Small businesses may feel exposed to the current economic uncertainty but nationally the UK’s 5.7 million small businesses each commit an average of 12.96 hours every month to help improve the communities where they live – equating to 73,872,000 hours from the sector as a whole.

With Christmas only a month away and with many young people facing homelessness this winter, Hitachi Capital Business Finance asked 2,839 small business how they give back to the community they work in – including how much time they dedicated to supporting charitable initiatives. Overall, more than one in two small enterprises gave time back to their local community (59%) – and of those that give time, the average rose to 29.82 hours a month. Family-run businesses emerged as the most community orientated – with 57% of them spending up to 70 hours a month supporting the local health of their local community.

Top five ways that small businesses are helping their local community

  1. Supporting local suppliers: The single biggest way small businesses give back to the community is by using local suppliers (39%) as a way to keep money in the local economy. This is most common amongst family-run small businesses (52%), who place particular value in nurturing strong local relationships over time.  
  1. Supporting charities:More than a third of small businesses (35%) support the homeless by donating to charity, rising to 67% in the North East. Interestingly, home-based small business owners (43%) are most likely to want to help tackle the issues of homelessness in their local community. 
  1. 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% 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% of small enterprises in the East Midlands say they actively recycle as a way to reduce their waste.
  2. 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% Vs. the national average of 6%). Small business owners in the capital (25%) 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%).
  3. 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%). Supporting local youth organisations (27%) and sponsoring staff to be involved in local fundraising events (37%) is a social drive for small enterprises in the East Midlands (27%). In the South East (28%) and South West (29%) 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%).

Gavin Wraith-Carter, Managing Director at Hitachi Capital Business Finance said: “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.”