Help at hand: poverty and London's business community

What you need to know:

  • 76% of London businesses think that at least some of their employees have direct experience of poverty.
  • Many businesses say they are ready to do more to tackle poverty, but don’t always know the best way to act on poverty in their workforce, supply chains and community.
  • While many companies have developed plans to address their carbon emissions and other environmental impacts, fewer have plans and policies to address poverty among workers, suppliers and the communities where they operate.

This briefing paper from Social Market Foundation (SMF) supported by Trust for London explores the extent of London businesses’ understanding of, and commitment to, addressing poverty alongside other ESG issues and their motivations for doing so.

The data is sourced from a survey carried out by Opinium in early-2021 of 500 London-based businesses of all sizes and from all different sectors.

It is part of a three year project examining perceptions about and experiences of poverty by London’s business community and, ultimately, aiming to develop interventions to help business take effective action against poverty.

Key findings

  • ESG issues are important to many London businesses. Topics such as well-being, health, the environment and supply chains are current priorities. Issues such as "workforce poverty" and "poverty in the communities local to business operations in London" are less popular.
  • When specifically questioned about poverty, businesses reveal that it is a “concern” to them. More than 50% of firms of all sizes agreed that workforce poverty in particular “should be a concern” for London businesses, while 39% of employers admit that half or more of their London workforce is directly affected by poverty.
  • The most frequently reported ways that workforce poverty impacted employers was through the way poverty effects the health and wellbeing of workers (26%), demoralises the whole workforce (25%), demoralises those in the workforce affected by it (24%) and increases the amount of sick leave taken (24%).
  • 70% of firms said businesses should be “willing to take” at least "some additional (to minimum legal requirements) voluntary measures" to help address poverty among their own workers, suggesting considerable appetite for businesses to do more in the fight against poverty in the capital.
  • “Doing the right thing”, “the reputation of the business community” and “improving the quality of employees” were three key motivations for those London employers that wanted to help address poverty.