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Employee Ownership Day points to Arup as a model firm

Charlotte S Charlotte Fernández UKIMEA Press Office,Leeds
3 July 2013

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and BIS Minister for Employment Relations, Jo Swinson, visited Arup HQ in London as part of the UK’s Employee Ownership Day.

Arup Global Chairman, Philip Dilley; UKMEA Chairman, Robert Care; and a cross-section of Arup staff members met the ministerial team, who discussed some of the ground-breaking work the firm undertakes around the world.

The visit is part of a series of activities taking place in the UK to celebrate Employee Ownership Day across the UK. BIS launched the initiative to raise awareness of the sector and highlight the potential benefits of the structure to both employers and employees.

"We have seen the limitations of traditional shareholder capitalism […with] the persistent problem of short-term planning. We have seen that state planning does not provide a viable alternative either. So we are all looking for something that provides the best of both and employee ownership is one way of realising that. The problem with selling a big idea is that you need concrete examples of things that work and can be seen to work. This is where your company [Arup] is so superb as you have a global reach, a global reputation and a global brand. I hope more businesses give their employees a greater stake in their future and the success of their company. Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

This is a terrific campaign to recognise the potential of employee ownership for firms in the UK, as well as other firms who might be interested in adapting the model around the world. Ove Arup and his partners set up an Employee Trust in 1977 and the firm is still owned for the benefit of its employees today. This structure has helped us stay true to our core values. In fact, without it, I’m not sure we could have built the distinctive culture we have today which helps us to foster excellence and innovation. This distinctive approach is what helps Arup to attract and retain the best people. From our perspective, employee ownership has proved to be a huge success. Philip Dilley, Group Chairman, Arup

There are a great many positives that come from being an employee-owned firm, not least the fact that we can plan for the long-term instead of chasing short-term shareholder returns. I think this may be why employee owned firms are more resilient than their counterparts. One of the other advantages of this type of structure is that we have far greater flexibility to pursue great work across the globe that fits with our mission to shape a better world. That might mean going a little further to create a more sustainable building or infrastructure or to help our teams develop a new design technology. I’m not saying it’s the perfect model for everyone, but it has certainly served us well at Arup over the years. Robert Care, UKMEA Chairman, Arup

Arup is among a host of major UK firms supporting the BIS Initiative, including John Lewis Partnership, Co-operatives UK, Co-operative Development Scotland, Wales Co-operative Centre, the Federation of Small Businesses, and Santander.

The UK’s EO Day comes as the UK Government is considering a number of measures to support employee-owned firms, including making it easier to set one up.