New report sheds light on the community impact of family businesses
16th November 2020
The latest IFB Research Foundation report, Family Business and Community Engagement, by researchers from the University of York, provides new insights into the ways UK family businesses work to support their communities.
Much is known about the contribution of family businesses to the UK economy – they produce 31 per cent of the UK’s GDP and account for over half of employees in the UK private sector. Although it is generally accepted family firms play an important role in their communities, there has been far less research about the social and community impact of family firms.
With their long-term outlook, family businesses are well positioned to develop strong partnerships with communities and community organisations. As the new research shows, these partnerships not only benefit the communities themselves, but also provide real upsides for family businesses too - through enhanced trust and reputation, and providing opportunities for the personal and the professional development of employees and family members.
The study reveals that effective community engagement requires leadership, time and resources, a genuine commitment to making a difference, and a willingness for a sustained and long-term effort, all commonly found in family businesses.
The insights from this report can help family businesses plan their community engagement activities, and inform the work of policy-makers and community organisations, providing an understanding of how family businesses operate and engage with their communities.
- Impact is particularly strong where a sustainable, long-term relationship between the business and the community has been established and in areas of economic decline;
- Community engagement activities in a family business are driven by family values;
- The main challenges identified by family firms were finding time and freeing up the necessary resources to support community engagement activities.
The report also presents new practice guidance which family businesses can draw on when planning or reviewing their community activities; for example,
- Community engagement requires leadership, a genuine commitment to make a difference, a willingness to engage in a sustained and long-term effort
- Having an impact depends on cultivating robust partnership with communities and community-based organisations;
- Businesses should raise awareness of what they are doing by measuring, documenting, and reporting their community engagement activities.
Kiran Trehan, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Partnership and Engagement, Professor of Entrepreneurship and author of the report, said:
"The research is timely and makes a critical contribution by illuminating not only the economic contributions family firms make to the UK economy, the research provides new insights on extensive contribution family firms make to the community and wider society. Family businesses and their community engagement activities can bring with them a wide range of social benefits which are often overlooked, including: wellbeing of local residents, better facilities and equipment, cleaner environments, philanthropy, job opportunities (particularly in disadvantaged areas) and access to business skills. These benefits can in turn collectively coalesce to create environments in which innovation and sustainability flourish which is vital for inclusive and responsible growth".
Sir Michael Bibby, Chairman of the IFB Research Foundation, commented on the report:
"Families own a business not just for the commercial benefits but also for the reputation it generates in the communities in which they operate. This report looks at the different ways family businesses interact with society and suggests some best practice ideas for those setting out on the journey to build a better world for all".
Elizabeth Bagger, Director General of the Institute for Family Business, said:
"We know family businesses play a huge role in our society, with their contribution highlighted on many occasions throughout the ongoing crisis. Many family businesses have stepped up with innovative ideas and new initiatives, supporting individuals and their communities to better cope with current challenges. This report offers important insights into what drives community engagement in a family business. The experiences shared through the case studies reveal how family businesses go about making positive change and provide learnings to help them improve their practices".
 IFB Research Foundation and Oxford Economics, 2020