Meet Alice Drake, a sustainability advocate who transformed Moneybox with 'Give Your Best,' a circular economy initiative empowering refugee women. Explore corporate sustainability insights and upcoming events, witnessing one person's impact on sustainability, social change, and community spirit.
Oct 5, 2023
At Alectro, we collaborate closely with companies to assist them in implementing meaningful sustainability strategies. Our Virtual Sustainability Officer® engages every single employee in the company's sustainability strategy, providing them with the information necessary to contribute to the long-term integration of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) principles within their organisation. We firmly believe that employees are the most pivotal stakeholders when a company embarks on its ESG journey. They not only serve as the driving force for implementing changes and fostering the cultural transformation required but also possess the potential to initiate initiatives that transcend conventional boundaries.
While our primary focus revolves around carbon accounting and the transition to achieving net-zero emissions, we acknowledge that sustainability encompasses a broader spectrum of facets. We take pride in establishing the groundwork for sustainability, but what truly inspires us are the stories of the innovative initiatives that companies undertake once that foundation is firmly laid. Sustainability is more than just carbon measurement and broadly focuses on three pillars; Environmental, Social, and Economic sustainability (you can read more about that here)
Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with Alice Drake from Moneybox, a shining example of this approach. She recently spearheaded a pop-up clothes shop on behalf of Give Your Best, and we engaged in a conversation with Alice to learn more about the social enterprise and how Moneybox wholeheartedly supported and empowered her in driving this initiative forward within the business.
Can you introduce yourself and how you’ve ended up here working for Moneybox?
“I grew up in New Zealand and I was always interested in business subjects at school. I liked the idea of small enterprises and small businesses. It's quite a big thing in New Zealand because we have such a small population so there are always new initiatives popping up everywhere.
In school, I set up a few small enterprise companies (one for babysitting, one was actually a sustainable diffuser made out of clay, which was quite fun!) and from there, because I enjoyed that so much, I went on to study business management studies at Waikato Uni, which is in Hamilton in New Zealand.
After I finished studying I moved to London to be in a bigger city (New Zealand’s biggest city Auckland has a population of under 2 million people vs. London’s 9 million) and I love it here. When I first got here, I was contracting in an accountancy role for six months but I got frustrated always looking back (at previous numbers) versus forward with strategic direction because that was always an interest of mine.
I wanted to work for a company that was more fast-paced with start-up vibes, and that's how I stumbled across Moneybox where I instantly fell in love with their mission of helping people save and invest for their future and turning their money into something greater. When I joined Moneybox it was about 80 people working here and now, 3 and a half years later, it is over 300!
Although things have obviously changed a lot, Moneybox has retained that small company feeling and it's still true to its values. We’re still transparent about what we're doing and what we're trying to achieve, but with good levels of maturing in certain areas.”
So it sounds like you’ve always been interested in sustainability and innovation?
“Yes! Growing up in New Zealand, it's just part of the culture.
Growing up around and in nature, and having lots of green, open space, is important. I think from a tourism perspective, it's super important that we maintain that to keep on attracting people to see beautiful, green New Zealand.
At school, they teach you how to recycle properly and also in my home environment my parents were very focused on waste minimization, recycling, and reusing things where possible. I think that's ingrained in me just from how I grew up so when I came here to the UK, I was quite surprised at how for my peers there seems to be not as much education at school level about some of these things, especially around waste and recycling and the impact on the environment.
I think it's definitely growing a lot more now as we learn more and as the impact is more urgent, I think that's what's drove me to want to have initiatives in my workplace and work for a company that allows me the space to deal with my passion projects on the side, and work in a place where I feel like we're really contributing and making an impact.”
As well as your role here at Moneybox, you’ve mentioned that you get to explore your passion projects. As part of your role as a Sustainability Champion in the company, you introduced Give Your Best. Can you tell us more about it?
“Yeah, sure! Give Your Best is an absolutely amazing social enterprise. They are a tech-based circular enterprise, and they offer an online platform where refugee women and their children who come to the UK can shop second-hand clothing items donated by people all across the UK, plus new items donated by brands, for free.
Their main objective is to enable and empower those displaced people with choice. They have dignity through being able to choose what items they want and having a real shopping experience, rather than simply being given something that has been donated that may not be to their personal taste.
When so much of life has likely changed when moving to a new country, and with all the other uncertainty, it gives you back one element back of normality from your old life and I think that's something that I really resonate with and think is so important.
One of their taglines is “We turn donating into gifting. We empower through choice.” which sums up their mission really nicely.
I think a big element of Give Your Best is also the community around it. A lot of the displaced people who come through the charity and who Give Your Best supports, when they get settled they tend to be really tied closely to the organization going forward and many end up volunteering themselves too. It’s this beautiful community where everyone is supporting each other and they have the lived experience to help support other people coming onto the platform.”
How did you first hear about Give Your Best, and how did you get involved?
“I first heard about Give Your Best on a podcast about two years ago, and I was inspired by their story.
Sol, the founder, was a guest on the podcast, promoting the cause. I think this was when they were relatively small. In the last couple of years, they've expanded a lot and had lots of media coverage, which has been really great for visibility.
They've been in Vogue and many other reputable magazines to spotlight them. They were reaching for volunteers with a few different ways that you can volunteer. They have people in the core team who do different roles such as brand partnerships, marketing, work in operations for the platform itself or building the platform if you're a developer.
But there's also this huge network of people across the UK who they call Besties (i.e. Give your Best-ies). The Besties are the people who take in donations from whoever has clothing to donate and process them onto the platform and then ship it out to the refugees who shop it on the platform. So that's what I signed up to be! For anyone looking into it, It's a really good way to be able to volunteer and contribute to the cause but on your own terms (you can sign up to be a Bestie here).
You get approached by a member of the core ops team reaching out to say “Hey, we've got this donation. Can you take it in?”. If your answer is yes, then perfect. But if your answer is no, say you've got other things going on, you can just let them know and then the ops team reaches out to the next Bestie in the area to see if they can pick it up.
Then a few months later they were looking to build their core team out a bit and I joined as an operations coordinator, which are the ones who are busy matching the besties up with the donors across the country. Because my role at Moneybox is in operations, I thought it was a nice segue because it's utilizing skills that I already have. Within this new role, I do a couple of hours a week on a Saturday, log on to the inbox, and help with the logistics from there.”
Tell me about the popup - it was connected to Refugee Week, right?
“Yes - Refugee Week is an annual celebration where they give space for refugees in the UK to celebrate their journey and help raise awareness and funds. We decided to host the popup during this year’s Refugee Week (19th – 25th June 2023) so we could tie it nicely to Give Your Best.
I was trying to brainstorm how we could do fundraising differently rather than just an outreach email to everyone at Moneybox, or everyone in my LinkedIn network, which could inspire people and make them resonate with this cause.
So the idea was to do something that's exciting and fun - with lots of people involved so there's a little bit more buzz and something to be part of so you can relate more to the cause rather than just making a donation. It's quite nice to have a proper event and that's why we decided on the clothing sale pop-up.
As Give Your Best is focused on rehoming secondhand clothing, a second hand clothing resale linked really well, plus tied in with the sustainability and circularity elements too. We asked all Moneybox employees to bring in their secondhand clothing, we created the shop and then whatever was left over we uploaded to Give Your Best platform, as well as making a donation of the proceeds.”
How did Moneybox support the initiative?
“Moneybox is such a great community of people who are always willing to band together for meaningful causes. The people team here at Moneybox are really, really good at recognizing cultural or charity events of significance and causes throughout the year. We celebrate Earth Day, Black History Month, and other significant events throughout the year, so I thought Refugee Week is one that we could start recognising.
I approached the people team and they were more than willing to help out and were very excited about the idea. I suggested the idea of this pop-up shop with the team and from there basically just got started with comms.
We sent out comms to the team internally two weeks before the event and asked that people start bringing donations to the office. I assessed them all and decided to price them up (between £2-£15) to prep them for the shop.
I haven't mentioned it yet but Give Your Best (hence the name) is tied to ensuring that you're giving quality items. Not something you would just chuck in the charity bin, but things that are in great condition and are good brands so that the people who are receiving them feel like they've just gone to the shops.
The popup worked really well with Moneybox. Because they are so passionate about it and they're always excited when someone comes with new initiatives, the people team work on it a lot. They're always willing to help and I'm hoping with Refugee Week, we can make it an annual celebration too.”
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do something similar?
“If you want to replicate an event similar to what I did and partner with someone like Give Your Best they're always super excited when anyone wants to start an initiative so, it's so easy to reach out to them. You can reach out to their email address or their socials.
For events like this, you don't actually need much contact with the organisation because it is something that you could organise independently. For donations we set up a just-giving link for the charity so that we could track the total donated as a company.
I think concise comms that explain what you want to do super clearly are important because I know that we're all busy and don’t often have time to read non-essential comms. Sending comms close to time is also really important and reminders such as posters in the office help too. When somebody's a bit more chilled getting a coffee, they might have more mental space to engage with it then.
I did find it hard to set prices for the items myself so I would recommend getting a bit of a pricing committee together. Although at the end of the day, I don't think it matters too much because it's still a donation as well, right? It's not like we're retail pricing the items, it's still going to be a lot cheaper than if you were to buy them in-store. So you would hope that if someone likes it, they'll buy it, and feel good doing it!
I think if you want to do something to support Give Your Best, a key thing is raising awareness about the charity as well. Off the back of this event, we actually got two more volunteers from Moneybox who were keen to join, which was great.
Overall, removing barriers to being able to donate and making it super easy for people to get involved is key.”
Although the pop-up was primarily focused on the social side of sustainability, I wanted to touch on the obvious co-benefits of circular fashion
“Sustainability in terms of circularity is super important to me, and with the social elements of Give Your Best as well, I love how it can all tie in together. I think this particular event speaks to the “rewash” and “re-wear” principles of circular fashion.
There are the other principles of the circularity process, such as turning existing clothing into new items, like reclaiming them or disposing of them in a way that they can break down safely and then be re-contributed and start the circle again - although for this event there’s less of a focus on these elements.
So we have some circular elements, but it's really focused on the first part of the cycle.”
What else can people look for with Give Your Best?
“Give Your Best has a fashion show coming up. It's called The Good Fashion Show and it's an opportunity to showcase the work of Give Your Best.
They have some of the refugees as models in the fashion show. We partner with a lot of (sustainable fashion) brands who donate outfits, or they donate stylists for the fashion show, and we sell tickets to the event. So that's happening on the 26th of October, in Cambridge at the Grand Arcade to be part of their Go Circular week. Once again, it's tying into that sustainability element.
I'm in charge of sourcing sustainable brands for their gift bags so if you know any local sustainable brands that want to give out discount codes or samples that would be great for anyone to get in touch off the back of this!
Going forward with Give Your Best, they have their own initiatives such as workplace volunteering days, clothes collection bins in your office or you can partner with them for a fee. They also have clothes processing days where if you don't want to commit to being a Bestie full time you can just come in for organised events and help to upload stuff to the platform, which is a cool way to get involved.”
What's on the green agenda for Moneybox?
“Our work with Give Your Best has definitely kicked off and inspired the development of a green team at Moneybox. I'm really excited and keen to recruit anyone else who's just as passionate about this as me within the company, or someone who simply wants to learn more about sustainability! What we want to do is take the data from the audit with you guys (Alectro) and then decide on what the most pressing areas are across the company to address. Whether that's what stationery we use in the office, or how we use energy, it would be great to see if there are any initiatives we can implement. There's also Recycle Week coming up in October, so we're excited to celebrate that!”