How going green is a positive move for Big Issue staff and vendors
We are driving change for good with our new Citroën electric vans – supporting vendors and staff, while cutting CO2 and costs
by: Jamie Atkins
17 Oct 2022
Bristol Big Issue vendor Jack Richardson says our vans going green makes business sense Photo: Exposure Photo Agency
Paid for by Citroën
Since The Big Issue took delivery of its first all-electric delivery van two months ago, the positive effects of going green thanks to our partnership with Citroën are already being seen.
Staff in the south-west have been able to get out more frequently across their widespread territory to see vendors on their pitches – and are reporting big savings in fuel costs, as well as noticing how easy to use the van is.
And vendors are benefiting from being able to catch up with staff for support, and spending less time off their pitch travelling to the offices to pick up more magazines. Our first electric vehicle – an ë-Berlingo Van proudly bearing our “Driving Change for Good” standard, which defines The Big Issue’s partnership with Citroën – was delivered to our Bristol office in August.
Two months on, Jack Richardson, who sells the magazine on the city’s bustling Park Street, says it has already made a difference to him.
“Before the van, frontline staff were able to come out once or twice a week with my mags, and the rest of the time I’d have to come down to the office to buy more, and that’s an hour selling time back and forth,” he says. “Now I’ll ring and say: ‘Any chance someone could come up with some mags today?’ And I can carry on selling. An hour’s selling time could be worth anything from five to 25 quid. It means less time stood out in the rain and cold, and more time sat at home with a cup of tea.”
Now we can visit vendors much more easily
Hattie Greenyer, Big Issue SW Frontline Manager
The electric vehicle has had a huge impact on outreach work, as Big Issue South West’s frontline manager Hattie Greenyer explains: “We’ve always had a van in Bath but not in Bristol. Now we can visit the vendors much more easily – whether that’s to deliver magazines, do a pitch review, help them with an issue like a pitch dispute, or just take them for a coffee. We’d never been able to do that.
“We’ve also set up a new agency in Weston-super-Mare to develop an area that was always hard to reach from Bath. So logistically, we can reach way more areas than we’ve been able to before.”
Lessening the environmental impact of The Big Issue is important to Jack, who has seen the effects of climate change first-hand across the UK, having lived and worked in agriculture from Orkney to Cornwall. “The start of the season has come forward two weeks since I did it,” he notes.
For Big Issue vendors, exposed to the elements across the UK as they earn a living, extremes in weather can have serious consequences.
Big Issue shows there is a business case to be made for doing things the right way.
Jack Richardson, Bristol Big Issue vendor
As Jack explains: “Honestly, at the end of the day, if you’re wearing three layers of clothes that are all soaked, and you’ve then got to climb into a sleeping bag that’s damp, you’re not going to have a good night.”
Anyone who spends time on the streets is most vulnerable to extremes of cold, wet and, increasingly in summer, excessive heat.
So environmental issues are critical to our vendors. And working with Citroën to replace our vans with electric vehicles is an important step.
Citroën UK Managing Director, Eurig Druce, says: “Citroën is committed to innovation which most recently has meant bringing affordable, electric mobility solutions to the UK roads. The ë-Berlingo Van is a perfect example of this, and it’s great to see it already making a difference to Big Issue staff, their vendors and their fuel costs, as well as reducing the impact of their journeys on the environment.”
It’s a partnership in keeping with Big Issue Group’s values – driving change for good to give power to the people.
It’s an ethos that Jack can get behind: “What I really like is that Big Issue can show hard-nosed businesses that focus on the bottom line that there is a case to be made for doing things in the right way. Because long term, it benefits everybody.”
For more information on Citroën’s ë-Berlingo Van click here.
‘Energy is on everyone’s mind’
Vendor Jack Richardson explains why it’s important to Big Issue staff, vendors and customers that we are doing our bit to reduce climate impacts with our new EV fleet
“The best sales day I’ve ever had was when Greta Thunberg spoke on College Green. It was like a rock concert. There were people there as young as 11 and as old as 95. She had motivated those young kids to learn about environmental issues in a really serious way.
“It’s one thing to get caught up in a trend and have a bit of surface knowledge, but they had stats and genuinely well- thought-out opinions. I sold three times as many copies as I normally would that day.
“During lockdown, I noticed that customers were interested in local conservation, everyone had time to sit there staring at their gardens. People really focused on their bird tables and how to increase the diversity of wildlife in their gardens.
“I’ve talked to customers who put temporary ponds in and noticed a doubling in the number of different birds that were visiting their garden.
“But also, energy is on everyone’s mind at the moment. It’s the looming shadow over everything. Saving energy is the right thing to do environmentally. I lived in Orkney for a couple of years. When they got the North Sea oil money, they didn’t just spend it. They invested in turbines, and then they invested the profits in more turbines.
“Now fast forward 10 years later and the island council’s doing really well. They thought, ‘What can we do to try and secure a real economic future for the island?’ Because if there’s one thing the Northern Isles have in abundance, it’s wind! We should be getting at least 90 per cent of our energy from renewables. If we’d started 30 years ago, it wouldn’t be as painful and it wouldn’t be as expensive.”