Simon West on Rusinga Island, Kenya

R & A The Finances: Simon West Managing Director and Chair of Trustees

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Welcome to episode two of the articles that formed our Report and Accounts this year. 

If you missed our CEO Tracey West’s address last week, why not pop back onto to find it and have it read to you by Tracey, or read it yourself if you prefer.

This week, Simon West sets out a financial overview of Word Forest’s income which marked the charity breaking through £100k. He’ll also bring you up to speed on our journey to becoming a certified issuer of carbon credits through Gold Standard.

Our sixth year brought forth a new set of challenges, from the war in Ukraine, to massive inflation and soaring fuel prices. Once again, I would not have been surprised if our income had decreased compared to 2021-22. The number of people volunteering for us dropped significantly as they returned to work or sought paying jobs to avoid the ravages of the global economic woes.

Despite the bleak outlook, the truth was quite astounding. Each month exceeded the performance of the same month from the previous year. By the time March 31st arrived, our income had grown by just under 25%, crossing the £100,000 threshold for the first time.

Faced with fewer volunteers and an increased workload, I believed that we needed to work smarter, not harder. Towards the end of the year, I began an in-depth audit of our processes and procedures, alongside the establishment of a budget for 2023-2024. As the year drew to a close, our new business plan was well underway.

Throughout 2022-2023, a substantial amount of time was dedicated to formulating a plan to become a certified issuer of legitimate carbon credits. We carefully considered the positive and negative implications; we are all steadfast in our belief that these credits must not sustain ‘business as usual.’ Recognising our environmental impact in all our actions, we see them as a means to counterbalance negative actions with positive ones. After careful consideration, we chose Gold Standard as our intended certification body. Their stringent requirements should instil confidence in purchasers of carbon offset units, assuring them that their investments genuinely contribute to CO2 removal from the atmosphere. We aim to complete our registration by the close of 2023.

We also completed our branding review, with a new logo, colours and fonts. It is always an ongoing process to find and replace old logos, but as this financial year comes to a close we think it is complete almost everywhere. We really hope our supporters like our fresh, new look and that the new logo conveys much better the four pillars of our charity.

Our extended monitoring and evaluation visit, spanning December 2022, bolstered our commitment to planting trees, constructing classrooms, and disseminating education as extensively as possible. The tourist industry in the once-thriving Coast Province town of Malindi has scarcely recovered since 2020. Our projects offer valuable employment opportunities and educational experiences in food production, benefiting the local inhabitants. The establishment of the Permaculture Teaching Centre depleted a significant portion of our resources, but it now wields a substantial impact on the local community, providing employment, serving as a hub for the Mothers of the Forest, and offering diverse and valuable education.

Our plans for 2023-2024 encompass finalising Carbon Credits registration and embarking wholeheartedly on our planting initiative for that project. We also aspire to expand our roster of corporate partners. To this end, we have been collaborating with Oaklin, our esteemed and trusted corporate partner since 2021, on a fresh business strategy document. This will guide our efforts towards endeavours that maximise benefits for both the charity and the planet. Our corporate partners contribute in numerous ways, with a substantial portion of our funding stemming from them, alongside considerable “benefit in kind” support, which, while not reflected in our financial accounts, holds a value worth many thousands of pounds.

Lastly, I extend my gratitude to all our employees, volunteers, the dedicated individuals in Kenya striving to realise our vision, and all our donors. Without them, everything we undertake would remain an unrealised dream.

Simon West and The Team

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