Guest Blog: A new think tank with a clear answer

By Clayton Hirst

Here is a little quiz to test your political knowledge: The following statements were recently made by the three main political parties – the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Simply match the statement to the party.

  1. “A well-functioning economy… should encourage alternative models such as mutuals, social enterprises or community interest companies.”
  2. “Boards should take account not just of shareholders but employees, suppliers and the wider community.”
  3. “Employee ownership increases a company’s productivity and encourages long-term thinking.”


Tricky isn’t it? Read to the end of the article for the answer. But what it demonstrates is that, while UK politics is polarising, the main parties are remarkably aligned on the need for a different economy and the role that employees can play.

In less than a decade, employee ownership has grown to become a significant part of the UK economy, contributing more than £30bn annually to GDP. From Shaun the Sheep to Subwoofers; beetroot to bath bombs – today almost every business sector has an employee owned company. The benefits – such as long term investment and genuine worker engagement – aren’t lost on politicians. But there is more that can be done to unlock the benefits and grow the sector.

This is where Ownership at Work fits in. It is a new think tank specialising in employee ownership and engagement. Unlike many think tanks, it is politically impartial with a clear mission: to spread the economic and social benefits of employee ownership, enabled by public policy.

Earlier this month Ownership at Work launched its first policy paper, Equity for All. Written by Nigel Mason of the RM2 Partnership, the paper calls for radical reforms of employee trusts. This, the paper argues, would create 1.5 million employee owners by 2030 and lead to the biggest share of wealth in the UK for a generation.

This is ambitious stuff. If the three main political parties are serious about employee ownership and the benefits it can bring, then they should take note; because the answer is clear.

(Answer: A = Liberal Democrats. B = Conservative Party. C = Labour Party).

Clayton Hirst is Group Head of Corporate Affairs of the John Lewis Partnership and a Trustee of Ownership at Work.