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British Chambers of Commerce

British Chambers of Commerce is the largest chamber of commerce in the United Kingdom.
British Chambers of Commerce
Leadership team

Claire Walker (Co-Executive Directors)

Shevaun Haviland (Director General)

Hannah Essex (Co-Executive Directors)

Jenny Hemsley (Finance Director)

Headquarters
Petty France London, SW1 United Kingdom
Type
Not-for-profit, industry-led
Region served
United Kingdom
Year stablished
1860
Social Media
Summary

The British Chambers of Commerce is a network of 53 accredited Chambers of Commerce across the United Kingdom and 78 British Chambers Worldwide. It was founded in 1860, and since then, it has been supporting businesses of all sizes and sectors by providing practical support, useful connections, and valuable opportunities. 

As the UK's most representative business network, the BCC aims to represent and promote the interests of British businesses locally, nationally, and internationally. It achieves this through lobbying, policy development, networking events, training, and other initiatives aimed at fostering growth and competitiveness. 

Today, the British Chambers of Commerce represents approximately 100,000 business members, according to Business West Chambers of Commerce (part of British Chambers of Commerce), and is recognized as one of the most influential business associations in the country, playing an important role in shaping policy and helping businesses to thrive.


History

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has a long and storied history, dating back to the early years of the Industrial Revolution.

The first chamber of commerce in the UK was established in 1767 in Manchester. Over the next century, chambers of commerce were established in other major industrial cities, including London, Liverpool, and Birmingham. In 1860, a group of these chambers formed the Association of Chambers of Commerce, which would later become the British Chambers of Commerce.

The BCC played an important role in the development of trade and commerce in the UK during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The organization was a strong advocate for free trade and worked to promote the interests of British businesses both domestically and abroad.

During World War I, the BCC played a vital role in supporting the war effort, coordinating the efforts of businesses to contribute to the war effort and maintain production in the face of significant challenges.

After the war, the BCC continued to promote the interests of British businesses and played an important role in the rebuilding of the British economy. The organization worked closely with the government to promote economic growth and development, and played a key role in the development of new industries and technologies.

In 1921, the BCC established the first International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) office in London, which allowed the organization to participate in the global business community. In 1923, the BCC launched its first National Conference, which provided a forum for the discussion of economic and political issues affecting British industry and business.

During the 1930s, the BCC played an important role in advocating for free trade and opposing protectionist measures, which became increasingly popular in Europe. The organization also supported the establishment of a national system of industrial training and education.

During World War II, the BCC worked closely with the government to support the war effort. The organization helped to coordinate the evacuation of children from cities to the countryside and supported the war industries by providing advice and guidance to businesses.

After the war he organization called for greater government investment in industry, the expansion of export markets, and the establishment of a national system of industrial training and education.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the BCC continued to expand its activities and influence. The organization established a number of committees and task forces to address issues such as taxation, industrial relations, and export promotion. The BCC also played a key role in the establishment of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in 1960.

During the 1970s, the BCC supported the government's efforts to modernize the economy and promote economic growth. The BCC also played a key role in the establishment of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 and advocated for greater British involvement in the organization.

The 1980s was a period of significant change for the British Chambers of Commerce. The decade saw the introduction of new programs and initiatives aimed at supporting British businesses and promoting economic growth.

In 1982, the British Chambers of Commerce established the Accredited Chamber of Commerce program, which provided a quality assurance framework for local chambers. The program aimed to ensure that all chambers met minimum standards of operation and could provide effective support to businesses in their local areas.

In 1986, the British Chambers of Commerce launched a new initiative called the Business Link program. The program aimed to provide practical support and advice to small and medium-sized enterprises across the UK. It was a significant step towards providing better support for businesses, and it paved the way for future government-backed support programs.

In the late 1980s, the British Chambers of Commerce played a critical role in helping UK businesses prepare for the implementation of the Single European Market. The organization worked closely with the government to ensure that businesses were aware of the new regulations and had access to the support they needed to comply.

The 1990s saw the British Chambers of Commerce continue to expand its range of services and programs. In 1990, the organization launched the British Chambers of Commerce International Trade Services, which aimed to help businesses enter and succeed in international markets.

In 1992, the British Chambers of Commerce established the British Chambers of Commerce Awards, which recognized and celebrated the achievements of UK businesses. The awards continue to be an essential part of the organization's calendar and provide an opportunity for businesses to showcase their success.

In 1996, the British Chambers of Commerce launched a new initiative called the Enterprise Initiative, which aimed to promote entrepreneurship and support the growth of small businesses. The program provided funding and training to aspiring entrepreneurs and helped to create a culture of enterprise across the UK.

In 1999, the BCC launched its first website, providing businesses with access to important news, resources, and networking opportunities online. The following year, the organization also introduced an accreditation scheme for export documentation, ensuring that businesses could access accurate and reliable information about international trade.

In 2004, the BCC partnered with the UK government to launch the "Exporting is Great" campaign, promoting exports as a key driver of economic growth. The BCC also played a significant role in the establishment of the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) agency, which aimed to support UK businesses seeking to export and attract foreign investment.

Over the following years, the BCC continued to advocate for business-friendly policies, including lower taxes and streamlined regulations. In 2012, the organization also launched the "Business is Good for Britain" campaign, highlighting the importance of the private sector to the UK economy.

In 2016, the BCC launched a new initiative to promote digital skills and entrepreneurship, working with local chambers of commerce to provide training and support for businesses looking to adapt to the digital age.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the BCC worked closely with government officials to provide guidance and support for businesses facing unprecedented challenges. The organization also launched the "Coronavirus Hub," providing businesses with access to the latest information and resources related to the pandemic.

In 2021, the BCC announced a new partnership with the Institute of Directors (IoD), aimed at strengthening the voice of UK business and promoting policies that support economic growth and recovery. Additionally, the organization continued to advocate for greater investment in infrastructure and skills, calling for a long-term strategy to support UK businesses in the face of global economic challenges.

As of 2023, the British Chambers of Commerce remains a vital voice for UK businesses, representing more than 100,000 companies across the country. With a continued focus on innovation, digital skills, and international trade, the BCC is working to support businesses of all sizes and sectors in the UK and beyond.


Goals and Purpose

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is a business network that aims to support and promote the interests of its members, which are mainly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the UK. The organization has several goals and purposes, including:

Supporting businesses: The BCC seeks to provide businesses with the support and advice they need to succeed. This includes access to training, networking opportunities, and expert advice on a range of business issues.

Influencing policy: The BCC works to influence government policy on behalf of its members. This involves lobbying government officials, providing expert testimony to parliamentary committees, and engaging in public debates on key issues affecting the business community.

Promoting trade: The BCC seeks to promote trade and investment between the UK and other countries. This involves organizing trade missions, facilitating international partnerships, and providing businesses with information on export opportunities.

Enhancing skills: The BCC aims to improve the skills of the UK workforce. This includes working with businesses to develop training programs, advocating for policies that support skills development, and promoting apprenticeships and other forms of vocational training.

Providing local support: The BCC has a network of local chambers of commerce across the UK. These chambers provide businesses with local support, including networking events, training programs, and access to local business leaders and policymakers.

Overall, the BCC seeks to be a voice for businesses across the UK, advocating for policies that support economic growth, providing businesses with the support they need to succeed, and promoting the UK as a great place to do business.


Impact

The 53 Accredited Chambers make up the biggest networks of chambers of commerce in the UK, helping businesses global trade. British Chambers of Commerce represent 100,000 businesses approximately of all shapes and sizes, which employ almost six million people across the UK, according to Business West Chambers of Commerce (part of British Chambers of Commerce). 

The Chambers also have a powerful international Network with 78 British Chambers of Commerce and business groups located in every continent of the world and directly linked to UK-based Chambers of Commerce.


References
British Chambers of Commerce
Leadership team

Claire Walker (Co-Executive Directors)

Shevaun Haviland (Director General)

Hannah Essex (Co-Executive Directors)

Jenny Hemsley (Finance Director)

Headquarters
Petty France London, SW1 United Kingdom
Type
Not-for-profit, industry-led
Region served
United Kingdom
Year stablished
1860
Social Media