A chamber of commerce is an association made up of a network of businesses (members). The purpose of a Chamber of commerce is to help businesses grow by looking into their interests and their concerns. For example, Chambers of commerce can engage in advocacy to authorities regarding desired government policy changes, or they can collect and share business feedback on future governmental infrastructure development plans. In many countries, the Chambers of commerce are also empowered to issue official documents that are internationally recognized like certificates of origin and Carnets.
Chambers of commerce can also receive a mandate from local authorities to execute government policy such as encouraging foreign investment or companies to create local establishments. The local government many also choose to fund the activities of the Chamber of commerce towards meetings these goals.
A Chamber of commerce can also serve the purpose of providing business resources to traders.
For example, a Chamber of commerce can run interest groups in various topics such as compliance and regulatory governance, innovation and collaboration, digitalization, marketing and tax education. In order to upskill member’s knowledge about these topics, the Chamber of commerce could run work-shops, arrange for trainings, broadcast webinars and publish relevant books.
Some Chambers of commerce also provide legal counsel services to members.
Typically, all trainings and resources provided by the Chamber is accessible to all, but at a discount to members.
Should all businesses be a member to a Chamber of commerce?
In most cases, being a member to a Chamber of commerce can only help and cause no harm. Moreover, statistics appear to indicate that members of public find companies that belong to a Chamber of commerce are more trustworthy and provide better service and/or products.
By joining a Chamber of commerce, the business also has an opportunity to promote its services and products to other businesses. At the same time, there is a chance that the trader might meet potential business partners and/or useful service providers. If the Chamber of commerce has received a mandate from the government to undertake a project, members will also typically find out about these more easily. This is because as a member of the Chamber, your business is viewed as a priority resource for the Chamber to tap into. Hence the probability of them reaching out to your business first is generally higher.
Some Chambers of commerce also provide marketing packages and publicity packages at discounted rates to new businesses. Through the Chambers, it may also be possible for the trader to find a mentor to learn from.
A final note
Different chambers of commerce can have different levels of influence. Businesses can be members of several such associations at the same time, as there is usually not exclusivity requirements. Through the Chamber of commerce, businesses can also get to know about future government policies, as governments usually solicit feedback from businesses through the Chambers. Hence, becoming a member of such associations is usually highly recommended for all businesses. Finally, if traders frequently apply for Carnets and/or certificates of origin from Chambers of commerce, it is best to be a member, as the administrative costs for non-members are usually much higher.