retail:Tell me about how you launched Good360 in Australia and how it works.
Alison Covington: I was always conscious that businesses have had a solution for food waste, but there wasn’t a solution for all those other fantastic goods. And when I read about Good360, operating in the US, they had been [doing it]for over 30 years at that time and had done $7 billion worth of goods. And I thought, “Wow, I’d like to work for the company that does that in Australia,” but no one was doing it here. And then I couldn’t un-know the fact that for more than 30 years, businesses had that solution in the US, but we weren’t offering that solution to our businesses. If they had [unwanted] clothing, toys, household, electricals – there just wasn’t a solution to match them up to our vulnerable Australians. I just couldn’t un-know that. What was happening to all those goods? So I thought, “Well, we have to do this here in Australia.”
So I did. I launched Good360 in 2015 and we’re working with many fantastic businesses now. And in that short time, businesses have donated around $220 million worth of goods, which is an amazing amount. But we still have a goal that we want to donate a billion dollars worth of goods by 2025. We want businesses to have Good 360 as their solution. When goods don’t sell through and they’re idle, we want them to come to Good360 and they can donate those goods.
IR: How would you describe the customer experience for people looking for items on the site?
AC: We work with over 3000 charities and schools around the country that can access the Good 360 online marketplace where they can receive goods. We make sure /they are a vetted charity or school. They come online, they can see the goods available to them and pick the goods they want for their community.
I think that’s so important. Often charities receive goods they haven’t asked for, but through the Good360 model, they get the quality and size of goods they want, so the right goods go to the right person at the right time. They put the items in their shopping cart, and we deliver them to their door. It’s just like a normal e-commerce system. We also have the ability for them to do click-and-collect from hundreds of stores around the country. We have a program with BIG W where whenever they have goods available in-store, we’ll match charities to come pick them up from their 180 stores around the country. I think that’s really important, too. It’s just a really easy solution for retailers to say: “We have excess stock. Can you send charities to our store to pick up those goods?”
IR: And from the retailer’s perspective, how does the process work for them?
AC: They can contact Good360, where they speak with our team. We work out what inventory they have, and we work out if it’s best for them to come to our warehouse, where we process the goods and put them up online and the charities pick from the goods online. Or we might send the goods directly from the business’s distribution centres to a charity or the goods might be at their stores. We have different distribution models, depending on where the stock is, and how quickly we can get them to the charities. Also, from an environmental and sustainability point of view, we work out which is the quickest way that is more environmentally friendly and low-cost for everybody to move this stock into local communities. We have quite an interesting and diverse logistics model that is environmentally friendly, cost-effective and frictionless for the business, to make it as easy as possible for them.
IR: How would you describe the Good 360 product mix?
AC: We work with everything except for food. In the last 12-24 months, we’ve become specialists in personal protective equipment. We hadn’t really heard of PPE when we first started, but now we know a lot about hand sanitiser and face masks. We can help a business with whatever stock they have, and also help communities with whatever they need in their local communities. The digital divide is an area that I’m really passionate about at the moment, so we’re helping to get mobiles and computers into communities where they’re needed. Whether it’s furniture, clothing, household goods, toys, school supplies– we’re the matchmaker. So if the businesses have the goods, and there are charities that need the goods, we’ll match them to where they need to go. We just don’t do food, because the food waste industry was already really well established when we started here in Australia. We just use our technology and our logistics to match up everything else, and give retailers a solution for that.
IR: If you look back at the past couple of years, how would you say that communities in need have been impacted since Covid hit?
AC: Demand has grown larger than we’ve ever seen it. The way I like to describe it to people is that when the bushfires hit in 2019 and 2020, Australians poured their heart out to help people who were in these bushfire-affected areas. People were very generous to these communities. And then only a few months later, Covid arrived in March 2020 and we found a whole new cohort of people who were affected and these are the people who gave their $50 to the bushfire communities. All of a sudden, these people needed our assistance. We don’t recognise these hidden vulnerable people of Covid. They’re not the usual community of people who need charity help, but these are people who have been in the tourism, hospitality, and travel industries. They’re all new vulnerable people who had jobs, but they’re underemployed or they’ve been stood down, or they’re trying to find new work. But these are vulnerable people who need just a little lift up while we as a country get ourselves back on our feet. I like to [say] it could be somebody you’re working with, it’s your neighbour, it’s somebody in your school community. It’s people you don’t recognise who have had to put their mortgage on pause, or they’re struggling to pay their rent, or their bills are still on their fridge instead of getting paid. You just don’t recognise it.
So giving people brand new goods and discreetly being able to lift them up is just so fantastic for their wellbeing, their dignity, and equality. We’re saying that we stand with you, as a country, we’re all standing together. These are available spare goods and, of course, we should share them. Retailers have been doing it really, really tough themselves, but if they haven’t sold these items and they need to move last season’s stock out to make way for some really good stock that they could sell, this is a fantastic way to lift up Australians.
IR: Are there any particular product categories where there’s a shortage for you guys?
AC: We have some items that are always in really high demand. As I said, we’re really trying to access that digital divide and electronics are in really high demand. Then there are the basic essentials, the everyday things that we often take for granted. They can be as simple as shampoos, conditioners, and deodorants – just the really basic things. Then we need the baby supplies, all the things that young parents need. It’s just expensive to have children. School supplies – we’re coming into the beginning of the year and it’s expensive sending kids to school, and it’s a strain on families that have just come through Covid. So it’s seasonal. We’ll go through the back-to-school[period], and then we go into winter. Then children change size and families are under pressure to get them into winter clothing. Then we enter the Christmas cycle as well. Bedding is another big one. [The demand for] basic towels and bedding is just huge. We just seem to have a long list of things that all our charities always need. It just never stops.
IR: Are there any particular regions in Australia, where there’s a higher demand for items but not the supply?
AC: I think one of the areas we really struggle with is the cost of shipping to Western Australia and the Northern Territory. We have a person based in Western Australia to facilitate more donations to our charities there, but as retailers would know, most of the product comes out of the eastern side of Australia. Most DCs are in Sydney and Melbourne, so to ship goods over to Western Australia is always a cost. [We want] to partner with our businesses to help our populations in Western Australia. We’ve got some very interesting indigenous communities over there that we’re doing work with, but the cost of getting the goods over there is always a barrier. So if we can partner with businesses who are sending goods over there, or they have goods in stores over there, perhaps we can use our local app to match goods to communities in that area. There’s definitely a need and we’d like to see more growth of goods going into Western Australia. That happens too with our other states that are not as highly populated as Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
IR: What was 2021 like for Good 360 and what were some of the highlights and challenges?
AC: We’ve grown really fast because of the demand. We’ve had to try to respond to the demand of what Australians need. That’s been really difficult. We thought we were really busy coming out of bushfires in 2020 and going into Covid. We were matching 13 items every minute on our marketplace. We thought that was amazing, being able to get retailers and brands to give that many items to an Australian. But in the height of our second lockdown in Sydney and lockdowns going further around the country, that spiked to 39items every minute. That demand is incredibly hard for a charity to keep up with and we were really struggling to find the funding to do that. I think everybody’s fatigued, nobody has the funding to help the charity and keep up with demand. Our biggest struggle is knowing that Australians still need more help. So how do we keep supporting them when this demand just keeps growing?
IR: I know that in 2022, you’re looking to launch an app. Can you tell me about that and how that’s tracking?
AC: We will launch that app in the first quarter of 2022 to provide another layer of technology to make it more frictionless for our businesses, so they can match their goods at store level. Currently we’re matching it on our website, but we want to make it easier for businesses to say, “Hey, we’ve got a box of goods in our retail store, come in and pick it up.” And then a notification will go to charities in that area so they can pick up the items on demand quite quickly. We think that the technology will help ensure that products aren’t sitting idle in businesses’ stores, and charities can pick them up. It’s also about making that local connection. Someone at the store level will go, “Hey, I’ve just boxed up a whole heap of clothing. They were just sitting on my sale rack, but I know you’ll have more use for it in your local community.”
IR: What are your plans for Good360 this year?
AC: There’s a lot of pressure on all of us to help people and planet and Good360 really wants to work with businesses to have a strategy around that because we can really help on the sustainability piece. Businesses can look at their supply chains and perhaps Good 360 can help with exiting stock and get that into local communities or Australia wide. We really want to scale up the ability of businesses to have a solution for people and planet and work towards their ESG goals. I think 2022 will be a year that we keep looking at Covid and going, “How do we keep doing more with less?” There’s a real push around sustainability right now and Good360 can really partner with retailers to work together to help more Australians.
IR: What would you say frustrates you most about the retail industry and what would you like to change?
AC: I don’t know if it’s the overconsumption, but it’s the shame attached to knowing that sometimes goods don’t sell. We’ve all come to accept that there’s food waste at the end of the day, in supermarkets, cafes, and restaurants. But we don’t have the same acknowledgement that there is some spare capacity or some forecasting margin in non-food goods. I think we just have to be more honest. Let’s just get past that shame factor and, as an industry, admit we can’t predict consumer behaviour. Once we say, “That’s OK. When we produce something, we don’t know whether we’ll sell 2 per cent of it or not, but we’re making a decision to do something good with that 2 per cent.”
You could say, “We are going to donate that 2 per cent. And we’re going to be proud to donate that 2 per cent. And we’re going to tell everybody loud and proud that we donate that to the community, rather than shuffling it around the business, hiding it and never reporting it. You can’t find this forecasting error in anybody’s report, but you can find anything about food waste in everybody’s report. We all know in retail, of course, this consumption isn’t 100per cent right. If we could just own that, we could lift up the community and do all these programs for them. The retail industry could be seen as such heroes and ride out of this going, “Wow, we’re going to fix this and do so many different programmes and work with Indigenous people or [people from]domestic violence.” We could set up so many new programs based on something retailers are ashamed of today, that they could be so proud of tomorrow.”
With Australia accelerating efforts towards circularity by 2030, it is critical that all sectors of the economy and society are working together collaboratively and cooperatively to address the increasing resource constraints, inequities in resource allocation and growing waste challenges. This requires consumers, businesses, governments, and the charitable sector to all play their part in creating a more sustainable and equitable future for all, recognising we are all part of a collective dynamic ecosystem that is co-creating our future together.
Congratulations to our Member of the Month for March, Uniting Vic.Tas. Uniting Vic.Tas run several programs to assist communities in need and provide donations from Good360 in addition to services they provide. Since becoming a member in 2018, they have shared numerous impact stories of the joy they have created, especially to communities who have not experienced outreach previously. Read below on some of their programs and some special stories they have experienced on the ground.
March 8 is International Women’s Day, and this year UN Women Australia’s 2023 theme is ‘Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future’. This brings an opportunity for everyone to acknowledge the power of innovative technologies and systems in the advancement of women, who are marginalised globally and have a smaller presence in the digital world. We are also challenged to address the current barriers in place that keep women stagnant and play our small part to welcome women to move through society as comfortably as men.