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The World Economic Forum has released a new global report that finds factors that previously disadvantaged SMEs can lead them to new opportunities. Developed in collaboration with the National University of Singapore Business School, the University of Cambridge Judge Business School and Entrepreneurs’ Organization, the report also finds that SMEs are lagging behind in terms of societal impact. Although there is a clear need to operate in line with sustainability goals, many SMEs have yet to include explicit strategies and performance measurement centred on societal impact.

The top challenges cited by SME executives include talent acquisition and retention (52.5 percent of respondents), survival and expansion (43.8 percent), funding and access to capital (35.7 percent), non-supportive policy environment (21 percent), the difficulty of maintaining a strong culture and clear company purpose and value (20 percent).

SMEs can leverage their size, networks, people and the strengths of technology to support their goals of sustainable growth, positive societal impact and robust adaptive capacity. While it is essential for SMEs and the wider economy to increase their future readiness, they can thrive only insofar as the necessary supporting infrastructure and regulatory frameworks exist.

“Through this report, the Forum aims to highlight the significant role SMEs can play not just locally but also globally. The New Champions Community is a step towards bringing these smaller companies into the forefront of global discourse around socioeconomic development and engaging them in a community of forward-thinking companies from across the world,” said Stephan Mergenthaler, Head of Strategic Intelligence and Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum.

The report aims to develop a deeper understanding of organizational capabilities and orientations needed for SMEs to successfully generate lasting financial growth, affect society and the environment positively, and develop high levels of resilience and agility.

The World Economic Forum is looking to deepen its engagement with smaller companies through its New Champions Community. The Forum is now accepting applications from forward-looking companies that are pioneering new business models, emerging technologies and sustainable growth strategies.

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