James Timpson earned his place on this year’s Retail Activist shortlist for his work with one of the most marginalised groups in society – ex-offenders.

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His interest was sparked by a visit to Thorn Cross prison near Warrington more than 10 years ago, after which he decided that Timpson would launch a dedicated programme to employ former prisoners.

Since then Timpson, chief executive of the eponymous business, has provided the proverbial second chance through an opportunity for those people to get back into the world of work – often a big challenge for them.

Last year alone, the company recruited 148 people from prison to work in the business. Some even do so on day release, ahead of the completion of their sentences and setting them up for a smoother return to society. The retailer is the biggest employer of ex-offenders in the UK.

An enthusiastic user of Twitter, Timpson, who is also chair of the Prison Reform Trust, frequently uses the platform to tell his 24,000 followers about the ex-offenders’ programme and encourages other businesses to initiate their own schemes.

He recently tweeted feedback from one serving prisoner who works for the retailer, who said: “It’s not sympathy that prisoners like me ask for, it’s an opportunity to get a job. We’ll grab this opportunity and not look back.”

Timpson was recognised with an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list in 2011 for services to training and employment for disadvantaged people.

The programme is representative to the wider way of doing business at Timpson, dubbed ‘upside-down management’, designed “to give freedom to the colleagues that serve customers” and which includes staff benefits such as birthdays off work and the free use of holiday homes.

The Retail Activist Award

Timpson has been nominated for the Retail Activist Award at the Retail Week Awards, sponsored by Salesforce.

The Retail Activist award aims to recognise an individual who has personally championed a cause or led a campaign which demonstrates retail’s good corporate citizenship and contribution to society.

Timpson is on the shortlist alongside Dave Lewis, chief executive of Tesco, for his work on food waste; Steve Murrells, chief executive of The Co-op, for his work on global water poverty; Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland, for his work on plastics and palm oil; Alannah Weston, deputy chair of Selfridges, for her work on Project Ocean and sustainability more widely; and Jacqueline Gold, chief executive of Ann Summers, for her work on empowering women in the workplace.

The winner will be announced at the awards on March 14.

Retail Week Live 2019

James Timpson is among the speakers taking to the stage at Retail Week Live on March 27 and 28, at London’s InterContinental O2 hotel.

To check out the packed programme, and book your tickets, click here.