EO Day back in full swing as sector grows by 30%

The employee-owned sector has experienced unprecedented growth and displays resilience and social responsibility as it prepares to celebrate Employee Ownership Day (EO Day) 2021.

Thousands of employee owners will celebrate EO Day on Friday on June 25, with virtual or socially distanced get togethers. This year EO Day is sponsored by Unity Trust Bank, a socially determined, ethical business bank. A key highlight of the day will see more than 30 EO businesses telling their stories, sharing good governance and communications, and supporting health and wellbeing as part of the EO Stories competition (sponsored by Baxendale).

Despite the unprecedented challenges faced by businesses the last year, the employee ownership sector has flourished, growing from 470 businesses in June 2020 to 730 in June 2021, as evidenced by the White Rose Survey (WRCEO). Whilst the sector as a whole saw 31% increase in 2020 the use of Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs) as a succession option has increased, with 72 businesses becoming employee owned via an EOT in the first quarter of 2021 – making a total of 567 businesses using the model, according to the EOT Survey compiled by RM2.

Meanwhile, the Top 50 Employee-Owned businesses by size had combined sales of £21m, an increase of 6.4%, and a 2.8% rise in the number of combined employees – 180,405.

The recent White Rose survey showed that 77% of respondents feel that becoming employee owned was a socially responsible thing to do, and that 70% had “making a positive contribution to society and the environment” written into their purpose.

EO Day week has seen a flurry of EO activity including:

  • The Robert Oakeshott Lecture was held on Monday June 21 with Rt Hon Jesse Norman MP giving the lecture and raising a virtual ‘vino Tinto’ to his life-long friend Robert on the 10-year anniversary of his death.
  • Tuesday June 22nd saw the launch of the Ownership Hub with partners the EOA and Cooperatives UK announce Sheffield City Region as the first Ownership Hub partner. Mayor Dan Jarvis time stamp 11mins 50 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uL_NrhUEmPs
  • The week of EO day week falls in the first week of Cooperatives fortnight.

Hundreds of EO Businesses and thousands of employee owners are planning activities, including:

  • Spectrum Community Health CIC, which celebrates 10 years as a public sector employee owned mutual, and follow employee and tenant owned public service mutual Rochdale Boroughwide Housing have come together to discuss ideas for how housing and health services can help solve issues health and wellbeing problems for residents badly affected by the pandemic.
  • Howden Group Holdings, 6th in EO Top 50, joined the EOA as part of its commitment to employee-ownership and serving clients with an owners’ mindset to build a better business for the long term.
  • Seetec is celebrating EO day with results that its efforts to support its employee owners during the pandemic have resulted its 1,000 employee-owners revealing a 12% improvement in employee health and wellbeing scores.
  • The ice cream van will be arriving at Gripple, where they are celebrating a 15% growth from ideas and innovations from its employee owners.
  • Aber Instruments, has week full of activity concluding in a hunt for a hidden messages about employee ownership in Aberystwyth on EO Day.
  • Lush, has its 22 global EBT Trustees hosting a panel discussion on their three wishes for the future of the Lush EBT.

Deb Oxley OBE, Chief Executive of the EOA, said: “We have seen unprecedented growth in employee ownership over the past year, with one of the factors being that the pandemic has made business owners think about the future of their businesses.

“At the EOA we believe in better business together – our EO networks support individuals, businesses and the economy to unlock their potential, something we are delighted to be celebrating this EO Day.”

Mark Clayton, Chief Operating Officer at Unity Trust Bank, said:

Unity Trust Bank is extremely proud to sponsor EO Day 2021. The overall purpose of employee ownership aligns closely to Unity’s mission of helping to create a better society, and so we look forward to championing the sector and supporting its ongoing growth.

“Employee ownership is a different ownership model that has real validity in today’s society. At Unity, we attract businesses that bring different societal benefits through different structures, including co-operatives, charities, membership organisations and social enterprises. We believe that employee owned businesses fit really neatly into this category.

“Unity is committed to helping EO organisations access finance and continue making positive change in local communities, the economy and the wider society.”

The White Rose survey measures the size and impact of employee ownership in the UK. Professor Andrew Robinson, Director of the White Rose Centre for Employee Ownership at the University of Leeds, commented that “the employee-owned sector goes from strength to strength.  It looks like growth in 2021 will match or even exceed the 30 per cent growth seen in 2020.”

Professor Andrew Pendleton, Professor of Employee Ownership and Reward at the University of New South Wales, observed that “nearly all the growth in employee ownership can be attributed to the popularity of the Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) as a simple and effective tool for business succession”.

Nigel Mason, Associate Director at RM2, who complies the Top 50 employee-owned businesses and the EOT survey said: “There is a clear upward trend for employee ownership conversions via an EOT, with the last 18 months seeing unprecedented growth particularly amongst SMEs.

“Meanwhile the top end of the sector continues to grow in terms sales and employees, despite a difficult year for many businesses.”