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Employee-owned firms are a vital lab for stakeholder capitalism

Adam Weinberg’s Sept. 6 op-ed, “Stakeholder capitalism can reshape education,” is well taken — undergraduate education needs to grapple with preparing students to become successful citizens, regardless of the career path they choose. But the Business Roundtable’s statement supporting stakeholder capitalism should also point the way to reshaping the MBA curriculum. Only a handful of business schools include courses on employee ownership or other models of broad-based ownership.

In recent research we conducted at the Democracy Collaborative, we found that mission-driven and employee-owned companies are exceptionally successful at delivering sustainable and equitable outcomes. These companies include well-known brands such as Eileen Fisher, King Arthur Flour, and Clif Bar. The next generation of enterprise can be seen in these companies — firms such as Recology, the San Francisco-based waste-hauling and recycling firm, with $1.2 billion in revenue, that is 100 percent employee owned. Garbage truck drivers there earn $100,000 a year, because when absentee shareholders aren’t extracting wealth, there’s more for workers.


Broad-based ownership is the missing piece to make stakeholder service real for companies. Young business leaders need to learn about businesses with stakeholder service in their DNA, supported by ownership cultures in which workers share in the value created.

Marjorie Kelly

Executive vice president

The Democracy Collaborative