Business Enterprise Fund (BEF), which provides finance and support for new and existing businesses in Yorkshire and the North East, has been given the UK top accolade for its economic and social impact from an international foundation. Its work has been recognised for making an “enormous contribution to economic growth and the social and environmental vibrancy of the communities it serves,” and for its demonstrable performance towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Part of the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, BEF supports SMEs and social enterprises and lent £8.8m to 399 clients in 2018, helping launch 179 new businesses, creating or safeguarding 985 UK jobs. This was delivered alongside 4,000 hours of tailored business support and brought £39m of economic benefit to the regional economy. BEF’s focus on measuring, demonstrating and improving its impact, including showing how its performance contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, impressed the judges in the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards, funded by the Citi Foundation. BEF was named the winner of the “Impact Award” at a national ceremony this week. The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards, funded by the Citi Foundation, are the annual celebration of Britain’s microentrepreneurs that have accessed “responsible” business finance – and the providers, like BEF, which work with them. Responsible Finance providers are a crucial part of the UK’s financial sector and the leading financial institutions offering affordable finance to many small and micro enterprises, and social enterprises. Stephen Waud, Chief Executive of BEF, said: “I’m thrilled that BEF’s work supporting businesses and social enterprises in the North of England, particularly in disadvantaged areas within North and West Yorkshire, Humberside and the North East has been recognised. “Measuring and reporting on our impact has been a key area of focus in the last 12 months and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) align naturally with our ethos as a responsible lender with a social purpose. “We have set out clear and measurable targets for supporting and increasing our contribution to the UNSDGs and will report annually on progress. Reporting and demonstrating our impact has also enabled BEF to develop relationships and new funding streams, helping to enhance our credentials in the social investment arena. This prestigious accolade is a testament to the work of our team – we’re absolutely delighted.” Responsible finance providers across the UK, including BEF, lent £85 million to over 5,000 businesses in 2018, and 84% of business customers supported by responsible finance providers were previously turned down by a bank. Launched in 2005, (and in 2013 in the UK), the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards were established by the Citi Foundation to recognise best-in-class microentrepreneurs and celebrate the responsible finance sector and their contribution to national economies. The Citi Foundation is committed to supporting and celebrating the responsible finance sector, as well as youth entrepreneurs through its Pathways to Progress initiative that is tackling youth unemployment globally. “The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards are a celebration of the enterprises and local businesses which are the backbone of our communities. They also recognise the important role responsible finance providers play in supporting the entrepreneurship ecosystem, which enables many microenterprises to grow and scale their businesses,” said Bob Annibale, Global Director, Citi Inclusive Finance and Community Development. “This year’s Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals agenda. Business Enterprise Fund makes an enormous contribution to economic growth and the social and environmental vibrancy of the communities it serves.” BEF’s accolade is one of just 8 national awards, with recognition given to 4 businesses supported by responsible finance providers, and to 4 providers. One of the microenterprises receiving an award, Spark:York, is also a BEF client: this hub of affordable space for retailers and food businesses in York, created from upcycled shipping containers, was launched thanks to a £190k loan and business mentoring support from the Business Enterprise Fund. It has attracted 500,000 visitors in its first 10 months – and has a £1.8m turnover – and its founders Tom McKenzie and Sam Leach were named the UK’s “young entrepreneurs of the year” in the same awards.