28 June 2023

SATCoL conference 2023

Major Julian Watchorn

Photos show scenes from the SATCoL conference.

Major Julian Watchorn reports on how SATCoL is daring to care for the environment.

A buzz of excitement filled the room as management, staff members, volunteers and guests gathered for the Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd (SATCol) annual conference.

This year’s focus was Dare to Care – for the Environment, with keynote speakers bringing their expertise, backed by data and commendable and creative examples of how SATCoL is environmentally leading the way in its field.

In his opening remarks, Managing Director Trevor Caffull outlined the strategic plan for 2022 to 2027, emphasising the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. He went on to detail the outstanding performance of the business in the past year, increasing the number of donation centres by 14 with overall shop sales up by 14 per cent. This enabled SATCoL – a strong and vibrant subsidiary of the UKI Salvation Army – to present its parent with a cheque for £10.8 million towards its mission.

SATCoL has been seeking to care for creation for many years and continues to research and utilise cutting-edge technology in this pursuit. This includes Fibresort – which uses laser technology to differentiate the fibres in garments and sort textiles for recycling – and the creation of polyester pellets as part of a circular recycling process. This led to them being nominated for a technology award at the Charity Retail Association awards, along with a nomination for Outstanding Charity Retailer of the Year, a prize that they won in 2022.

In terms of environmental impact, the company has successfully avoided 425,000 tonnes of emissions in the past year. It has set a target to reach zero emissions by 2040 and is committed to making this a reality.

Guest speaker Professor Mike Berners-Lee commended SATCoL for its efforts in reducing its environmental footprint, but clearly stated the gravity of the world’s predicament unless there was a commitment from all nations and all peoples to make changes to humankind’s destructive habits.

Lieut-Colonel Alan Read, chair of the SATCoL board, addressed the conference for the last time before his retirement in 2024. He spoke of his personal journey with charity shops and his gratitude for the continuous improvement that he had seen over the years.

The evening saw the premiere of the new musical Belongings. Set in a SATCoL charity shop one stormy day, it tells the stories of characters based on real people who have found shelter, support and love within these precious spaces. It represents the very personal issues that many face within society, such as living with disability, living with dementia, redundancy, homelessness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, grief, depression and low self-esteem. As they each reveal something of how they come to be where they are, they are reminded that they are loved – they belong – in Christ. The musical will be performed again at Together 2023 on Friday 14 July.

The day concluded with the awards ceremony, which celebrated the exemplary performance of individuals and teams across the company’s wide portfolio of activities. The awards were heartfelt and warmly received.

On day two, Territorial Environmental Officer Major Heather Poxon continued the environmental message of Professor Berners-Lee and urged us all to ‘tread softly’. She shared something of the good practice currently employed within the territory but made clear that we can and must do more to care for creation.

The final guests were the management team from Hadleigh Farm Estate, who told their story of continual pursuit for increased opportunities to engage with mission – including caring for creation, with plans for the creation of a three-mile nature corridor through the estate.

In the final session, Territorial Commander Commissioner Anthony Cotterill addressed the conference. Using references to clothing in the Bible, the TC encouraged all present to wear the clothing of their values. With reference to Colossians 3:12–17 and Ephesians 6:11–17, delegates were encouraged to put on the clothing – the armour – of God. With reference to Matthew 25:31–46, they were commended for the way in which they daily demonstrate Christ and serve him as they serve those who seek their help.

During the conference, delegates were invited to record a collective rendition of ‘He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands’ with the assistance of the World of Sound team. Used as a constant thread through the two days, the song epitomised not only the conference but also SATCoL’s ongoing work as it strives to love God in caring for his creation and love others in the outworking of its values: compassion, accountability, respect and equality.

Written by

Photo of Julian Watchorn.

Major Julian Watchorn


See Belongings live!

Belongings will be performed at 7.30pm on Friday 14 July at Fairfield Halls, Croydon.

Book tickets at fairfield.co.uk

Discover more

A weekend of worship and celebration for everyone linked to The Salvation Army.

Captain Jo Moir introduces a new initiative for pre-loved Army uniforms.

Major Heather Poxon talks to Simon Hope about the Army’s goal to halve its carbon footprint by 2030.

Lieut-Colonel Jonathan Roberts reports from the Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd annual conference in Birmingham.

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