UK Sandwich Chain Helps Homeless and Ex-Offenders Get a Second Chance

UK sandwich chain Pret a Manger, is a great example of a company that has CSR integrated into its business model. The chain gives away almost two million perishable food items each year that have passed the ‘sell by’ date (but are still safe to eat). In one stroke, they have reduced the amount of waste generated as well as found a way to benefit the disadvantaged.

Pret’s food philosophy is to use the freshest ingredients that are sustainable, without additives and preservatives. Pret also makes all its food on the premises, which is probably why it does not franchise its stores. 

Diverting food away from landfills into the bellies of homeless people has always been part of Pret’s core mission. The company works with various charities including the Salvation Army, YMCA and local churches to ensure that leftover food reaches those most in need. In London alone, they have five eco-friendly ‘charity vans’ that deliver and collect from 40 percent of their shops in the city. 50 shops in London are overseen by Pret’s own ‘charity run,’ the remaining shops have local charities come in the evening to pick up leftovers.

Now they plan to do one better and hire seventy appretinces this year who are homeless, ex-offenders and from disadvantaged backgrounds. They plan to train these apprentices across all parts of the business from front-of-house shop floor work to IT. The Telegraph reports that apart from their weekly wage, the company will give each apprentice £100 ($154) to buy work clothes and it will also pay for their travel to and from work.

Nicki Fisher, head of sustainability at Pret, said: “It’s hard enough for people from disadvantaged and troubled backgrounds to find work normally let alone in these difficult times so anything that can be done to alleviate their plight should be tried. This is about getting the homeless off the streets and giving ex-offenders a second chance. All the recruits start with a clean slate and are given every chance to build a career and rebuild their lives.”

The apprenticeship scheme at Pret was launched in 2008 and has had a 88 percent success rate. With its current plan, the company works with nine charities to identify potential apprentices. After an initial interview, the candidate is given a three-month training scheme before being officially hired.

The sandwich chain has also opened branches in Manhattan, Washington and Chicago and is already making a difference in the States with their special brand of customer service and emphasis on fresh ingredients. According to a New York Times article, their American stores have shown a 40 percent increase in profit from 2010 . During that same year, their total profits rose by 37 percent to a total of £46 million ($75 million). CSR skeptics need only look at holistic business models like Pret to realize that CSR does work.

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also

One response

  1. Amazing! I work for the salvation army and this is exactly the type of scheme that will make real differences to many lives! A fantastic social viewpoint! Thanks Pret!!!

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