With his mobile cabinet stocked full of Wall’s ice creams, Thai vendor Boy, confidently mounts his motorbike and sets off to greet his first customers of the day. He’s popular in the villages throughout the region of Ton Poh Nong Kao which he serves. His customer numbers are growing, so much so, that he’s hit the sales targets he needs to own his own mobile freezer cabinet to stock ice creams. In fact, he is pretty close to owning a second.

Five years ago, Boy was in a very different place. “I didn’t have a Baht to my name,” he says. One of his legs had to be amputated due to a serious car accident and the chances of finding employment in his native Thailand were low. “When the I’m Wall’s team told me I could get a job with a good income and that my insurance would be covered I didn’t believe them,” he says.

Helping people enter or re-enter the job market

Creating successful job opportunities for people like Boy who’ve found themselves distant from the job market is a key pillar of the brand’s social impact scheme: I’m Walls (IAW). It offers students access to relevant work experience as they take their first steps towards the job market, and it provides people who have experienced long-term unemployment the chance to reskill.

As part of the programme, each vendor is offered training and support on how to run the ice cream carts as their own small business. They learn hard and soft skills such as sales and shopper management, customer service and problem solving.

Putting these skills into practice through credible work experience not only helps build confidence but also promotes the self-reliance needed to help vendors enter or re-enter the job market.

To date, the I’m Wall’s programme has improved the livelihoods of more than 50,000 vendors around the globe. And it’s a win-win, as the brand benefits too: the mobile nature of the job means vendors open up new sales channels by serving local beaches or communities that otherwise wouldn’t be reached.

From 50,000 to 100,000 jobs by 2020

Miguel Marti is a Unilever Customer Development Manager and leads the I’m Wall’s programme for Europe. Both he and the brand are ambitious for the programme to grow – with the aim of seeing the number of jobs created double to 100,000 by 2020.

To meet this ambition, Miguel, alongside Global I’m Wall’s Lead, Sarosh Hussain, and Customer Development Manager, Elise de Cock, have developed a new strand of the programme called ‘I’m Wall’s Liveable Spaces’.

Though still in the pilot stage, it sees team members working with vendors to explore ways they can help address social or environmental issues in their local area. The idea is to further increase the skills and job satisfaction for the vendor and at the same time increase the positive impact of the programme on local communities.

This summer, ‘I’m Wall’s Liveable Spaces’ was trialled in Spain. IAW vendors teamed up with local NGOs to become on-the-ground ‘good practice ambassadors’ working on a key issue: stopping cigarette butts from polluting the beach.

By the end of the summer more than 1 million cigarette butts had been cleaned from Spain’s beaches and recycled into sunglasses and flip-flops

While industrial beach sweepers can clear large items such as plastic bottles, cans and food wrappers from the sand, cigarette butts get left behind.

These are not just a nasty sight for beach visitors, 90% of the cigarette butts contain a plastic-based filter which ends up polluting the oceans and endangering sea birds and other animals who mistake them for food.

Reminding people the beach belongs to everyone

IAW vendor Ismael’s cart serves one of the most popular beaches in Spain. During the busy summer months, he worked alongside local Spanish NGOs to deliver fun recycling workshops to children to raise awareness of the harm that discarded cigarette butts can do.

He also helped organise and take part in mini beach clean-ups. “We tried to make people understand the importance of keeping the beach clean,” he says, “to remind them that the beach belongs to everyone.” 

At the end of summer 2018, more than 4,500 children had taken part in environmental workshops across Spain and a total of more than 1 million cigarette butts were collected and recycled into sunglasses and flip-flops.

The Spanish pilot proved to be popular with both the local community and the IAW vendors. “I love selling ice creams,” admits Ismael, “but I also loved doing something and giving something more.”

Helping maintain great community spaces

The initiative in Spain has sparked interest elsewhere. In Brazil, for example, local vendors have worked with a social enterprise called Molécoola to encourage more plastic recycling in their communities and tackle litter impacting local parks.

The learnings from each of these trials are being put to good use to create an ‘I’m Wall’s Liveable Spaces’ programme that’s scalable across the globe.

If vendors can help support communities in tackling local issues, it creates more awareness for the issue as well as for the vendor and I’m Wall’s ice cream brands. “It’s all about melting barriers between people through these activities,” acknowledges Miguel Marti, “and in the end leaving the places they service a nicer space to be.”

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