The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Charity Retail has held its inaugural meeting, and pledged to help boost the sector's profile.
The APPG held the meeting at Portcullis House in Westminster yesterday, which was attended by MPs including chair Sir Ed Davey, a Liberal Democrat and joint vice chairs Labour’s Albert Owen and Conservative Luke Hall.
Speaking to Civil Society News after the meeting, Davey said the APPG would first focus on raising awareness of charity retail before holding a debate on local authority waste charges in spring next year.
He said in order for the charity retail sector to boost its profile it needed to communicate the benefits of charity shops to the rest of society, including how donated clothes are reused or recycled in charity shops instead of being send to landfill.
Davey also disputed mainstream media reports that claim charity shops can have a damaging impact on other high street retailers, saying the evidence is that they benefit other shops by increasing footfall in town centres.
Owen echoed this sentiment in a statement on his website published after the meeting: “After the crash, it was charity shops that saved many towns. When public perception was against them, it was these shops that helped footfall and spending at times when towns and villages needed it most.”
Davey, who was the government’s environment secretary from 2012 to 2015, said his involvement with charity retail started with his appointment as chair of Fit for the Future, a partnership between the sustainability charity, Ashden and the National Trust.
Fit for the Future has worked with charity shop chains including Oxfam, Davey said, to reduce their carbon footprint by measures including making fewer van and lorry journeys.
Davey said he was keen to see more charity retailers improve their environmental performance and said the way to convince more of them to do so was explaining the financial benefits to them. “It’s going green because you are saving money,” he said.
In a statement, Charity Retail Association chief executive Robin Osterley said Davey’s “experience and knowledge will ensure that charity retail has a strong voice in parliament”.
According to Davey, the next meeting of the APPG has been pencilled in for spring next year, with local authorities’ introduction of disposal charges for charities at their recycling centres in recent years the planned topic for discussion.