About Proper Job

Proper Job is a community run, not for profit, recycling centre based in Chagford, Devon. At Proper Job recyclable items are broken down to their component parts and recycled separately. Reusable items are given a second lease of life. Not only do we keep them away from the landfill but also help people on lower incomes to afford some of life’s basic necessities. There are no other projects quite like Proper Job but there is a growing network of community driven projects, some just composting, some just doing reuse, others involved in growing and selling local produce and many more. We would like to be the first of many rural recycling, reuse and composting resource centres that not only helps you get rid of unwanted items but educates the community about what impact it has on the environment we live in.

Objectives and legal structure of Proper Job

Social objectives

Proper Job's overriding objective is "to advance education of the public in all matters concerning conservation, waste management and recycling of the earth's resources".

It does this delivering the following objectives

  1. Provide services in the local community, to encourage reduction of waste.
  2. Create employment and business opportunities in the community through carrying on a recycling business (& related activities)
  3. Establish a business outlet for products which encourage consumer habits comparable with a sustainable future
  4. Provide training, skills sharing and raise public awareness to encourage reduction of waste
  5. Assist and promote the development of similar UK initiatives

Commercial objectives

The broad commercial objective is to create sufficient profits to build reserves and fund future development, and thereby establish greater financial stability for the organisation. This is not set out in any formal business planning document. There have been discussions about developing a more detailed business strategy but these have not been concluded.

The Courtyard works on a purely commercial basis but in contrast The Resource Centre has needed grant funding to survive, so there is a secondary objective for it to become self-funding.

Aligning objectives

Social objective 1:

Provide services in the local community, to encourage a reduction of waste.

The Resource Centre and Courtyard both provide services which work to this objective. Some possible conflicts arise in aligning commercial and social objectives.

Firstly, staff resources are limited, and some re-use and repair activities are dependent on volunteers who adopt a product as their project. A volunteer developed and built up the book reuse scheme so successfully that the books now pay the wages for that job.
Adherence to the values underpinning Proper Job could conflict with the need to run as an efficient business. For example collection of batteries fulfils the objective to reduce landfill but used to run at a loss, until January 2010 when a new National battery recycling scheme was introduced. Buying in compost supplies makes commercial sense to ensure continuity of supply, but raises an issue about whether this compromises the principle of self-sufficiency.

Social and commercial objectives are more easily aligned for The Courtyard, which runs to a straightforward business model. It meets the social objective through using organic products with minimum packaging and selling locally grown produce. No major alignment issues arise, although one reason for the low profit margin is the cost of organic ingredients.

Social objective 2:

Provide employment and business opportunities in the community through carrying on a recycling business

The Resource Centre is a recycling business, collecting recyclables and selling to commercial waste processing companies and individuals. These include books, furniture, bicycles, building materials, and clothes. It also helps to build skills through training. The Courtyard also provides a refill service for cleaning products.

The Courtyard contributes to the local economy by providing a place for tourists and local residents to eat and meet. Both The Resource Centre and Courtyard employ staff and use volunteers.

The same issues outlined above arise in aligning commercial and social objectives.

Ownership and management structures

Proper Job Ltd is a legal entity through its company structure and is controlled by its members who elect the Management Committee [called the Directors], from the membership to run the Company on its behalf. Directors are accountable to the membership through the annual meeting in line with the Company's Memorandum and Articles of Association.

The 6 original subscribers to the company were the original members. Individuals over 18 and organisations in agreement with the objects can apply to be a member. Members pay an annual subscription and cannot be receive payment apart from wages and expenses.

There are approximately 250 members who can speak and vote at meetings on the principle of one member, one vote. The Management Committee provides the executive function and can have up to 19 members. There has been recent discussion about how to reactivate the membership, perhaps as potential customers or investors.

There are 7 part time workers at the Resource Centre, including the manager. 3 are yard staff, 2 work solely in the clothing and textile department and 1 solely in the book department. Some operational decisions are handled by Directors. The project also relies heavily on help from volunteers for its day to day operations.

This is a democratic structure which suits the organisation's needs. It has an open membership with opportunities for input from different sections of the community in the geographical area, including employees, which would not be the case were this a registered charity. Individuals and organisations in support its aims can become members and stand for election to the Management Committee at the annual meeting. The Management Committee is responsible for strategic and business decisions.

Legal structures and operating principles

Proper Job is incorporated as a company limited by guarantee. It was set up with help from the Co-operative development agency using model rules and describes itself as a community cooperative, although it is not currently a member of Co-op UK. Liability of members is limited to £1 on a winding up.

The Memorandum and Articles of Association gives it power to raise money, borrow, mortgage and invest. It can make grants, trade and provide services and other activities in pursuit of its objects. It must hold an annual meeting to produce accounts and hold elections.

The Company's assets are protected. The income and property of the company must be applied solely towards the promotion of the objects. On a winding up the assets must be transferred to an organisation with similar objects or held for charitable purposes. This provides for an almost watertight asset lock, as the arrangement could only be changed by unanimous vote of all members at an EGM, and would not be valid unless registered with Registrar of Companies at Companies House. So while in theory this clause could be changed to allow assets to be otherwise distributed on a winding up, in practice it is unlikely to happen.

The legal structure fits with the ethos and principles of the organisation and gives Proper Job wide powers to fulfil its objects, so it is not constrained in what it can do. It has the power to raise and use money in a variety of ways. The limited liability on winding up protects members and encourages their support without financial risk, although Directors would be in a different position if, for example, they were to trade as insolvent, as with any company structure. Finally it operates an asset lock so protects the assets from distribution outside its purpose.

Finance and funding

Capital Proper Job owns the Resource Centre site. The Courtyard shop is leased at a market rent. Goodwill is not included as a current asset. Other fixed assets are plant and machinery, motor vehicles and stock.

The company does not have any loans. The Company had about £18K as reinvested profits and no designated reserves. It has only a small amount of debt.

The general operating principle financially is one of low risk. The company has very small debt but few reserves or reinvested income.

Both the Planning and National Park authorities have indicated that planning permission might be granted for an expansion of activities at the Resource Centre, and the Directors would in principle consider mortgaging the land if the right development opportunity arose. There may be sufficient equity to provide working capital using the land as collateral if a decision was made to expand or develop the business. Considering this option would involve taking a greater degree of financial risk than hitherto.

Proper Job can pay interest to loans from members and has been successful in drawing in financial support from its supporters in the past, which might be another option to consider.

Income

The income is divided between two cost centres for The Resource Centre and The Courtyard, which are combined in the final accounts resulting in some cross subsidy.

The Resource Centre has a mix of income streams. 67% is from sales, funding income [20%] is ring fenced for research and development and the remainder is from other income: recycling credits, subscriptions, donations, interest and training fees. There is no government funding or financial backing from the Council. All fundraising is actively sought.

The strategy to increasing income for The Resource Centre has been two-fold: maximise income from sales, including finding new products and find new grant funding. Historically, seeking grant funding for The Resource Centre has been a successful strategy, although time consuming, but has resulted in problems at the end of the grant. The Directors recognise that grant funding cannot be relied on as a major income stream in the longer term and would like to move away from grant dependency.

It would like to increase profits from trading in recyclables including attracting more individual customers to the centre. It has been considering how to develop its marketing, and has started by developing the website as well as reviewing signage and publicising the project locally as a community project. It would help the business to get a full waste management licence, as this would help to increase the number of customers as all types of waste could be collected. However it needs to be a much larger operation for this to be cost effective.

The amount of education work is being increased by working with Global Action plan in schools and with the BREW 12 funded business work programme for composting food waste in situ.

The Courtyard income is exclusively from sales and makes a small profit. Replacement of equipment can prove problematic. The premises are fairly small which limits the size of the operation. Increasing its profits would probably require expansion to a larger scale operation, requiring bigger facilities. This is being considered at present.

Overall Proper Job operates just at break even, with little opportunity to build reserves or fund development. The Resource Centre remains reliant on grant funding and seems likely to continue to do so in the future.

Downloads

pdf.png Proper Job Equal Opportunities Policy
pdf.png Proper Job Company Registration
pdf.png Co-operative Model Articles of Association
pdf.png Volunteering Policy
pdf.png Proper Job Health and Safety Policy