No. Both are connected via the Business West umbrella but different in focus. Chamber membership of one of the Chambers under the Business West umbrella (Bristol, Bath, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire) gives you access to events, training, support and the network of all Chambers in the group. You can find out more about it here: https://www.businesswest.co.uk/join-our-chamber-community

Initiative membership is the next level up from Chamber membership. It is for organisations who want to join a community of socially responsible corporate citizens pledged make our region (Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset and Swindon & Wiltshire) stronger, fairer, safer and of course more successful.

If you would like to find out more about joining the Initiative let me know and I’ll connect you up with our Initiative Manager Victoria!

The Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Initiative (full name Bristol Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Shipping) has no employees of its own, making use of the volunteered time of Non-Executive Directors listed in the records, resources provided on a project-by-project basis through income from Business West and donations from members

Business West (full name GWE Business West Ltd) administers and provides business services to Chamber Members across a number of Chambers of Commerce accredited by the British Chambers of Commerce (Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire).

As outlined in the published accounts, there are two shareholders, GWE Holdings Ltd and Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Initiative, both being not-for-profits limited by guarantee. Any surpluses are reinvested in the region and support local businesses and projects. Business West itself is an accredited B Corp (profit with purpose, with profits going to two not-for-profit shareholders).

The Bristol and West of England Initiative grew out of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce as the Bristol Initiative, and is a business leadership team which enables the business community to positively influence the way our area is shaped, managed and developed.
Our vision is to bring leaders together to create a prosperous city region for all, where business and community thrives.
Our community is a collection of over 160 leading employers across a range of sectors in Bristol and the wider region, who are committed to creating an economically, sustainable and culturally prosperous region, devoid of inequality and poverty.
Our community is supported by a small staff of experts, organisers and campaigners, and is overseen by a non-executive board of influential business leaders. Established almost 40 years ago, the Initiative sits at the heart of Business West and works to help shape and influence policies and instigate change.
Essentially, the Initiative exists to help drive long-term change and progress to make the West of England the best place to live, work and learn for all our citizens. Alongside our core members sit a very wide range of business leaders and other strategic partners including the local authorities, WECA and Mayors from the region as we seek to influence across a raft of issues.
We work with Local and National Government, the Local Enterprise Partnership and the third sector. Our area of engagement covers the authorities of Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath & North East Somerset, and North Somerset.
The West of England Initiative and its partners are people with commitment and determination, motivated by the desire to create an economically and culturally prosperous region, devoid of inequality and poverty.

For over 30 years, the West of England Initiative has played a role, whether large or small, in inspiring and delivering a series of successes throughout the region, each time working in partnership with a range of other organisations.

A number of our successful projects include; 

  • Bringing Life Back to the City Centre

In 1995, the Initiative formed the Broadmead Board with the Bristol City Council. The Board highlighted how powerful a public/private partnership could be in bringing about change and through the re-development of Broadmead and the Harbourside, the Initiative was able to reinstall confidence in the major retailers and restore the city centre. Through further leadership of the Broadmead Board, the Initiative played a role in helping to secure the £500 million re-development of Bristol City’s shopping centre, Cabot Circus, the number one retail destination in the region. Today, The Initiative sits on the Bristol Shopping Quarter Board, working closely with the major retailers.

  • Visitor Economy 

It is vital that our region can attract visitors and make them want to return. As a result, the Initiative and the local council in Bristol have established public/private ventures which successfully attract more and more visitors each year to our city. One of those ventures set up by the Initiative is Visit West, a destination management company which runs the Visit Bristol website. Visit West markets the West of England and its surrounding area to tourists from all over the world.

  • A City to be Proud of – The Matthew

To coincide with the redevelopment of the Harbourside and the 500th anniversary of John Cabot’s historic voyage to Newfoundland in 1497, the Initiative played a significant role in the construction and launch of a replica of his ship, the Matthew. In an act of civic pride, the Initiative supported the replica ship of John Cabot, the original discoverer of North America, to re-enact his historic achievement and cross the Atlantic. The Matthew departed Bristol in front of a packed Harbourside and was greeted in Newfoundland by Her Majesty the Queen and HRH Duke of Edinburgh.

  • Creating a City of Diversity and Culture

In order for a city to develop a knowledge economy it needs to attract and retain the brightest students, businesses, and employees; culture, can help us create this environment. The Initiative helped create the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership, now called Bristol Ideas, which plays a significant role in the formation of many major cultural projects throughout the region.

The first major project was the construction of Millennium Square, a derelict railway goods shed which has been transformed into the showpiece of the redeveloped Harbourside. The Square now forms part of the We The Curious development and is an attractive and popular public space which hosts exhibitions and festivals.

During the early 1980s, towns and cities throughout the UK were in crisis; recession had damaged the UK economy and cities were the first to feel its effects. Economic decline caused unemployment levels to rise resulting in the eruption of riots throughout UK cities. Realising the need to find a solution, the CBI in 1988 published a significant report on business and urban regeneration.
The report detailed that urban decay was a problem whose solution lay beyond charity, but more importantly, it highlighted that Business must provide leadership and vision to reverse the cycle of economic and social decline. The CBI report sparked a nationwide effort from the business community to unite and work alongside local governance in order to address the problems that
plagued their cities.
It was in 1989, that a group of 12 visionary Bristol business leaders responded to this unrest, forming The Initiative, and set straight to work on addressing the social and economic issues of their city.
Initiatives have since been formed in Bath and, more recently, within the wider remit of Business West in Swindon. Today, over 160 business leaders are engaged in developing a shared vision. A vision to create a successful place for people to live, work and invest in for all its communities.