finance

Pandemic "presents opportunity to transform Scotland's economy with more employee-owned businesses"



New research suggests that almost half of Scots (48%) agree the pandemic has provided an opportunity to make Scotland’s economy stronger and fairer.

The survey suggests that under 35 year olds more even more likely to agree (59%), while 64% said that the pandemic has already made their business more socially responsible.

When asked what should be the top priority for businesses in future, three out of four people said protecting jobs (74%), followed by staff wellbeing (67%) and creating innovative solutions to problems (53%).

The survey, which had more than 1,230 respondents, was commissioned by Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), the arm of Scotland’s enterprise agencies that supports company growth through employee ownership and co-operative business.

CDS is launching a new campaign to showcase the role inclusive business models can play in helping make Scotland a fairer, stronger and more democratic economy.

Head of Co-operative Development Scotland Clare Alexander said: “While discussions on the social aspects of the economy have become more vocal in recent years, COVID-19 has undoubtedly fuelled its relevance and urgency.

“The world has been shaken, many of our norms have been questioned and as this survey shows, there is a desire not to return to life as before.

“Business leaders have prioritised wellbeing, communities have responded to help and support each other and new and innovative ways of being economically viable have come to the fore.

“There has also been a focus on a collective, rather than individual, call to action.

“Employee ownership, community ownership and consortium co-operatives are effective examples of plural ownership that can help us drive that necessary change across our business communities and support is available to make it happen.”

An employee-owned business is one in which the employees hold the majority of the shares, either directly or through an employee ownership trust.

CDS said that selling to employees allows owners to manage their exit and achieve fair value while safeguarding the long-term future of the company.

Employee ownership gives employees a meaningful stake in their organisation together with a genuine say in how it is run.

Clare Alexander said: “Evidence shows employee-owned businesses consistently outperform in terms of improved business resilience during times of economic crisis. They tend to be more productive with higher levels of staff engagement and wellbeing, particularly relevant during a time in which people are spending more time working from home.”

One of the most recent businesses to transition to employee ownership was product design company Shore which announced its transition to employee ownership in September, with more than 30 members of staff given a stake in the business.

The company, which operates from Leith in Edinburgh, designs, engineers and develops drug delivery products, diagnostic devices and medical training products.

It has a huge global customer base with more than 80% of its customers in the US, EU, Switzerland and Japan.

Its clients include some of the world’s biggest medical and pharmaceutical companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Amgen, Smith & Nephew, Eli Lilly and Ypsomed.

Shore was founded in 2003 by current owner and managing director Nick Foley.

Foley wanted to plan for his eventual exit by considering succession options early, therefore allowing for a smooth transition.

He wanted a solution that would ensure the business remained independent and retained the company’s strong values and culture. 



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