Research finds mission-driven employee-owned firms best environmental stewards
by Sarah Stranahan and Marjorie Kelly
What is the relationship between employee ownership and sustainable business practices? Our research, conducted with support from Partners for a New Economy, suggests the answer to this question is far from simple. While traditional public ownership almost certainly will put profits before planet, employee ownership doesn’t guarantee a firm will prioritize environmental impact.
Rather, we found the business design that is most suitable to solving our planetary crisis combines employee ownership with moral leadership that values sustainability. Most often that moral leadership comes from founders and/or the executives who strive to make the company’s values a reality. Where employee ownership makes a real difference is when mission-driven companies transition to new leadership. Employee owners, steeped in company culture, are the ones most likely to continue to steward that mission.
“Ownership design for a sustainable economy” is our final report, summarizing the research methodology and findings related to our inquiry into this question. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, we uncovered 50-plus employee-owned, mission-driven firms that provide a model for business in the 21st century. These businesses demonstrate design lessons that will need to be adopted far more broadly if we are to solve the two greatest threats to our planet and our democracy: growing inequality and the climate crisis.Ownership-design-for-sustainable-economy-FINAL-CX