In business, it is important to have a channel in which to communicate with other businesses in the area you operate in – so that mutual support and cooperation can occur. Most chambers of commerce are a group of local businesses that promote and protect the interests of its own members, but they can also exist at larger scales based on the type of business – rather than the location.
Chambers of commerce exist across the world, and exist at different scales. For example, your town most likely has at least one chamber of commerce for the businesses that are based there.
A key aspect of chambers of commerce is that they cannot pass any legislation or change existing laws and regulations. They can however lobby the legislators of their town/county to pass a bill.
What are the different types of chambers of commerce?
Chambers of commerce can all function slightly differently, and so it is important to understand the different types of them and the differences between them. There are chambers of commerce that exist on regional, city, and community levels and that have members from a variety of industries (like this one for example).
City chambers function to primarily help the businesses of that city succeed. For example, the businesses could discuss new regulations and laws they’d like to see passed, and then lobby their local government to pass it.
At a higher level are state chambers. In the United States, state chambers set their focus on the needs of the entire state, and for that reason small businesses have less of an influence on the decisions they end up making in the state chambers.
Going up from there, you’ve got your national and international chambers of commerce. For example, one of the largest chambers of commerce in the world is the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). Founded in Paris in 1919, the ICC set out to represent the bulk of the businesses in the world. Today it represents more than 45 million companies spanning across 100 different nations.
The ICC is responsible for some of the most fundamental incoterms that are used in international shipping today. For example, Ex Works, Free Carrier, and Free on Board are all commonly used practices internationally – all because the ICC developed them in 1936.
How can I participate in my local chamber of commerce?
If you’re a small business owner and would like to join your local chamber of commerce, or if you’d like to contact them for whatever reason – the process is fairly straightforward for every city but we’ll walk you through it.
Most countries should have a directory that lists out all the chambers of commerce that exist within its borders. For example, in the U.S, we have the National Chamber of Commerce Directory, which you can access here.
Let’s say you owned a business in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You would navigate to the online directory, and then click “Pennsylvania” or you could find “Philadelphia” at the top of the main page under their popular cities category.
After navigating to the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Directory page, you would see three distinct chambers of commerce that you can then click on for further information. For this example, we went with the general Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. Clicking on “expand info” will give you the contact information for the chamber of commerce.
We recommend visiting the website of the chamber of commerce you’re interested in participating in before calling them or registering to become a member – that is if your local city has multiple options to choose from.
While a lot of chambers of commerce can function bureaucratically, they are separate from bodies of government. They most commonly act as a channel of communication from local businesses to the local government that rules over them. The members of the chamber can lobby their government to pass legislation that would help them.
Joining a chamber of commerce can greatly benefit your business, as it promotes cooperation and a sense of community – especially for chambers of commerce that exist on smaller levels such as city chambers. If you own a small business, we highly recommend looking up your local town to see if you can join your chamber of commerce!