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Dev-Bank Wales MBO


19 January 2024

A Call for Cymraeg: How SMEs can Harness the Power of the Welsh Language

Owen Derbyshire is Chief Executive Officer at Keep Wales Tidy, a third-sector organisation dedicated to protecting and enhancing the local environment in Wales. He reflects on the value of speaking Welsh at work, how this skill has helped him throughout his career and emphasises the competitive advantage the Welsh language brings to businesses. 

Owen was raised in Cardiff by Welsh-speaking parents and was immersed in the Welsh language from an early age. According to him, “speaking Welsh is one of the most normal things in the world for me. I think in Welsh, and I dream in Welsh, and it’s an important part of who I am.”

For Owen, taking this skill into his career wasn’t a deliberate choice but rather an instinctive move. As he explains:

“I naturally align myself with organisations and groups that have an affinity with the language, and I suppose I’ve stumbled into roles that share those values. I would say it is now a deciding factor for me when considering opportunities, and something I will continue to champion in the organisations I work for.”

Throughout Owen’s career, his positions have mirrored his commitment to the Welsh language, seamlessly integrating it into his daily responsibilities.

When asked about his previous job application experiences, he explained,

“I am certain that because I am a Welsh speaker, it made me a more competitive candidate in recruitment processes”.

Owen also makes it clear that he believes that the ability to offer Welsh communications strengthens business offerings, particularly when it comes to customer service. He explains:

“It's not just about delivering a comprehensive service; it's about understanding the needs, drivers, and cultural nuances within Welsh language communities. Having a workforce that can understand those needs will strengthen your business immensely.

He exemplifies the benefits within the context of his current position as CEO at Keep Wales Tidy. He explains:

“Here, language parity is not just a choice; it's a strategic non-negotiable. All Keep Wales Tidy programmes are delivered bilingually, not as a checkbox exercise but as  a means of enhancing engagement with the communities we serve. Having total parity between both languages is something we’ve done for years and something we will continue to do.”

The commitment extends to supporting staff in their Welsh language journey. Owen says:

“We respond to the individual needs of our staff members by supporting those that wish to undertake Welsh language training.

Owen stresses, “It's not just an investment in people; it's an investment in the charity, and it's absolutely something I'd recommend to other businesses.”

Creating a Welsh-friendly internal environment, Keep Wales Tidy also runs a ‘Clwb Coffi' where Welsh speakers of all abilities gather informally.

“Creating opportunities to use the Welsh language in a way that feels both natural and informal is crucial. We encourage staff to take up Welsh language training, and we provide the time and resources for it,” Owen explains.

He envisions a growing need for the language in all sectors of our economy.

“The Welsh market is increasingly demanding bilingualism across a wide range of sectors, so if businesses want to continue to provide a competitive service, it would be a sensible investment. The truth is that businesses that aren’t offering a bilingual service are both underserving Welsh-speaking consumers and missing a powerful competitive advantage.

“For organisations looking to begin their bilingual journey, skilled and qualified Welsh speakers are available across all industries so, investing in your workforce – be that internally to upskill latent speakers’ confidence, or recruiting externally to bring new skills into the business, is something I would absolutely prioritise”.

As Owen explains,

“Quantifying the ROI of the Welsh language in businesses poses a challenge as it’s an intangible I don’t have the data for, but – based on personal experience and those of my colleagues,  I’d say it’s been an invaluable investment.

“The Welsh language connects people, and a business that communicates with communities in their own language definitely stands to gain – not just financially or reputationally, but also on a social level, by creating trust and empathy.”

Looking ahead, Owen is committed to providing the highest standard of bilingual services at Keep Wales Tidy, and he encourages other businesses to do the same.

“I want to continue to advocate for the Welsh language at a strategic level and ensure it is seen across the organisation as a non-negotiable. While that may seem simple, it isn’t always the case. That’s why it’s important to me that it’s properly embedded in our workplace culture and that everyone understands why.”

“While Welsh language advocacy is often focused on preserving linguistic heritage; it's also a strategic investment in enhancing community engagement, building trust, and ensuring a competitive edge for businesses in an increasingly demanding market.”

Owen's experience in harnessing the power of the Welsh language highlights how a strategic commitment to bilingual services can serve as a force for good for Welsh businesses.

As part of the Welsh Government’s support for employers, Business Wales Recruit and Train provides comprehensive support to address businesses' skills, training, and recruitment needs. Its campaign, We’re in Your Corner, helps to raise awareness of the wide range of support available to employers to help them achieve their business goals.

Work Welsh offers a variety of training opportunities to employers throughout Wales. This service offers a diverse range of fully funded training options that are flexible and cater to individuals at all proficiency levels in Welsh. From tutor-led sessions to self-study courses, the programme is designed to enhance Welsh language skills and confidence in the workplace.

Helo Blod is a fast and friendly Welsh translation and advice service to help you use more Welsh in your business or charity. And it's yours to use for free.

For further information, search ‘Business Wales: We're in Your Corner,' contact 03000 6 03000, or go to


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