The National Rural Conference 2024

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is thrilled to announce the National Rural Conference 2024, taking place from 16th to 19th September. This virtual event, accessible via Zoom, is the premier gathering for senior officers, members, policymakers, and rural service professionals.
Further information and booking details can be found here

New research shows how community-owned businesses are committed to social and environmental action

Plunkett Foundation’s annual state of the sector report ‘Community Ownership: A Better Form of Business’ shows that despite facing significant challenges because of the cost-of-living and energy price crises, the community-ownership sector remains focussed on delivering social, economic and environmental impact.

The community business sector has been negatively impacted by inflation and rising costs; however, new research from the Plunkett Foundation shows that community businesses continue to put people first. Even though as many as 1 in 3 businesses are concerned about the next 12 months, over 50% of the network have awarded cost of living pay rises to staff. 64% of community businesses with tenants offered rent reductions and extensions. Whilst two thirds of businesses have absorbed price rises to maintain affordability of products and services for their community.

The ‘Community Ownership: A Better Form of Business’ report showed that the sector grew by 3% in 2022, with 27 new businesses opening. The total number of trading community business, at 31 December 2022, stood at 768 – with community-owned pubs by far the fastest growing business type.

58% of businesses surveyed state that they believe they are more resilient due to being a community-owned business. However, the report does indicate short-term concern for the sector, with the majority businesses stating that rising wholesale prices and overhead costs, coupled with lower customer spend will detrimentally impact their turnover and profitability in the next 12 months.

The long-term success rate for community businesses supported by Plunkett stands at 92%, which is a testament to the thousands of volunteers who are the heart of the sector.

Chris Cowcher, Head of Policy and Communications at Plunkett said:

“We know that times are hard for all businesses right now, but to see what the community-ownership sector continues to achieve is nothing short of remarkable. The businesses are not immune to the challenges posed by inflationary cost pressures, and Plunkett continues to offer access to free support to all community businesses via our universal service. However, to see in our research, such a commitment to social impact and supporting their community in a time of crisis is just amazing. We applaud every single person involved with the growing community business movement.”

Looking to the future and motivated by a mixture of reducing the operating costs and a commitment to climate action, the research has also shown strong support amongst community businesses for installing Energy Saving Measures (ESMs) and making improvements to business premises. 85% of businesses surveyed have either installed or are currently considering installing ESMs. This would not only make their operations greener but also reduce running costs in the longer-term.

As a further commitment to climate action, 72% of businesses surveyed state that they were proactively ‘sourcing locally’ for goods and products as part of their operation. Whilst 44% are taking action to reduce their waste (e.g. reducing use of packaging).

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