Ucan, recycling CIC based in Kirklees

CIC proves social agenda is good for environment, community and the bottom line

A Community Interest Company (CIC) that specialises in ensuring the 100% reuse and recycling of redundant IT equipment, has proved that a strong social agenda can benefit the environment, the local community and the financial robustness of the business.

Six years ago, Ucan Recycling was a one-man-band operating from a hot desk in Leeds. The company’s goal was to provide a free IT recycling service for businesses, schools, universities and local authorities throughout the region and beyond. But the success of the concept hasn’t just solved a growing environmental compliance issue. By focusing on creating jobs for the long-term unemployed, Ucan has changed people’s lives too.

Since 2010, the not-for-profit organisation has grown to a £1.2m turnover company with 7 permanent members of staff – all of whom were previously out of work. During that time, placements have also been offered to six apprentices and a total of 75 volunteers from the local community.

Commenting on the success of this carefully planned social strategy, director Rob Seal said: “We made a conscious decision to reach out to the unemployed and become a host for volunteers to gain work experience, learn new skills, develop their personal and professional confidence, and become more ‘job ready’. Some volunteers reluctantly come to us to simply ‘tick a box’ so that they can keep their benefits, but we can – and do – change their attitude to the world of work.

“Even if we can’t offer a permanent position at the end of the placement, we increase the chance of that individual going on to find paid employment. We even receive incoming enquiries from neighbouring businesses looking for help to fill their vacancies – we’ve almost become a free recruitment service!”

One local man helped by Ucan’s scheme is an ex-offender who had been unemployed for 19 years. Having openly shared his bitterness towards the work placement, he admitted he felt at the ‘bottom of the scrap heap’ when joining the company. But the opportunity soon changed him and, four months into his placement, Ucan secured a permanent job for him at a local warehouse.

Rob commented: “We were obviously delighted with the outcome and, when he received his first pay packet, the employee himself said he felt like a lottery winner. It’s wonderful to have helped change his outlook and play a part in him turning his life around.”

Ucan has recently achieved award recognition for its community impact to date. The team scooped the Job Creator of the Year accolade and the ultimate Winner of Winners award at the recent Bradford Means Business event.

This prestigious award success coincides with Ucan’s one year anniversary in its current ‘home’. Exactly 12 months ago, the business relocated from offices on the fringe of Leeds city centre, to one in the heart of the countryside in Wyke, Bradford.

Commenting on the move, Rob said: “We now have a larger warehouse and more office space, not to mention fantastic Yorkshire views and horses peering in through our windows! There’s a lot to be said about the location we’ve chosen – it’s very uplifting and provides a further level of enrichment when our employees and volunteers come to work.”

Adding some final thoughts, Rob said: “We’re very proud of the business model we’ve created. The more IT we can collect for reuse and recycling, the more we’re supporting the UK’s resource agenda, the more we can reduce a compliance burden for businesses, and the more jobs we can create.

“The Yorkshire business environment isn’t without its challenges. But the hurdles we’ve overcome have kept us alert and encouraged us to push the business forward and help more people who have fallen on bad luck in some way. Ucan is proof that a defined social stance can reap multiple benefits for the organisation, the environment and the wider community. We’d love it if more people thought a little differently about the employment opportunities they offer.”