Upcycling old lifejackets generates £50,000 for RNLI

8 February 2016

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has made a profit of more than £50,000 by upcyling redundant volunteer crew lifejackets.

Project 235, named after the number of lifeboat stations the jackets came from, is a new revenue stream for the RNLI. The procurement team responsible for the project can now offset the cost of future lifejackets.

Speaking at the CIPS Best in Procurement conference in Manchester, Gary Coleman, commercial manager for the RNLI, told delegates that although the charity still had products for sale, a number of lines had sold out.

He said: “With Project 235 Made For Life we demonstrated that we weren’t taking the easy option and sending the jackets to landfill, we were creating a revenue stream for the organisation.”

RNLI won Best Third Sector/Not-for-profit Procurement Project at the 2015 CIPS Supply Management Awards for its lifejacket initiative.

The RNLI team began by conducting market research. Then a new start-up company was chosen as a supplier to develop ideas.

Volunteers were recruited and worked under the auspices of a project manager who drove the process. According to RNLI, project members gained procurement, commercial and project management experience as they used their supply chain skills to evaluate whether the plan could generate profits.

The charity’s reputation was enhanced by demonstrating its commitment to supply chain sustainability.

In the end, some 5,000 lifejackets were turned into bags, tablet covers and wallets. As lifejackets are only decommissioned every 10 years, this made the products a unique proposition.

The work is ongoing. Coleman said: “We are now thinking, can we use drysuits and wetsuits? And what materials do we have in our organisation that we can reuse?”

The RNLI is also planning to reuse lifejacket buckles on new jackets, reducing costs by more than £12,000. A batch of 120 lifejacket lights has gone back into stock saving nearly £2,500.

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