How SMEs are binding communities and people together

The Federation of Small Businesses has launched a major new report looking at the impact that small firms have on local communities.

The report, entitled Small Business, Big Heart: Bringing Communities Together, shines a spotlight on some of the work that small businesses do – from apprenticeships and recognising talent in harder to reach labour market groups, to supporting local charities and projects.

The report, which has been months in the making, found that small firms were very often the heartbeat of communities throughout the country but more needed to be done in order to truly understand the role they play.

The evidence was that small firms created strong civic engagements within local communities, backed up by the fact that 80% of small firms are actively involved in their community, while one in three (30%) small employers hire those with a disability or mental health condition; one in four (41%) offer work experience.

A central pillar in the report focuses on how, in order for communities to thrive, the 16.3 million people employed within small businesses also have to thrive. But for this to succeed, it’s crucial to reach those in parts of the labour market which can be disproportionately disadvantaged. This can include people with disabilities, military service leavers, those with low levels of educational attainment, and older workers.

The report was the focus of a major launch event in Westminster which featured an expert panel comprised of Justine Greening MP, former education secretary and women & equalities minister and Baroness Grey Thompson, Paralympic champion and Chair of ukactive, as well as Michelle Ovens, Small Business Saturday CEO, Sonali Parekh, FSB’s Head of Policy and Andy Briggs, Government older workers champion.

The panel offered their own thoughts on some of the issues that different parts of the community face in employment. Justine Greening said that the report showed why small businesses can be the backbone for delivering more opportunities to young people as well as improving social mobility.

While Michelle Ovens said that she agreed with the recommendations inside report and that it was crucial to raise up small businesses through celebration and inspiring more work.

Commenting on the launch of the report Andrew Dakers, Chief Executive, West London Business, said:

“This is a significant contribution to thinking around the relationship between business and society in the UK in 2019.   As the report notes the day-to-day implementation of the Social Value Act within procurement contracts has been addressed in an inconsistent manner by different local authorities.  There is a huge opportunity in West London, both for local communities and the wider economy, in supporting commissioners to understand the full range of social value opportunities and share best practice between local authorities.”


Speaking about the launch of the report and the importance that small business have in the community, FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said:

“The contribution of small businesses to local communities is too often overlooked by policymakers. We’re not just generators of profits and tax: we’re an active force for good in society.  

“Those who are disadvantaged are already more likely to find work with a small firm than a big corporation. Back in 2017, the Conservatives promised that – were they elected – they would introduce a one-year NICs holiday for firms that take on those with a disability, mental health condition or who have been out of work for some time.

“We’ve been left asking: when will this promise be delivered? Two years later, it should be prioritised. We look forward to the Chancellor outlining exactly how the commitment will be taken forward in the upcoming Spring Statement. With the labour market tightening, EU migration down and skills shortages starting to bite, it’s more vital than ever that this incentive is made available.”

Download the full report