NI Social Enterprise on top of the World

by Karen Gilgunn ACIM.

The Northern Ireland social enterprise that I work for which creates jobs for people with disabilities,  has just been recognised as one of the world's leading green businesses.

Usel (Ulster Supported Employment Limited) won the Green Apple World Environmental Award for Environmental Best Practice at a ceremony in Dubai, beating off the challenge of more than 500 other international organisations. Previous winners include Canon, Vauxhall and George at Asda.  For a social enterprise from Northern Ireland to be recognised on this world platform is a special honour.

Usel's many projects include a thriving recycling business saving thousands of mattresses from ending up in landfill and creating new jobs for people with disabilities and health-related conditions.

The company disassembles the mattresses into components such as foam, polyester, ticking and steel which are sent on for further processing and reused for things like carpet underlay, equestrian surfacing, acoustic dampening for cars and the steel springs are shredded so they can be melted down for re-use.

The charity's CEO Bill Atkinson explained further: "Usel are fully committed to environmental best practice through the delivery of a Circular Economy model across Northern Ireland in partnership with local authorities as a model for job creation for people with disabilities and health conditions."

The company's winning paper will be published in The Green Book, the leading international work of reference on environmental best practice, so that others around the world can follow their example and learn from their achievement.

The Green Apple awards were established in 1994 to find the world's greenest countries, companies and communities.

They are organised by The Green Organisation, an international, independent, non-political, non-profit environment group dedicated to recognising, rewarding and promoting environmental best practice around the world.

They are supported by the Environment Agency, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the Chartered Institution for Waste Management and other independent bodies.

About Usel

  1. Usel was established in 1962 with the aim of providing supported paid employment for people with disabilities within its Belfast manufacturing base. In 1980 they incorporated the Workshops for the Blind becoming the largest direct supporter of people with disabilities and health related conditions in Northern Ireland. Usel train, support and employ up to 1500 people with disabilities and health-related conditions across Northern Ireland every year.
  2. Usel deliver employment to people with disabilities and health related conditions through a 65, 000sq ft factory situated on a 3 acre site in North Belfast. The factory specialises in manufacturing mattresses, bed bases and specialist sewing products.
  3. Usel operate a recycling division at its head office in North Belfast. Within Usel’s recycling facilities Usel dissemble mattresses into various components which are then segregated and sent to other facilities for further processing and reuse. They are the only organisation in Northern Ireland to provide this service.

My contact details are Karen Gilgunn on or 07850568011 if you want to find out more about our work and collaborate with us.