Do good by stealth: five ways local businesses quietly give back to the community

Local businesses: the unsung heroes of the community

Business news and opinion

2 November 2016

While the recession has hit UK high streets hard, local shops have been working tirelessly to maintain a presence in the community.

But away from the limelight, Britain’s small businesses have been championing local causes. Our latest retail study found that 88% of local shops are involved in direct action to improve their communities, most of which goes unsung.

Here are five amazing ways local businesses give back:

1. Guarding traditions

80% of the small shops we spoke to told us that their shop reflects a distinct local character you won’t find anywhere else. However, it’s not all about taking pride in their shopfronts and offering locally sourced produce or goods. Behind the scenes, local businesses organise an average of two community events a year in each UK town or village. These range from D-Day celebrations to fêtes and children’s book readings, playing a huge role in preserving local culture and traditions.

2. Improving the area

Local businesses aren’t all about putting on a show either. They’re big supporters of the everyday issues faced by their local community. Of those we surveyed, 70% had lobbied or raised funds for improvements in public services and infrastructure. A further 28% went even further, joining forces with other business owners and investing profits directly into projects.

3. Charity fundraising

Local businesses extend their reach beyond the community and into worthy causes across the country. We found that around 87,000 small businesses in the UK are involved in raising funds for charities, and many more are directly involved in charity work. 33,000 do this by donating food or goods to help people in poverty and when they’re not behind the till, almost 30,000 spend at least some of their free time volunteering.

4. Building communities

It’s not just the big issues which small shops have decided to make their own; it’s the little day-to-day interactions that affect their customers. Earlier this year we found that two-thirds of British people have shared their problems with local business owners, most often hairdressers, making them among the most trusted in the community. Shopkeepers also provide moral support to one another, with 40% regularly dropping in on others for a chat or meeting in the local pub.

5. Supporting the vulnerable

Local businesses are a crucial part of daily life for elderly residents, many of whom can’t easily travel to out-of-town supermarkets and shopping centres. In total, approximately 81,000 small shops are considered to provide lifeline services for older people. And that’s just one part of their contribution to vulnerable members of the community. A quarter of local businesses help homeless people in their neighbouring streets, and another quarter told us they employed people as a way of providing financial aid.

Next time you pop into a local business, see if you can find out more about their community involvement. After all, there's so much more to these shops than convenience.


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