Scotland is home to a growing number of employee-owned businesses and recently played host to a Spanish delegation keen to learn about promoting the ownership model.
Here, CDS chief executive Sarah Deas discusses the visit and the insights gained.
A few weeks ago I was delighted to host a visit by the Provincial Council (government) of Gipuzkoa, an area of the Basque Country to the east of Bilbao in northern Spain. The delegation was seeking to learn from our experience in promoting employee ownership. With Gipuzkoa being home to the world famous Mondragon Corporation , it was an honour to host such a visit!
The Provincial Council aspires to create a ‘socially responsible territory’. It believes that economic and social development is increasingly dependent on talent, creativity and innovation. As such, the council is focusing on ‘workplace innovation’. This is the development of new relationship models based on participation – as a driver of productivity and quality employment.
In developing policy to promote worker participation, they are researching the relationship between participatory business models and regional socio-economic health indicators. And, through international visits, such as this one to the UK, they are looking to identify best practice from both a policy and business perspective. This will inform the design of tax incentives and wider support.
Oscar Usetxi Blanco, Director for the Promotion of Innovation and Knowledge, Gipuzkoako Foru Aldundia was accompanied by colleagues from the innovation agency and ASLE (lead organisation for worker owned companies). The study visit was organised by Ann Tyler, a UK solicitor with extensive experience of employee ownership.
The delegation visited two of Scotland’s most well established employee owned businesses; Aberdeen manufacturer Woollard & Henry and Fife paper producer Tullis Russell. Here theygained valuable insights into workplace culture and practices. Our Spanish friends very much appreciated the opportunity to see employee ownership in action, and I thank both Woollard & Henry and Tullis Russell for welcoming them.
Reflecting on this visit, it really is interesting to see the growing interest in employee ownership across Europe. However, the driver is different to that which inspired Mondragon Corporation. Today, ownership succession is the trigger, with sustainability, productivity and socially responsible employment being the goals. These are becoming priorities across the developed world.
Hopefully the delegation from Gipuzkoa found the visit a valuable one and I look forward to seeing employee ownership flourish in the region.