Rebranding for charity

Last night, I heard an interview on the CBC with Richard Humphrey, charity co-ordinator for “His Church”, a Bedfordshire-based charitable organisation.

In co-operation with local Trading Standards authorities, legitimate brand-holders (such as Disney and the Manchester United football organizaton) and police, His Church “recycles” goods (everything from t-shirts to cds to toys to computers), which would have once been destined for the dump, into items redistributed to the needy in Europe and Africa.

Richard Humphrey of “His Church” with a Worcestershire
County Council official and seized goods

Counterfeit fabric labels on clothing are covered over with the His Church label, boots and shoes are literally branded using a branding iron, and larger printed logos on t-shirts covered with printed His Church logos. DVDs and videos are blanked and recorded with His Church promotional videos. Even items which cannot be rebranded have their use! CDs are granulated to be recreated into the plastic coating for pencils and clothing that cannot be rebranded is shredded to make labels for those that can be.

Richard Humphrey with a fake and rebranded shirts

Every step of the process from the moment His Church receives the material to its redistribution is carefully documented to ensure that no prodect ends up back in the market as “legitimate goods” and an audit is made available to the Trading Standards authorities.

The value in this sort of project should be fairly evident. Counterfeit and pirated material is confiscated and would normally be destroyed. Prior to destruction, it would need to be stored. Every seized product costs the authorities money. As well, they appreciate the fact that while products are off their hands, it is going to benefit charity.

[Trading Standards] Team leader Gina Green said: “We have a real win/win relationship with the charity. Not only do they solve a storage problem for us, but it’s great to know that counterfeit goods will be used to help homeless and underprivileged people, rather than being destroyed.”

In some cases, certain items may, working with the legitimate brand-holder, be distributed directly to recipients without rebranding. A shipment of Disney toys were given to children in an orphanage in Africa, with the permission of Disney. As well, Robbie Williams okayed the distribution of shirts with his name on them to orphans in Liberia, and Manchester United likewise permitted branded clothing to be given to orphans in Eastern Europe.

His Church’s production centre is located in a former aircraft hangar and in the last six months (as of January 2008) processed 200,000 kg of food and thousands and thousands of kgs of clothing that would otherwise have ended up burned or in a landfill site.

Not all the product they handle is actually counterfeit. Producers who have overstocks of food items which would otherwise be destroyed are more than willing to have them taken off their hands. Items such as 20 pallets of margarine which had been ordered for a promotion that fell through ended up being given to the charity. Pasta which had been produced in the wrong shape and canned goods mislabelled have passed through the doors of His Church before being redistributed to the needy.

Although His Church is a Christian charity, it does not restrict who benefits from its giving.

His Church are fully accredited by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) to undertake the de-branding and re-badging process and will provide full disposal schedules, ensuring that the goods supplied to them are not fed back into the counterfeit supply chain.

A number of other organizations are finding benefit in the apprehension of pirated and counterfeit products.

An article in the BBC News profiles St. David’s Foundation in Wales, which is involved with palliative care, has a program which involves prisoners in Usk Prison rebranding of goods seized by the Welsh Trading Standards authorities and selling the items in their 12 charity shops. Some items are rebranded — clothing labels changed, while others are otherwise made saleable, such as CDs with are blanked and sold on a blank disks

Charity worker Alan Devonald said it was an excellent way of recycling goods which had been confiscated from the black market.

“It is the first scheme of its kind in Wales and is a great way of utilising products that would otherwise have to be destroyed,” he said.

“Not only are we recycling goods but we are able to make money for the charity.”

The Children’s Society, a UK-based childrens charity also worked with local Trading Standards groups to rebrand illegal items with their own logo “Subterfuge” for sale in its charity shops. “The project’s been running for about 5 years and it’s safe to say we have raised £120,000 for The Children’s Society,”

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