As the easing of Covid restructions, is pushed back in England, focus moves to the economic recovery of businesses hit hard by the pandemic. Today (22 June 2021) a new national initiative aiming to support businesses, advisers and regions to grow employee and worker ownership is launched.
Sheffield City Region is the first region to commit to growing the number of worker and employee owners in this way.
It is an integral part of a greater effort to not just create a more dynamic, productive and resilient economy, but to reform its structure – to change the system in a way which makes it fairer, more inclusive, and better able to serve the aspirations and needs of the people of South Yorkshire.
It complements other threads of that vision – linking support for wider ownership to reformed procurement, incentives around investments in companies, the creation of a business charter, community wealth building, stronger devolution and democracy, and a just carbon transition.”
The Ownership Hub is a partnership between the Employee Ownership Association (EOA) and Co-operatives UK, as part of their campaign to create more than 1 million good jobs by 2030 through businesses giving employees a stake and say.
There are around 1,100 worker and employee owned businesses in the UK. Together they contribute over £40 billion to the UK economy and provide more than 200,000 jobs.
"While the growth of employee and worker ownership is accelerating, we needed a new approach for a chance for it to grow at scale and deliver impact in economies and communities, so we are delighted to launch the Ownership Hub and welcome Sheffield to blaze a trail for other regions,” she adds.
A testament to the success of employee ownership is Gripple, a market-leading manufacturer of wire joining and tensioning devices headquartered in Sheffield. Set up in the 1990’s ownership was transferred to the employees in 2011 and today the business is a global success employing more than 670 employee owners, manufacturing 6,000 products and exporting 85% of its trade to 80 countries.
Hugh Facey, founder of Gripple, said: “I have been able to step back from the business which is now run by staff who have moved up and will keep it alive for future generations through employee ownership. Our employees owners are committed because they personally have shares in the business - this leaves us in a great position to innovate and grow.
We are a global business 85% export but rooted in Sheffield, so we are delighted that the Sheffield City Region will be leading the way in growing employee and worker ownership as part of its economic strategy.”
Working intensively in geographic areas, and tapping into existing business networks, the Ownership Hub targets business founders at start-up stage to consider forming worker co-operatives, businesses that are looking at succession to consider employee ownership, as well as supporting professional advisers to build their knowledge to support employee or worker owned businesses. It supports regions to take a strategic approach to growing employee and worker ownership as part of their economic strategy.
Sheffield-based Beanies Wholefoods puts its resilience down to it’s worker co-operative structure:
“Operating a food retail business in the midst of pandemic has been a hugely stressful time but we have risen to the occasion, keeping the shop operating and doubling the capacity of our deliveries to ensure the people of Sheffield could continue to access fresh fruit and vegetables. We have even taken on two new co-op members in the past year as the business has grown.
"I believe being able to achieve all this has been down to the fact we are a co-op. We have pulled together during these challenging times and become more like a family than co-workers," said Rachael Eyton, worker-owner