Thoughts & Insights

Business potential could add £479 billion to UK economy

Unlocking the potential of businesses in the UK will not only add to the economy, but the people and places they serve too.

The untapped potential of British businesses could be worth £479 billion to the UK economy by 2025, a Vibrant Economy study found.

The research – which Grant Thornton UK carried out alongside CEBR and YouGov – reveals that increasing exports by 17% to 45% of GDP, the level achieved by Germany, would lead to an additional £84 billion of economic output being unlocked.

Despite this opportunity, less than half of UK businesses currently identify international markets as a potential profit booster the study found.

Skills shortages holding the UK back

Along with exports, skills shortages are still holding businesses back, especially unfilled jobs. Filling these vacancies could provide a £8.9 billion boost to the UK economy.

A new YouGov survey of 1,000 business leaders found that 70% of respondents believed that future success depended on attracting new talent, but only 54% believed development and retention of their employees as important to business growth.

Results also show the opportunity for businesses to boost their success by focusing on more than just profit.  Research by the Edelman Trust shows that a business’ contribution to the greater good is the leading factor in whether people trust that business.

In our survey only 27% of businesses place importance on having a positive impact on their local community or wider society and 39% of businesses view transparency and good governance as a necessary part of success.

Building trust by not just focusing on profit

The survey did reveal that a core group of around 15% of businesses in the UK believed the success of their business depends on their impact on society, the environment, the development of their employees and making profits.

Interestingly these businesses had higher than average growth forecasts: 88% of said they had the potential to grow over the next 12 months, compared to 66% of all businesses.

While businesses have the opportunity to make many of these changes themselves, a series of external factors can also help UK businesses reach their potential:

  • Improved infrastructure (such as better transport links, broadband and location) topped the list of factors that were most important to business growth (82%)
  • Improvements in employee health and access to healthcare could deliver a £6.2 billion boost to economic output by 2025.

“Today’s research has revealed significant potential across the UK,” Sacha Romanovitch, CEO of Grant Thornton UK LLP, commented. “We believe that addressing at root some of the UK’s fundamental social and economic challenges collaboratively can create vibrant cities and communities across the UK, where businesses and people can flourish.”

Grant Thornton is establishing an independent Commission to steer a series of thematic and city-based Inquiries over the course of the next 18months, supported by a community of individuals and organisations who exemplify what it will take to build a vibrant economy: the Faces of a Vibrant Economy.

The aim of the nationwide Inquiry is to collaboratively explore how the UK can accelerate economic progress, social good and opportunity for businesses, cities, people and communities.