Generating positive social impact by supporting the recovery and growth of UK SMEs


By James Felton, Chief Operating Officer, White Oak Europe

SMEs play a vital role in helping local communities thrive.

With the COVID-19 pandemic beginning to recede in the UK and the rollout of the vaccine well underway, many are now turning their attention to the shape of the UK’s recovery. Crucial to that will be rebuilding the economy in a more sustainable manner.

Business has a vital role to play in this process. By creating jobs, companies have a positive impact on social and economic development. According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, SMEs account for 99.9% of businesses in the UK, employing three-fifths of the workforce and generating 52% of the turnover in the UK private sector, £2.3 trillion in total in 2020. 

SMEs help local communities thrive. Successful businesses attract investment and talent, which in turn increases spending in the local area creating a virtuous circle of prosperity – boosting schools and the housing market, contributing to local services through taxation and supporting local shops, pubs and restaurants.

Research shows that for every £1 spent with an SME, 60p stays in the local economy, compared to 40p for larger businesses, highlighting how beneficial SMEs are for local communities. SMEs are also more likely to favour a local supply chain and to prefer local products, creating a strong and resilient local network. They invest for the future, even during challenging times. A survey carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses showed that at the end of 2020, more firms expected to increase investment than decrease investment. This raises hope for recruitment, especially for younger generations whose employment prospects have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

Many SMEs are committed to giving back through philanthropy, whether it be through volunteering, sponsoring local events or supporting community initiatives, and this generosity continues despite the pandemic. Research from Intuit Quickbooks and Oxford Economics found that last year UK SMEs helped locked down communities with £6bn in cash and gifts-in-kind and volunteering hours equivalent to 9 hours per month per SME. This sustainable approach to business means SMEs are well-positioned to evolve their business models to adapt to societies’ increasing focus on non-financial performance and social issues; themes that were already becoming more important but have been thrust to the top of the agenda by the pandemic.

Now, more than ever, SMEs need financial support to recover and grow. This is where White Oak, as a trusted lender to SMEs for over 30 years, is supporting. White Oak prides itself on delivering flexible and efficient capital solutions through personalised service, and since 2018 has provided over £1 billion to businesses across the UK, including over £315 million under the CBILS programme.

This has been invaluable to businesses such as Amber Support Services, a leading provider of support services to adults with learning and physical disabilities throughout Warwickshire and Worcestershire, who needed a source of finance to help them weather the worst of the crisis and reinforce their ability to thrive and expand. Such a positive impact generated by companies is something White Oak actively considers in its lending process.  

Supporting SMEs means investing for the future, and White Oak is proud to support the UK’s entrepreneurs.