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World leaders are gathering in Cornwall for the G7 summit, a meeting amongst the seven largest advanced economies, to discuss wide-ranging issues from Covid-19 to climate change to trade.
Despite the group representing some of the largest nations in the world, it is small businesses that make up the greatest proportion of their economies, with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) saying small and mid-sized firms account for 99% of businesses across the G7. The FSB, together with similar groups from the EU, Canada, the US and Japan, said in a joint statement that small firms and sole traders “must be top of mind” during the summit as they will be “key to the global recovery” from Covid-19.
The coronavirus pandemic has been difficult for many small businesses, but in the food and drink sector, firms from retail to producers to foodservice proved their resilience. Farm shops upped their game, quickly establishing e-commerce, delivery and click and collect operations. Those with cafés or restaurants pivoted to new areas, such as gifting, or offered takeaways.
A raft of new food start-ups have also joined the market this year, led by Generation Z workers and women who decided to pursue their passion for food after the pandemic hit. Start-ups have been driving innovation in the sector, speedily adapting to online retail and jumping on the latest trends, helping advance the whole of the food and drink industry in the process. “Last year was an all-time record year for start-ups in the UK,” Emma Jones, founder and CEO of the small business network Enterprise Nation, told Speciality Food. “That’s people recognising they can be their own boss and be in charge of their own destiny.”
Fine food businesses are also leading the way when it comes to sustainability. Being more agile than big corporations, many have pioneered implementing net-zero delivery services, selling local produce, reducing food waste and revamping packaging options away from single-use plastics.
“Small businesses are evolving,” Emma said. “If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that small firms are resilient, and they are able to tap into the needs of their communities.”
Indeed, fine food independents have become masters of collaboration, leading community-based initiatives as the local shopping boom continues. “As large firms move out of the high street, small firms see the opportunity and move in,” Emma added. “An astounding 97% of all businesses in the UK employ less than 10 people. There is a lot resting on these firms, but I am firmly confident in the power of the small.”
With small businesses at the heart of their economies and communities, the FSB and other groups called for support for SMEs throughout the Covid-19 recovery, including putting small businesses at the centre of economic recovery plans, supporting their journeys to reducing carbon emissions, addressing the digital divide, and championing SME-friendly international trade.
“Our recovery will hinge on the 99%, so its voice must not be lost,” said FSB national chair Mike Cherry. “From improving digital connectivity, to aiding the transition to net zero, to formulating trade policies that work for all, it’s so important that global leaders work together to facilitate a small business, sole trader, entrepreneur-led recovery, one that secures sustainable prosperity in every local community across the UK and beyond.” By helping small businesses tackle the challenges that stand in their way, global leaders will ensure that SMEs are able to continue their pioneering work and boost the Covid-19 recovery.
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