A sustainable second chance

By Laini Bennett
Monday, 04 March, 2024

A sustainable second chance

Alison Covington, AM, overcame a life-threatening illness to launch a not-for-profit that is not only helping millions of Australians every year, but also protects the environment. Here, the Good360 Australia Founder & Managing Director shares her inspiring journey.

When Alison Covington AM received her Order of Australia in 2022 for significant service to social welfare and sustainability programs, it would have come as no surprise to those who knew her. For a decade, the inspirational MD of not-for-profit Good360 has been transforming the lives of 15,000 Australians a week thanks to her organisation’s incredible work. Since its formation, Good360 Australia has rescued $400 million RRP of unsold, brand-new goods from landfill, redistributing them to 4000 charities who pass them on to people in need.

A matter of survival

Covington launched Good360 Australia after battling a rare, life-threatening illness for several years. Having been given a second chance at life, she wanted to use her skills and experience to help others.

Covington was in her early 30s, married with two young sons and working as the Managing Director for Transdev when her vision suddenly blurred. She’d been struck by cerebral vasculitis, causing a lack of blood flow to her brain, causing her life to change instantly.

“My brain was shutting down. I went from a very high-level role — to just functioning in society,” she said. She struggled to think and speak. She became sensitive to noise and bright lights, making leaving the house challenging.

It was six long years before Covington could function in society again, supported by her husband, brother and close friends. While she recovered, Covington started an online business selling children’s clothing, which she could do from home. But she wanted to do more.

A concept that ticked all the boxes

In 2012, Covington encountered the US-based organisation Good360 while reading Pro Bono News and loved the concept of redistributing unsold goods to people in need. The sustainable model would leverage her business skills and her logistics and tech experience.

Covington couldn’t stop thinking about all the unsold goods in Australia going to landfill instead of helping people in need.

Eventually, her husband told her to stop talking about it and take action. Covington prevaricated, worried that she should get a ‘proper’ job to help support the family after all her years of not working. But, with her husband’s support, she approached the Good360 US office and put forward a case for launching the not-for-profit in Australia. Before long, she had received the green light to move forward.

An uphill journey

It’s one thing to want to do something; it’s another entirely to get it off the ground. The next few years were a hard, lonely slog: raising money, building technology and convincing others to join her on the journey.

But Covington persisted, and within four years, Good360 had received over $100 million of donated goods and connected over 10 million items to Australians who needed them most.

Unlike food rescue charities, Good360 does not receive any significant government funding, so Covington relies largely on generous philanthropy and corporate partners. Nonetheless, she is determined to reach their goal of $1 billion of goods distributed to Australians who need them most by 2025.

A passionate team

Today, Covington says one of Good360’s greatest successes is her team of 35. “We now have a team of passionate people, creating that ripple effect. We have an enduring concept and purpose now, with so many more people taking it forward,” she said.

She regards her role as a leader to build her team’s self-confidence and self-belief, helping them realise their potential to step up and take on more responsibility. “I think many people don’t believe in themselves as much as they should. That’s really important,” she said.

For this reason, Covington encourages female leaders to surround themselves with people who support them in their personal and professional lives; she feels fortunate to have her husband as her greatest champion and believes it is essential to have someone enabling and empowering you, whether it’s your life partner, your friends or your family.

“If people are not empowering you to be your best self, why are they in your life?” she said.

Laini Bennett interviews successful career women about their leadership lessons learned. Visit lainibennett.com to read more stories about inspiring women.

Good360’s sustainability impact

More than $2.5 billion of unsold new products are wasted each year, yet 1 in 8 Australians who could benefit from these goods currently live below the poverty line.

“If you feed somebody, they’re hungry again a few hours later. But if you clothe people, give them toiletries, give them furniture, it changes the outcomes,” Covington said.

Since its launch, Good360 Australia has helped almost 4 million Australians, saved 6617 tonnes of goods from going to waste and connected nearly 40 million new items with people in need. Donated new goods saved from waste include:

  • Clothing — 25%
  • PPE — 24.7%
  • Toiletries — 13.7%
  • Toys — 13.4%
  • Homewares and furniture — 11%
  • Office and school supplies — 10.1%
  • Other — 2.4%
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