National inquiry launched to assess the impact of employee ownership

The Ownership Effect Inquiry, which publishes its findings this autumn, will measure the sector’s effect on productivity growth and corporate behaviour

The Employee Ownership Association (EOA) has launched a national inquiry into the performance of employee-owned businesses. including worker co-ops, in the UK.

The Ownership Effect Inquiry is led by the EOA, in partnership with the eaga Trust and John Lewis Partnership, with support from Cass and Manchester Business Schools.

As part of the new study, an independent panel of experts from business, finance, accounting and management, who are not currently close to employee ownership, will receive oral and written evidence from industry experts, advisers and employee-owned business leaders.

The panel is also accepting written evidence. The findings, conclusions and recommendations will be published this autumn in a comprehensive report focused on the potential of employee-ownership and its contribution to UK productivity growth and corporate behaviour.

The inquiry will be chaired by Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted, who said: “The Ownership Effect Inquiry is an important opportunity to reveal the strengths and consider the untapped potential of this important sector of the economy.

Related: Co-ops included in the EU’s new strategy on European development

“Aside from the obvious economic benefits of employee ownership, the sector exemplifies a much-needed example of how we can all do business better at a time when the government has a clear focus on improving standards in corporate behaviour.”

Deb Oxley, chief executive of the EOA, said: “The UK employee ownership sector has a combined turnover of between £30-40bn annually, yet time and again it is overlooked in key government publications, such as the recent Industrial Strategy.

“We firmly believe the government must look to employee ownership as a model that can deliver more for the UK economy, so there has never been a better time to gather a solid body of evidence to drive this aim forward.”

Richard Marr of the eaga Trust added that, while there was clear evidence that the employee-owned sector was growing, there was still a lack of awareness and understanding of its contribution to the economy.

He said: “The eaga Trust is dedicated to championing the sector to generate more investment and support its growth, so we are delighted to play a key role as a project partner in this important inquiry.”

John Lewis Partnership, which supports the initiative, is the UK’s largest employee-owned business. Its director of communications, Simon Fowler, said: “There is increasing evidence to show that employee-owned companies are more productive, resilient, and profitable long-term, and that people who work for them achieve higher levels of wellbeing.

“At John Lewis and Waitrose we are delighted to give our full backing to the Ownership Effect Inquiry, and we look forward to the first hearings.”

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