Improving Community Life at Christmas
More than half of 2,839 small businesses surveyed by Hitachi Capital Business Finance in the UK are participating in initiatives to support their local community.
On average, small enterprises indicated they dedicate 12.96 hours a month towards helping to improve the communities they are located within - which equates to 73,872,000 hours for the sector as a whole.
The average for the 59 per cent of small businesses that regularly engage with their local community rose to 29.82 hours per month, with family-run businesses emerging as the most active after 57 per cent indicated they spend up to 70 hours every month on community-focused activities.
The survey also identified the following activities as the most popular with businesses:
1. Supporting local suppliers: The single biggest way small businesses give back to the community is by using local suppliers (39 per cent) as a way to keep money in the local economy. This is most common amongst family-run small businesses (52 per cent), who place particular value in nurturing strong local relationships over time.
2. Supporting charities: More than a third of small businesses (35 per cent) support the homeless by donating to charity, rising to 67 per cent in the North East. Interestingly, home-based small business owners (43 per cent) are most likely to want to help tackle the issues of homelessness in their local community.
3. A green conscience in the community: Hitachi Capital research also reveals that small businesses in the capital are those most likely to say they want to go the extra mile on green issues. Overall, 40 per cent of respondents in the city say they are investing in their local community by setting an example on environmental measures and lowering their carbon footprint. Elsewhere, 37 per cent of small enterprises in the East Midlands say they actively recycle as a way to reduce their waste.
4. Helping vulnerable people: Small businesses in the North East are almost four times more likely than the national average to offer support to the long term unemployed by offering training days or taking them on as members of staff (23 per cent Vs. the national average of 6 per cent). Small business owners in the capital (25 per cent) are the most likely to offer free or discounted services to vulnerable members of the community, whereas employing people in the local community emerges as a top priority for Welsh enterprises (37 per cent).
5. Investing in the next generation: Small companies in the North East invests in job creation in their community by offering internships and apprenticeships to local people leaving school or college (44 per cent). Supporting local youth organisations (27 per cent) and sponsoring staff to be involved in local fundraising events (37 per cent) is a social drive for small enterprises in the East Midlands (27 per cent). In the South East (28 per cent) and South West (29 per cent) small businesses are more than twice as likely as the national average to give talks at schools or colleges to support local schools and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs (14 per cent).
Gavin Wraith-Carter, Managing Director at Hitachi Capital Business Finance, says:
"We all know about the important economic contribution that small businesses make to the UK’s GDP, but the true social impact has never really been fully understood – until now. In the run up to Christmas, this study offers a whole new lens through which we can start to really appreciate the full social impact that small businesses have on society at large. Larger companies often make a great play on the CSR projects they are supporting, whilst silently the small business community is giving time and money every week to make the lives of real people better. Our study has found that small businesses across the UK are busily working on the ground to strengthen community cohesion and to boost the local economy, supporting social initiatives and vulnerable members of society, which is now even more important with the months getting colder.
"What stands out here is there is no such thing as an average small business. In different regions and in different sectors, small businesses are supporting different community projects. Some invest money, some commit time whilst others give work and training opportunities. In the months ahead, we will be looking more closely at how small businesses operate in their local communities – and how businesses of different shapes and sizes follow different paths to grow, to network and to realise their full potential."