SME Empowerment Learn how to correctly analyse this topic.

Sarah Simon

17 min Read Time | December 27th 2021

Key takeaways


The topic deals with products or services that have proven positive and direct significant impact on empowering Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Small Businesses, and One Person Companies.


The core focus should be on how companies offer products and/or services that empower these businesses.


It should capture the long-term and profound socio-economic impacts, such as increased market opportunities, broader reach, greater employability, reduced income inequality, reduced poverty, etc.

What is it?

Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are crucial for the global economy and businesses. According to the World Bank, “SMEs account for the majority of businesses worldwide and are important contributors to job creation and global economic development. They represent about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide.

SMEs are "non-subsidiary, independent firms which employ fewer than a given number of employees. This number varies across countries." Although SMEs have a limit designation of 250 employees, we allow smaller businesses and one person companies to be included in this topic

SMEs are key to delivering more inclusive globalisation and growth, both in terms of economic and social well-being. This is done by creating jobs, through innovation, and others. To continue having a positive impact on society, SMEs need increased access to global markets and knowledge networks.

However, there exists certain barriers to entry, such as the need for investments, poor physical and Information Communication Technology infrastructure.

Certain products and services that can empower SMEs can be through digitalisation, payment services, sharing knowledge and creation of skilled workers, and many others.

If the impact is significant, the analysis can also discuss empowerment through the company's initiatives, projects, opportunities, and other philanthropic activities.

The empowerment of SMEs include, but are not limited to:

  • Finance - any loan or investment in a company to help gain access to markets
  • Skills and training - that help businesses gain resilience and security
  • Microloans and microinsurance - helps stabilise income flows and reduces risk



✅ SDG: 8

✅ Impact Category: Products

✅ ILG: Decent Work

Data Points & Units

Data we are looking for:

  • Only data from 2022 is accepted - if unavailable, you can use 2021 but no later than that

  • How the company is empowering SMEs -> Explain the initiatives.

  • How have these initiatives/products/services empowered SMEs? For example, financial resources, training, microloans, microinsurance, etc.

  • What are the impacts? For example, an increase in income, business growth, etc.

  • How many businesses benefitted (reach)?

  • How long have these been happening? Is there a good reason to believe they will continue (irremediability)?

  • What are the drawbacks and limitations of the initiatives/products/services?

Some definitions:

  • Disclosed: when the data is directly disclosed by the company, i.e., we did not do any calculations/estimations to obtain the figure

  • Estimated: when we have calculated the figure

  • Complete: when the data represents 100% of the company’s operations

  • Partial: when the data is given for only a portion of its operations (not 100%)

  • We always want to have homogenous and comparable units.

  • We accept financial values in USD or Euros but not in the same analyses.

  • Remember to mention the currency the first time you use a monetary value. Later you can use just the currency symbol. For example: “Company A invested USD 100,000 in SMEs and $80,000 in other businesses”.

Impact assessment

In your analysis, describe the products/service: the what, how much, and the who, following the IMP framework.

You must mention the direct and intended impact of the company's actions and measure how significant it is.

Learn more in the article Step 5: Assess severity and value.


The introduction should provide background information about the importance of SMEs and the wider socio-economic impacts they have.

  • Discuss the vulnerability of SMEs and their role in today's economy

  • Consider the ways empowerment of such companies can boost ones' wellbeing

Read more on how to build a strong introduction in this article.

Core Analysis

This topic addresses how companies empower Small and Medium Enterprises or Businesses (SME/SMB) as well as individuals either outside of or in their supply chain.

Facilitating access to resources can be addressed through the company's core business activities, but also through philanthropic initiatives if the impact is very significant.

Regardless of the industry, the core analysis should include the following:

  • The number of SMEs and other businesses of all sizes that were empowered

  • Who are the owners of such businesses, emphasizing if the company is empowering underserved, minority, or marginalised populations, including diverse suppliers such as women, minorities, veteran-owned enterprises, etc.

  • How is the company making a difference for small businesses? How have they become more resilient? More competitive?

  • Measure the growth of such companies

  • Include how long they have been empowered for

  • Assess the long-term and profound socio-economic impacts, such as increased market opportunities, broader reach, greater employability, reduced income inequality, reduced poverty, etc.

  • Remain critical and nuanced. What are the drawbacks and limitations of the empowerment products, services, and projects?

Regardless of the industry, providing a service to an SME does not mean that they are empowering these businesses. It is essential to go beyond their core business impact and assess how a particular service they are providing helps SMEs increase their earnings, become more efficient, have greater access to markets, etc.

For instance, looking at the types of insurance companies are getting such as protection for businesses or a financial cushion to help them advance without a huge risk of them going out of business can be a form of empowerment.

If their product is specifically designed for smaller companies, giving tools to avoid financial losses can be considered the outcomes, and becoming resilient can be considered the impact.

It is important to remain critical and nuanced. In your analysis, make sure you add value to your readers and go beyond the company’s CSR report by not merely reporting data from the company’s report but going the extra mile of providing additional metrics, studies, and sources to make your analysis robust and the impact value and severity are clear.

Common Mistakes:

  • There is no threshold but make sure the impact is significant. The impact is deemed negligible if:
    • It is a one-time initiative

    • Small donations: < USD 1 million

    • Not deep or persistent

  • Just offering a service or product for SMEs is not the same as empowering them. If the company has SMEs as customers but keeps doing business as usual with them, then they are doing nothing more than accessing a market niche. We do need robust evidence that the company is actively empowering SMEs.

  • Go beyond the company’s own reports/websites to avoid green/social washing.

  • When partnerships are discussed, try to show the company’s contribution.

  • Avoid making big claims that are unsubstantiated with quantitative data.

  • Check it is not overlapping with the CBI analysis.

How to measure the impact of SME Empowerment?

Consumer Finance

Specifically, companies in this industry can help SME/SMBs benefit from digital payment services, enabling an environment for capital to flow efficiently, and can also provide capital for these companies.

  • How much of the total loan portfolio was given to SMEs and other small businesses.

  • Assess what these businesses gained. Examples include but are not limited to tools, partner offers, digitisation of payments, credit products, digital skills, online selling initiatives, brand activation, incubators, and others.

*Caution: It should not include PPP loans, as this should be secondary to the core business impact topic: financing the economy.

Example: 96% of the US eBay-enabled small businesses get to sell their products to 17 different countries

The issue: "Providing digital tools and training to small businesses can aid in creating more jobs and improving the living standards in the communities1,4. While most entrepreneurs want to access digital tools, due to immature infrastructure, skills gaps, digital literacy, and limited access to finance they hardly reach them4."

The product or service: “The company accelerated its digital activation programs in summer 2020 to teach important digital skills, online selling initiatives, brand activation, and microtargeting to small and medium businesses6,8.”

The output of Program 1: “The program already reached 16Mn SMBs worldwide with digital activation only in 2020…

The impact: …enabling them to offer more efficient digital selling and payment services and accessing a broader reach6.

The output of Program 2: “Since 2017, Visa also collaborates with Women's World Banking to support women-owned SMBs and provide them with access to financial tools, capital, and training3...

The impact: …By the end of 2020, the initiative had helped +837K women entrepreneurs to digitalize their businesses5;p20.


Specifically, insurers can facilitate fiscal planning and minimise value chain disruptions, all while securing livelihoods.

Insurance is considered a vital financial tool that helps SMEs access capital, and reduce risk and recovery time after experiencing difficult periods.

  • How much of the total loan portfolio was given to SMEs and other small businesses.

  • Assess what these businesses gained. Examples include but are not limited to:

    • incubators,

    • finance including microloans and microinsurance,

    • accelerator programs,

    • teaching about risk management and financial literacy,

    • consulting

  • How and by how much have the businesses increased their access to resources and secured their livelihoods through finance and insurance, such as:

    • climate change resilience and adaptation

    • micro-loans

    • increased market opportunities

Example: IFFCO-TOKIO, a Tokio Marine JV, insures 4.29 million Indian farmers against climate uncertainties

The issue: “A vast majority of India’s low-income households (70%) are in rural areas and belong in the agriculture sector2. […] Providing low-cost insurance to the agricultural sector facilitates fiscal planning for farmers and minimizes value chain disruptions while securing livelihoods4.”

Product 1: “The company provides low-cost microinsurance products as solutions to the issues of India's agricultural households5;p80.

The output: “As of 2019, there were ~19,420,000 microinsurance policies in force among India’s rural poor5;p80.

Product 2: “The company also introduced medical insurance for only INR30 ($0.40) per household as a one-time fee for comprehensive coverage of INR30,000 ($404)6;p89.

The output: “This is affordable by the average Indian farm household which makes INR 6,427/month ($86), just enough to cover bare household necessities.

Product 3: “Since farmers’ risks are spread over both good and bad years of the monsoon, IFFCO-TOKIO offers its own low-cost weather insurance products as well as other government-backed products (PMFBY) to about 4.29Mn rural/agricultural households per annum6;p89."

The output: “subsequent to a major drought, ~1Mn farmers were able to recoup losses through insurance claims8. 2017-18 saw a significant increase (64% and 29%) in the number of claims paid by the PMFBY for losses incurred due to the impact of weather conditions9;p6.

The impact: “Overall, between 2014 and 2019, the company has provided protection to about 15.08Mn low-income people6;p89.


Specifically, online marketplace sellers offer a platform for individuals, small businesses, and others to sell their products.

  • How many SMEs and others sell products on the platform, including the number of product listings, and the number of customers

  • By how much did these businesses grow, and how does this compare to traditional enterprises?

  • Whether the Gross Merchandise Value has grown over time

Example: Visa supported +16Mn small and medium business with digital activation tools and training in 2020

The issue: “As per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, at the end of their first year, around 20% of small businesses fail2. Their failure's primary causes are the inability to find customers and lead generation2. e-Commerce offers a vast platform for small businesses to sell their products over the internet3. In 2020, about 227.5 million people, or 69% of the entire population, chose to shop online4.

The product or service: “Since 2005, eBay is one of the most prominent online marketplaces for sellers, offering a broader platform to sell their goods5. The company had more than 182 million users and 1.3 billion product listings as of 20195. Over 25 million sellers use eBay, with 7 million from the United States5.

The output: “​​96% of eBay-enabled small businesses sell to 17 different countries globally6. The US traditional small businesses that export (only 1%) generally reach four international markets, whereas 60% of eBay small business sellers get to sell to four or more continents6. In the communities that are in moderate to severe financial hardship (about 100 million), eBay-enabled small businesses increased by 21% compared to 1% of traditional firms between 2011 and 20166.

The impact: “The gross value of products sold by the US eBay marketplace reached $9.79 billion7. Over 25,000 sellers that enrolled for eBay Payments in 2019 and 2020 received $2 billion of GMV (Gross Merchandise Value)8.

Make sure to describe the severity of the impact by taking into account:

1/ The scale of the impact

  • Is the life of people concerned deeply affected, or does the issue just marginally impact them?

  • Are the changes brought by the issue profoundly changing society or the planet?

2/ The scope of the impact

  • Is the impact local, national, or global?

  • How many people are concerned? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands?

3/ The irremediability of the impact

  • How long would the impact described last for? Months? Years? Decades?

  • How reversible is the impact described in the impact analysis? Can it be easily stopped/extended?

Helpful Sources

Direct data from the company

  • Annual reports

  • CSR/ESG reports

  • URD (Universal Registration Document)

  • ESG data tables on the Website of the company

  • Official websites

Whenever there are doubts about the meaning of something, we encourage you to thoroughly read the company's reports, considering footnotes, and methodology frameworks, as those might contain the answer to your doubts.


1. Check if the assigned analysis has more recent data (we require the latest data available - at least 2021)

NO: do not refresh the analysis and please report it

YES: Move to step 2

2. Check the intro: Is it up to standard? Are sources working? Is data current and relevant?

YES: do not refresh the introduction

NO: move to step 3

3. Check if the most relevant initiatives/products/services are being discussed

YES: stay with the same activities and update the note with the most recent data

NO: move to step 4

4. Find the most relevant initiatives/products/services and include their most recent data.

5. Update the number of businesses reached.

6. Include any direct impact.

7. Fix the conclusion

8. Update the data points as per the available data.

9. Fix the Headline


Based on the article you've just read, here are some more we think you'd be interested in.

12 Min read

Job Creation

Learn how to correctly analyse this topic.

18 Min read

Access to Underserved Communities

18 Min read

Supply Chain Empowerment

Learn how to correctly analyse this topic.

17 Min read

Labour Practices

Learn how to correctly analyse this topic.

World Green Background Sustainability small

Let’s take action together

With the right investment companies having a positive impact on the planet are able to flourish. Our community forms part of that mission by measuring their impact.

Join Us