Exciting journey of delivering social benefit through business growth in Yorkshire: Jenny Lehan

A few weeks ago, I took a walk through Leeds city centre. Being born and raised in Yorkshire, it’s a city I know well and I could sense there was a certain buzz in the air.

Inward investment is increasing and the impact is clear to see; the steady hum of construction works and major brands - such as Channel 4 and Sky Digital - making the city their home. It’s clear that Leeds is in a prime position for growth.

With over 1.4 million skilled people and 109,000 businesses in the Leeds City Region, it boasts the largest regional economy outside of London.

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The latest State of the Region Report for West Yorkshire also showed a region recovering from the effects of Covid-19, with an encouraging rise in employment, productivity and skills.

Jenny Lehan, Relationship Manager at Unity Trust BankJenny Lehan, Relationship Manager at Unity Trust Bank
Jenny Lehan, Relationship Manager at Unity Trust Bank

It’s exciting to witness the current ambition and optimism in the Yorkshire region, with business growth being seen across a number of key sectors.

But what’s also promising to see, is the growth in responsible and ethical businesses - organisations that are committed to delivering social change through their operations.

Because when we celebrate and support those businesses, we all set to benefit. And importantly, it’s what consumers want.

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A recent report on consumer behaviour showed an increased demand for ethical products and services. The Ethical Consumer Markets Report 2022 shows that these markets grew by almost 35 per cent in 2021, expanding to £141.6 billion - the largest jump in the value of the market since tracking began in 1999.

When you hear the term ‘ethical’ business, you might automatically think of charities or third sector organisations. But it’s so much broader than that. Quite simply, every single business has the potential to contribute to a better society. From job creation and apprenticeships to creating more sustainable operations and buildings, there’s huge scope to demonstrate positive impact that’s good for business, the community and the planet.

Unity Trust Bank supports businesses that seek to benefit the common good and we’re proud to have helped a diverse range of Yorkshire organisations deliver quantifiable impact in the communities they serve.

In 2022, East Street Arts, a contemporary arts charity which has supported creative projects for 30 years, transformed a derelict building into a unique art hostel in Leeds, thanks to funding from Unity, Arts@Leeds and the Arts Council.

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The vibrant 60-bed hostel has helped to create new jobs, boost local tourism and promote a more sustainable, circular economy.

Elsewhere in the city, a young entrepreneur was able to expand his business last year thanks to six-figure funding from Unity. Oliver Bedford established Revive IT in 2009 to provide computer recycling and data destruction services.

Last year, a £900,000 refinancing package from Unity enabled the business to acquire two new warehouses - doubling the amount of equipment it can process and creating new jobs.

At Unity, we’re committed to the Yorkshire region and are investing in our locally-based team to help us better serve those organisations that contribute economic, social or environmental benefit to society.

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By supporting those businesses through lending, we’ll continue to see positive change in local communities - which is good news for us all.

Jenny Lehan is Relationship Manager for Yorkshire at Unity Trust Bank