Our social impact

Our social mission is to find work for as many people as we can, and to restore people’s hope and self-confidence

Collecting, sorting and processing the large quantities of wood we collect wouldn’t be possible without the help of our volunteers. In exchange, we provide them with training, work experience, job opportunities and social connections. Anyone can volunteer, but we work with the DWP and organisations that focus on issues like unemployment, homelessness, mental health, addiction recovery, offender rehabilitation, learning and physical disability, and refugee and human trafficking victim integration to provide volunteering opportunities to people who can benefit the most.

How we meet our social goals

Around 30% of our staff and 48% of volunteers report having faced a barrier to employment


80% of member enterprises employ at least one person who has experienced one of our key barriers to employment, with mental health conditions the most commonly cited.


83% of members are currently working with at least one volunteer who has reported facing a barrier to employment, with long term unemployment the most commonly cited.

Volunteers are under no obligation to share their history or reasons for volunteering with us, so the actual proportion is likely higher.

How are we doing?

Job creation

Reinvesting our surpluses into the business allows us to grow without the need to rely on shareholders, grants or fundraising. The network  has grown significantly over the years and currently employs around 250 people.


The COVID-19 pandemic and slow economic growth have restricted our ability to train large numbers of volunteers, but we’re still providing an average of 20 days’ training each to around 600 people every year, many of whom go on to either be employed within the network, or find jobs with our construction and community partners.

Volunteer stories

“I had been working at a pub but got fired because I had a fight with someone. It was really stupid, I was drunk and had a lot of issues going on at the time. I ended up doing 200 hours of Community Payback at Somerset Wood. I really enjoyed it and put a lot of effort in. I was treated with respect – like everyone else there. Towards the end of my CP I was told about the Kickstart scheme and asked me if I’d be interested. I said definitely. I really wanted a proper job that got me away from pub work. I am now the collections supervisor and me and my girlfriend are looking at moving out of our tiny one bed flat and buying a small house together.”

unloading of a waste wood collectionJoe, Collections Driver, Somerset Wood Recycling

“I was looking for a volunteering spot that challenged me, something new that I could be part of, and they gave me a great welcome. I got trained in all the hand tools and they even got a specialist in to train me properly on things like the table saw, so I now have a certificate. I couldn’t really lift heavy things and I was a bit worried about that but they all work as a team and help each other out so I was able to tackle any job. I felt a real sense of accomplishment producing items in the workshop and I really looked forward to the banter and stories at the yard. I’m not currently able to volunteer because of a health problem, but I still pop in for coffee and I always get a warm welcome. That’s the value of a community project.”

A woman's handsMary, Former Carpenter, St Albans Wood Recycling

Just before Christmas I took a day and spent it with the team at Preston and was blown away by the work done there.  I had not truly appreciated how the impact made by the organisation.  I must say that Damian who runs the depot is a different calibre and I thought the balance he holds in making the charity viable whilst supporting those within the community was an eye opener.  Damian and the team at Preston are a credit to community wood. 

I will be encouraging any of the team here at Wates to take time to volunteer with the community wood and get a real appreciation of how we too can help support on site.

Nathan Sandland-Jones, Site Manager, Wates

“I had been unemployed for a long time and felt very down; I thought it would be very difficult for me to get a job. I couldn’t seem to get out of the rut and I felt really miserable. St Albans Wood Recycling really did change everything for me. I found new friends and it helped me build up my confidence. I’m not really good at holding my own and I’ve been pushed around a lot in my life. This was the first place I felt part of the team. When they asked me to trial for a full time job as a driver, I can’t tell you what that meant to me. It changed my life. I lost 4 stones in weight, became fitter and it felt great that they trusted me enough to give me this job. I’m now independent and I’ve been able to save enough money to buy a car.”

St Albans unloading waste wood into their store for reuse and recyclingSteve, Collections Driver, St Albans Wood Recycling

“New Life Wood quite literally helped save my life. I was fresh out of rehab for alcohol misuse and found myself with nothing to do and nothing much to look forward to. New Life Wood has given me a renewed purpose and a reason to live by helping me learn new skills and feel good about myself again. I love being creative, and have a new found passion for carpentry which I didn’t even know I had. I now know that I am valued, and I can help make a difference to others who have experienced a similar journey to mine.”

A man working in St Albans wood workshopSteve, Volunteer Mentor, New Life Wood

UN sustainability social goals

The UN has identified 17 key areas where global cooperation is required on every level to ensure a fair and safe future for humanity. Our work intersects with 6 of these (4 social and 2 environmental) and we’re proud to be supporting this vital effort for the sake of those we work with, their communities, and generations to come.