The Goldfinger Factory in west London is proof of the old adage that one person’s waste is another’s treasure.

The social enterprise was established in 2013 by Oliver Waddington-Ball and Marie Cuddenec “to turn waste into gold”, and one of the main materials they work with is timber.

The venture works within the circular economy and believes that waste is “just a resource in the wrong hands”, but it is not just about making use of waste; Goldfinger also provides training in carpentry, joinery and metalwork.

The kernel of Oliver’s sustainability principles was planted when he spent some time in China while studying for his business management degree. He recognised that sustainability wasn’t just about raw materials and what was manufactured, it was also about the way business was done.

“I realised that you can’t make good business in any kind of meaningful sense because we’re approaching our environmental and social limits. What’s the point of starting a profitable business which is adding to that much larger problem that has the potential to end all business?” he said.

While still at university he established a consultancy to help companies move away from the traditional model of making money and donating to good causes to developing self-sustaining ways to create social and environmental value. This is now the essence of the Goldfinger Factory.

Oliver’s vision was outlined in one sentence: The power of communities to turn waste into gold: product, process, profit. His plans to give waste the Midas touch had a pleasing twist when he found premises on the ground floor of Trellick Tower in north Kensington, one of London’s most deprived wards.

The Grade II-listed brutalist-style building was designed by Hungarian architect Ernö Goldfinger, a humourless man on whom James Bond author Ian Fleming based his villain of the same name.

At Trellick Tower the Goldfinger Factory has a workshop, retail shop and café. With the help of crowdfunding, including £10,000 from Santander, it also recently set up a metalwork factory in nearby Ladbroke Grove and next year is teaming up with Fulham Enterprise Studio, a sixth form college which offers vocational education.

Goldfinger essentially has four streams – sourcing waste, turning it into valueadded products, training, and retail. The transformation process might involve upcycling items or using recycled timber or timber offcuts to make new products. Goldfinger also produces furniture from new, FSC-certified timber, and then uses the offcuts in other products.

“Reuse is the most wonderful vehicle. It kills two birds with one stone. If you do really high-end reuse you’re teaching employable skills such as carpentry, workshop joinery, metalwork, management, set design and facilities management and you’re saving materials from ending up in landfill,” said Oliver.

He estimates that in the past four years Goldfinger used 268 tonnes of timber that would otherwise be regarded as waste. The workshop situated in the basement of the Trellick Tower is fitted out with tools provided by Axminster and Festool.

“Without those two companies we wouldn’t exist,” said Oliver. “Because we have that great machinery we’re able to do good joinery and we’re starting to pick some interesting timber suppliers to work with.” Woodfinishes company Morrells has also provided support.

The workshop provides two important services: for young people aged 16-25 it offers skills training; and for established craftspeople it is a work space, which can be difficult for individuals to find and afford. It also offers an evening carpentry course. Goldfinger works with a range of companies, developing relationships that can benefit both parties.

“Local builders merchant Nu-Line helped us at the beginning by donating tools and timber and now we purchase a lot from them,” said Oliver.

The social enterprise also works with solid wood worktop manufacturer Wex Trade, making products from its offcuts, and collects waste from some large construction companies.

“We charge them for taking it away. They’d be paying anyway and we need just enough money to process the waste,” said Oliver.

This set-up sometimes provides Goldfinger with what Oliver likes to call “celebrity waste” – such as timber from the new US Embassy being built in Nine Elms in London, which was used to make office tables, the Science Museum, and parquet flooring from the new Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial College.

This year it worked with Medite SmartPly on the latter’s stand for Ecobuild, which won the UK Green Building Council’s award for the most sustainable stand.

“As part of the process we were able to design in the end use of their materials.

The materials had been used at a number of different trade shows and now they’re going to be used to make desks for a community centre in Southall,” said Oliver.

Goldfinger also undertakes special projects with partners. Working with Arup it created the Golborne range of desk tidies and containers, made from Arup’s milk bottle waste and Goldfinger’s hardwood waste.

“Arup is an enormous engineering consultancy and it was a bit of fun for them, but everyone loves the products – and they tell a story,” said Oliver.

Timber may be a renewable resource but Oliver points out that its sustainability is also defined by its end use. Here designers have a role in the sustainability of the timber trade.

“Part of sustainability is being built to last. There’s nothing wrong with using a great hardwood. The tree may have taken a couple of hundred years to grow but if you’re going to make a chair that’s used for 300 years, then it’s very sustainable,” says Oliver.

Last year, to mark London Design Festival, the social enterprise collaborated with British designer Tom Dixon to produce a range of pine and oak tables, benches and planters.

The collection, called Trellick, was designed by Dixon and made by Goldfinger’s artisans and trainees.

Earlier this year furniture produced in the Goldfinger workshop was displayed at Heal’s flagship store in central London. In some cases Goldfinger will provide the labour, and therefore experience for its trainees, while a supplier will provide the materials.

“We’ll work with timber suppliers and say we’ll provide the labour if you can provide the timber so we can build something for a worthy cause.”

An example is the Westway Beach, built in 2015 under the Westway flyover which carries traffic above North Kensington. The beach, which was open over a weekend, was created to celebrate 50 years of the National Trust’s Neptune Coastline Campaign and brought a taste of the seaside to a borough where many children have never been to the coast. Goldfinger provided the labour and Nu-line the materials.

Goldfinger has also produced furniture for the Gail’s bakery chain and it refurbished John Lewis’s marketing suite and boardroom using materials from the department store’s waste stream. It is also in discussions with some other well-known brands.

Oliver is always looking for new relationships and talks to a lot of companies’ marketing and CSR departments.

“We try to craft with them opportunities that appeal to their customers and that have a financial model underneath, so we’re not asking them for money every year,” he said. Goldfinger has sourced timber from James Latham plc and is interested in working with other hardwood suppliers, particularly those selling UK hardwoods. Oliver would also like the workshop to use thermo-treated wood. Training is at the heart of the enterprise, helping local people gain skills and, ultimately, employment.

“For arguably a generation the emphasis for young people has been on going to university rather than doing a technical course. The old-fashioned routes into crafts have been under-invested in for a long time,” said Oliver.

“We work with large partners who pay a training bursary for these young people and we cover all the costs of their training.”

The trainees are taught by the inhouse artisans and, under the Making Futures programme, Goldfinger partners with companies to provide work experience. The first partner to sign up is Knight Harwood, a construction company based in Marylebone.

So far Goldfinger has had six trainees under its wing but this number is set to grow once it has opened its workshop at the Fulham school next year. The partnership will allow Goldfinger to help young people as part of a special curriculum that will provide them with work skills and act as a feeder for Goldfinger’s further education activities.

Goldfinger is forecast to make a profit next year and, as a social enterprise, all profits will be reinvested to further its social mission.

Oliver is enormously grateful to all those who have helped to implement his vision. “Companies such as Axminster, Festool, Nu-line, Morrells, Medite SmartPly and John Lewis – all these big companies have made it happen because once you get these people involved it becomes easier for the next people. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude,” he said.