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Report sheds light on community impact of family businesses

Posted on 26 November 2020

Researchers at the University of York have provided new insights into the ways UK family businesses work to support their communities.

Family businessFamily businesses are essential to the community.

The Institute of Family Business (IFB) Research Foundation report, Family Business and Community Engagement, shows 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. 

Critical contribution

Professor Kiran Trehan, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Partnership and Engagement at the University of York said: “The research is timely and makes a critical contribution by illuminating not only the economic contributions family firms make to the UK economy, but also the 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; and job opportunities. 

“These benefits can in turn collectively coalesce to create environments in which innovation and sustainability flourish which is vital for inclusive and responsible growth.”

Social impact

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.

The new research shows that 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.

Other key findings

  • 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. 

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About this research

The full report from researchers Professor Kiran Trehan and Dr Jane Glover, can be found here.