Mould in Our Hands

It has been a remarkably successful year for employee ownership in the UK.

In 2014 businesses owned by their employees played a leading role in delivering the UK’s economic recovery because out there in the real economy they continued to outperform their competitors as a direct result of being employee owned.

Employee ownership is now the fastest growing form of business ownership in the UK. 2014 saw the total number of employee owned businesses rise by 9%. This popularity of employee ownership is based on its benefits, particularly the higher productivity, greater levels of innovation and better profitability it delivers. Employee ownership is now a sector of the economy with a similar scale to the aerospace industry and several times bigger than agriculture. As a consequence, the employee owned sector began to be dealt with in 2014, quite rightly, in the same high profile way that other high value added sectors of the economy such as pharmaceuticals and the automotive industry are.

And let us not forget that 2014 has been a breakthrough year in relation to employee ownership and our public services. 2014 constantly shone a light on the way employee owned organisations delivering public services always provide better outcomes and improved value for money for the individual users and the public sector funders of those services.

So it has been a brilliant, unprecedented twelve months for employee ownership in the UK.

I am tremendously proud that the EOA has led the way throughout 2014, leadership that included our decisive, winning campaign for new tax incentives for employee owners that came into force earlier this year. This leadership is in part a great testament to the quality and commitment of my colleagues on the EOA Board and within the EOA Executive Team.

But I also want to pay tribute to the excellent support we have had right across 2014 not just from our outstanding EOA Member companies, who really are at the forefront of all that the EOA does, but also from local and national politicians; civil servants in various parts of Whitehall; our partners WCC in Wales and CDS in Scotland; and a whole host of other friends and contacts across the economy.

As the year closes we are currently on track to achieve the target I set in 2012 of 10% of GDP being delivered by employee owned businesses by 2020. Increasing the amount of employee ownership offers a solution to some of the deep seated issues in the economy like our endemically low productivity and poor track record on innovation. It also offers a powerful antidote to the short termism that dominates business behaviours in our economy, because employee owners think and act for the very long term.

So being on track with our 10% target also means we are on course to deliver our overall ambition to ensure the UK economic recovery is one in which employee ownership plays a significant role in the structural reform and rebuilding of our economy.

Everyone’s minds are starting to turn to the challenges and opportunities of 2015. I have absolutely no doubt that 2015 will be another year of phenomenal success for employee ownership. Our campaign for a new economy is now on an irreversibly upward trajectory. 2015 will see us, together, keeping our successful momentum going. To borrow from Francis Bacon for a moment the mould for our future is now in our own hands.

I wish you peaceful Christmas and New Year break.

Iain Hasdell is Chief Executive of the EOA