10 February 2021, 08:38 AM
  • Small businesses are facing incredible pressure, says Martin McTague, FSB national vice chair for policy and advocacy, writing exclusively for Speciality Food, and it's time their hard work was recognised
Martin McTague, FSB: “Championing changes in business”

It is no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic saw trade crumble under the weight of lockdown, with already-squeezed small businesses having to make tough decisions. But it’s those small businesses that are going to be part of the frontline efforts to keep the back generator of the economy running in 2021 and beyond, so they must be protected at all costs.

But with a record number of small business owners planning to close their doors over the coming twelve months, the UK is on course to lose more than a quarter of a million businesses. These figures from our Small Business Index are not easy to digest – with the impact of the global pandemic, lockdown strategies and the end of the transition period adding to mounting pressure on small firms.

Resilience and kindness

It must not be forgotten that these small firms have, historically, shown incredible kindness. Our figures from before the lockdown hit show that 40 percent of smaller businesses actively helped in their community.

But as we all do our bit to fight coronavirus, we now estimate this figure to be far higher because, in the face of adversity, we’ve seen many of our members repurpose their business. In the first lockdown, we saw coffee shops donate drinks to doctors and nurses, taxi companies help medical staff get to work for free and technology firms print NHS-grade PPE.

They put their worries to one side to look for ways to give back to the community, and there’s seldom been a better illustration of the true value of the nation’s smaller businesses to our communities and society. It’s this strength, resilience and kindness that embodies the true spirit of the UK’s vast small business community.

Good Business Charter (GBC)

Small businesses are pillars of their communities, but their achievements and contributions are not always celebrated in a way that does them justice. That is why FSB decided to collaborate with the Good Business Charter (GBC) for small firms to have their employee wellbeing, sustainability and diversity credentials acknowledged – things we know are important to small firms.

It allows firms with up to 50 employees to apply for accreditation. Time for a small business owner is at a premium, especially against a backdrop of trading restrictions and the end of the transition period, so the application process is a simple questionnaire.

Commitment to ethical practice

The GBC is the brainchild of Richer Sounds founder Julian Richer. It enables businesses with less than 50 employees to have their commitment to good practices recognised by clients, employees and the wider community alike. It aims to inspire businesses to change their behaviour to sign up which, in turn, will encourage wider good business practice.

The application process comprises of ten different components, which include:

    • Real living wage
    • Fairer hours and contracts
    • Employee wellbeing
    • Employee representation
    • Diversity and inclusion
    • Environmental responsibility and Net Zero commitments
    • Pay fair tax
    • Commitment to customers
    • Ethical sourcing
    • Prompt payments

For Greenwich Pantry, a small business offering cooking classes, GBC accreditation helps them stay on track with sustainability goals. “Decisions we make now impact the future for all of us directly or indirectly,” said director Lara Omoloja.

Indeed, GBC accreditation allows firms to stand out from the crowd, leading the way on a range of important issues. It proves a business is committed to operating responsibly and ethically, treating staff with the respect and fairness they deserve. It shows the public a firm is part of a bigger movement to champion changes in businesses for the better – something that will instil customer confidence, boost staff morale and empower them in their job roles.

Small businesses are very much embedded in their communities and do so much good for their employees, supply chains and the planet – it’s a fact that should be recognised.