Our social value

Social value is at the heart of what we do, and the way that we do it.

This is evident from the work we do advising policymakers on social and economic policies right through to the space, finance and business support programmes we deliver to SMEs, which create new jobs, build support networks for entrepreneurs and drive inclusive economic growth.

Our values can also be seen in the way we support our own employees. We are committed to being a responsible employer, providing our people with a fair, inclusive, diverse, safe and supportive environment in which to work, as well as being a responsible contributor in the places in which we work.

Women in Business Conference

Women in Business Conference

Our activities, policies and social impact

Every year we help thousands of business owners start or grow their businesses by providing them with access to the support, information, finance and space they need to succeed. We work with businesses and social enterprises right across the country from Cornwall to Tyne and Wear – often working in some of the most economically deprived areas of the UK – to help create job opportunities and build sustainable regeneration. In turn, many of those businesses are also making positive social, economic and environmental contributions through their services and products. 

We take an inclusive approach to engaging and supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses. This involves designing and monitoring marketing and outreach activities that involve partners and community groups to ensure that our support reaches all segments of the business community. It also involves incorporating inclusivity principles into the design and delivery of the business support that we provide. 

We keep up to date on research in this area, working closely with experts in the field, such as the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME) and the Northern Powerhouse Ethnic Minority Business and Policy Forum, to ensure our methods incorporate best practice in the delivery of inclusive business support. Oxford Innovation Advice holds the Charter for Inclusive Entrepreneurship, Oxford Innovation Finance is a signatory of the Investing in Women Code, and Oxford Innovation Space holds the Good Business Charter accreditation.

Where we work directly with businesses, we analyse data and feedback from the SMEs and the management teams that we support to understand their challenges to ensure we continually evolve our services to meet their changing needs. We also feed back these insights to funders and policymakers to help inform their investment priorities and programme design to ensure maximum impact through optimal business support at both regional and national levels.

Through our work, we help to establish support networks and communities for SME leaders and entrepreneurs. We connect our SME clients with other likeminded business leaders for peer-to-peer learning as well as a wide range of local and national, public and private sector support. This includes education and training providers, government agencies or programmes, finance provides and investors.

Many of our teams and individuals across the Group are involved in raising money for local charities or volunteering in their communities. From beach cleaning events in Cornwall to fundraising for mental health charities, we encourage and support our people to make a positive contribution to the communities in which they live and work – in addition to the contribution they already make through their day-to-day work.

We provide bespoke training programmes for groups of staff depending on the demands of their role. We are committed to ensuring that we train staff to deliver to the best of their ability, reviewing and agreeing personal development objectives as part of the annual appraisal process. We provide development opportunities for them to build their careers with us, moving between different parts of the Group where possible.

We pay the Apprenticeship Levy and have hired a number of apprentices as well as funding apprenticeship courses for existing staff.

We are committed to providing an open, inclusive and supportive environment to staff from all backgrounds. Our staff range in age from 21 to over 70 years of age from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. We monitor anonymous Equality and Diversity job applicant data and are committed to taking action to attract under-represented groups. We provide annual Equality and Diversity training to all staff. We have flexible and hybrid working policies in place to support staff with personal and family commitments, helping them to achieve a good work-life balance.

We voluntarily report on our Gender Pay Gap and are committed to taking corrective action where we need to. Our benefits offer is the same for all staff across the Group, regardless of seniority. We offer education sessions around financial and pension planning. As a Living Wage Employer, we ensure we offer fair remuneration to all our people by paying the Living Wage as a minimum, benchmarking the salaries paid to our people annually. We also pay enhanced paternity and maternity pay.

We are committed to supporting the wellbeing of our people. We have a number of trained Mental Health First Aiders and we offer access to online wellbeing support, including virtual GP appointments and mental health support. We have a comprehensive package of core and voluntary benefits including private medical and dental insurance for employees and their families, and health screening for staff.

As a champion of SMEs, we understand the pressures on small businesses, which include managing cashflow and chasing late payments. We operate fair and transparent procurement processes and we are committed to making prompt payments, paying all suppliers within 30 days of receipt of invoice.

We are committed to minimising our impact on the environment while both supporting innovative businesses whose work is directed at having a positive impact on issues of climate change, energy consumption and waste. See our Net Zero commitment.