Why employee ownership is key to a resilient economy

Employee ownership and co-operatives will be integral to creating a more dynamic and resilient economy, the mayor of Sheffield City Region has said.

Dan Jarvis, mayor of Sheffield City Region, said: “This is a hugely exciting opportunity."
Dan Jarvis, mayor of Sheffield City Region, said: “This is a hugely exciting opportunity."

A new national initiative aiming to support businesses, advisers and regions to grow employee and worker ownership has been launched today. Sheffield City Region has become the first region to partner with the Ownership Hub.

Dan Jarvis, mayor of Sheffield City Region, said: “This is a hugely exciting opportunity. Not just because it gives us the chance to boost our support for co-ops and employee ownership, but because it will help to weave the thread of co-operation through our plan for economic recovery and renewal in South Yorkshire.

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“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.”

Hugh Facey, founder of Gripple, has been able to step back from the business which is now run by employees.

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 one million 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 £40bn to the UK economy and provide more than 200,000 jobs.

Deb Oxley OBE, chief executive of the EOA, said: “The benefits of giving employees and workers a stake and say – better engagement, better productivity and more sustainable, resilient jobs – are well evidenced.

“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.”

The Ownership Hub will work in geographic areas, tapping into existing business networks. It will target 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.

The hub will also support regions to take a strategic approach.

Rose Marley, CEO of Co-operatives UK, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Sheffield City region as the first of many regional partners, and we’re already talking to other areas that recognise the value of worker co-ops and employee ownership in creating a fairer, more inclusive economy.

“The pandemic has shone a light on inequalities, and workers owning an equal share of businesses is an effective and practical way to redress this balance of power.”

Alive for future generations

Wire joining and tensioning devices manufacturer Gripple transferred ownership to employees in 2011.

Today the Sheffield-based business has more than 670 employee owners, manufacturing 6,000 products and exporting 85 per cent 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 employees who have moved up and will keep it alive for future generations through employee ownership.”

He added that it will help the business to innovate and grow.

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James Mitchinson