The financial crisis has called into question many of our core assumptions about economic structures, governance and institutions. But there has been little attention paid to the basic unit of economic collaboration and production: the firm. In recent decades Britain developed a corporate monoculture in which the ‘shareholder value’ creed treated firms simply as the property of their shareholders, to be traded, exploited and disposed of in pursuit of profit.
Government policy making has done little to call this culture into question, depriving our economy of a richer vision of what a good company is and what it can do. This crisis is a chance to ask deep questions about our firms: how can they meet social and political as well as economic goals?
How can firms be modelled so that not only shareholders but employees, the economy and society profit? Many of these models already exist. Mutual and employee-owned models of business operate with longer time-horizons, achieving higher levels of performance and customer satisfaction. They nurture greater power for individuals over their economic lives and increase the accountability of managers. This report argues it is time to bring these models out of the wilderness and into the debate about where capitalism goes next.
Presenting a wide range of quantitative data alongside three new case studies of employee-owned firms, it offers a new vision of economic autonomy where democratic companies drive a happier and more sustainable economy.