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Washing Machine - Washing Machine
Last updated February 2020

AO Business - Making a Difference Together

The future of business is making social value part of their purpose. At November 2019’s Grant Making Forum AO Business came to share their experiences of working with other ACO charities in order to generate greater social impact.

“Don’t worry, it’s not life or death. It’s just a washing machine.” Reciting this mantra can give hurried retail staff and rushed customer service agents a sense of perspective during the organised chaos of the Black Friday, Christmas and January sales. But not at AO.

During the Easter sales, while some customers are hunting the latest deals, many more are priced out. Two million people are living without a fridge-freezer, cooker or washing machine, according to research by charity Turn2us. Households can spend around 47% more on their weekly shopping because they don’t have a fridge to store food.

The people who can’t afford to pay more, ultimately pay more. This can trigger financial crises and create a destructive spiral. For the stretched and struggling, appliances may not be life or death, but they’re close.

Appliances are essential items. Relying on a laundrette, rather than having a washing machine, can cost you over £1,000 more per year. Too many rely on high-cost credit, lest they run the risk of their child being bullied because their unwashed clothes smell, or fail to secure employment because they look unprofessional in interviews. The value of the appliance to the consumer, or beneficiary of a grant, far outweighs its cost.

We all agree that all appliances should be affordable –their social value is established. But how can we do it?

The first step is to work more closely with grant-giving organisations to support their social impact. We are proud of our partnerships with Family Fund, Glasspool, Grocery Aid and many others and this is just the beginning. Helping them achieve greater value for money and deliver an empathetic service that their vulnerable beneficiaries can rely upon, is the minimum. But how can what we do for over 7.5 million customers, help reach the 2 million people living without a major domestic appliance?

I am confident that by working together, we can tackle one of the most avoidable causes of deteriorating financial, physical and mental health. Making a lasting positive intervention in millions of lives. Soon more people, organisations and government departments will realise that while washing machines may not be life or death, it’s close.

Piers French – AO Business