Balancing a senior management role at Amazon while at the same time supporting one of Britain’s leading charities is by no means an easy task. So says Londoner Ben Kenny, Senior In Stock Manager of Consumables, one of Amazon’s fastest growing areas. "My role is extremely broad, encompassing a wide range of tasks. Basically, it’s about making sure that we have enough products in stock to satisfy the needs of Amazon’s customers: we work at a fast pace, and each day presents a new challenge. It’s very dynamic: no day is a quiet day!"
A chance to make a difference
For Ben, who started working at Amazon in 2012, one of these exciting challenges has been getting involved with Amazon’s charity programme with In Kind Direct. In Kind Direct, which was founded by the Prince’s Trust, works by reallocating surplus goods donated by manufacturers and retailers to other charities in the UK, helping people in need both at home and abroad.
A father of two, Ben appreciates the importance of "taking a moment to step back and work to make a real difference to those who need it the most". When his manager invited him to join the company’s charity efforts in 2013, he leapt at the opportunity. "Given the incredibly diverse range of products Amazon sells, In Kind Direct is a perfect match, as it means little goes to waste," he says.
Looking for overstock
Ben and his manager saw a chance to increase the company’s support to In Kind Direct, which had started in 2009, so with a small team of volunteers they started working to build internal awareness around the charity. "My role makes it easy for me to get in touch with managers working in different product lines, so I mainly deal with donation of stock," Ben explains.
"Normally In Kind Direct sends us a list of goods they need, based on the information they receive from the charities in their network, and we then look at overstock. Once we identify the items they want, we check with them how much they can take." One of the many charities served by In Kind Direct is, for instance, The Phoenix Community Resource Hub, a community centre located in Kent supporting young homeless people. "We are aware of what former homeless people need, and it is great when we can get these things for them from In Kind Direct," said Chairman Phil Scott.
Ben also takes care of reactive, ad-hoc donations in times of crisis: for instance, in 2014 dozens of high quality mattresses were given to help alleviate the living conditions of refugees in Eastern Europe.
"I remember in one of our distribution centers we came across several mosquito nets. They were in perfect conditions but unmarked, which meant they were not on sale: they were just stock that was sitting there. So I reached out to In Kind Direct." Eventually the nets were sent to an African school that put them to good use: Ben received pictures from the school master. "You can follow the process through every step of the way, and you can see the real impact of the work you do: that is priceless."
Donations: just the beginning
After working for one year alongside the charity, Ben oversaw the amount of goods donated by Amazon increase by over 75%. "It was a huge step in the right direction. We were able to support over 1,000 charities," he says. Furthermore, he and his team of volunteers have secured funding from Amazon Web Services, so that the In Kind Direct website can run on their servers, and a mentoring program has been established, allowing a number of Amazon employees to work alongside charities in the field, for example offering advice on technology and marketing.
As a father, Ben finds working with children’s charities most rewarding: "We donate clothing, toys and books which are used to help build the resources of schools and libraries. Knowing we are contributing to this feels really good. What’s more, by working with In Kind Direct we are able to help so many more people than we ever imagined. We are excited for what the future brings as we look to continuing this wonderful partnership."