The Ownership Charter: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

We recently launched our Ownership Charter which is a ten point plan to grow a fairer, more democratic economy. The Equality Trust has had a strong commitment to greater economic democracy since we launched, taking our cue from The Spirit Level. The Charter has been very well received and people and organisations are signing up to support it every day.

This is an idea whose time has come. As the UK and the wider world faces the twin perils (and injustices) of destabilising inequality and runaway climate change it is increasingly clear that we need a new and fairer economic model to underpin a transition to a wellbeing society. Economic growth has little to offer rich, developed countries except resource depletion, environmental degradation and a favouring of the already-rich at the expense of the poor. We don’t need to grow the pie any more, we just need to share ​it out equitably.

The UK co-operative and employee-owned economy, together with the social enterprise and mutual sector, is already ​substantial and successful – but what it really needs is the fuel-injection of loud and proud public and political support to take it to the next level. Our Ownership Charter details ten steps that people can rally around to help deliver this necessary step-change. 

We are pleased to see that the Labour & Co-operative Part​ies​ ha​ve​ recently committed to doubling the size of the co-operative economy but why stop there?  Why not set a more ambitious stretch target of, say, having a majority of employees in the UK employed in fairer, more democratic forms of business by 2050. If anything there should be “a race to the top” between the political parties to own this agenda. Now wouldn’t that be a pleasant change?

​Employee-owned businesses are not inimical to Conservative, Burkean notions of the “little platoons” that are so central to their vision of a socially cohesive society. A growth area for co-ops in recent years has been communities coming together to save their local pubs, shops and post offices, often in the True-Blue shires. And Liberal​ Democrat​s will presumably be keen to support greater economic democracy as a “third way” between visions of society that overly favour the individual on the one hand or the state on the other. The Greens will be attracted by the emphasis on stakeholder businesses that are more rooted in – and respectful of – their local communities and environment. 

F​or the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the various parties in Northern Ireland, the expansion of the employee-owned and co-operative sector makes perfect sense in terms of developing a distinctive, independent and resilient economic model that can (depending on your view) either withstand the headwinds or exploit the opportunities created by Brexit.​ In fact, for any political party, organisation or person that is not actively Stalinist, or perhaps libertarian in outlook, a campaign to deliver greater economic democracy is entirely supportable and desirable.

When the summer recess is over we intend to make these points to the politicians and their parties and we will call on you, our supporters, to reinforce the message. Please continue to spread the word and share the Ownership Charter far and wide via your networks and through local and national media. And if you can’t wait to contact your MP about this, please go ahead and do let us know what they say. Thank you for your support.

Bill Kerry – Supporters & Local Groups Manager