Certified EO Launches!
Employee-owned companies could be a lot more visible in the coming years. The reason? Certified Employee-Owned (EO), a new certification program for employee-owned companies, has officially launched September 5.
What is Certified EO?
Modeled off programs such as B Corporation and Fair Trade, Certified EO is launching with the support of companies across America including WinCo Foods, Lifetouch, Modern Times Beer, and Colorado-based StoneAge. Certified EO is guided by an advisory board that includes Corey Rosen, Martin Staubus, and Halisi Vinson.
Thomas Dudley, one of Certified EO’s co-founders, said, “we want employee ownership to be something that all Americans care about. It’s the perfect time for employee ownership to be on the national stage but right now it’s invisible.” The plan, according to Dudley, is to create a recognizable brand for employee ownership by combining the reach of employee-owned companies.
The idea for Certified EO came to Dudley and co-founder Kramer Sharp while Dudley was a PhD student at Stanford. Sharp explained, “Tom was studying public opinion on employee ownership and found really strong support. As we discussed his findings, I became fascinated by employee ownership, but I was having a hard time finding employee-owned companies. Certification felt like a proven way to bridge this gap and to raise the profile of employee ownership. It has certainly worked for Fair Trade!”
How does it work?
According to Certified EO’s website, getting certified takes 8 hours and involves filling out a questionnaire. Certified EO verifies that companies are at least 30% employee-owned in a way that is broad-based, for example through an ESOP. Once certified, members can use Certified EO’s mark and access communications materials. This is no small feat – less than 0.5% of American businesses meet Certified EO’s standards.
Once certified, members can use Certified EO’s mark and access communications materials. “There’s a lot we can do to help companies tap into American’s support for employee ownership. I think there’s a big opportunity for companies to benefit in terms of recruitment, internal communications, and of course marketing. Plus the more companies use EO the more Americans will know about it,” said Dudley.
Certified EO’s Founding Members Hail from a Wide Range of Industries
The program is off to a strong start. Dudley and Sharp first began working on the idea in early 2016 and have rallied the support of many long-time employee ownership advocates. Martin Staubus of the Beyster Institute explains why he chose to join Certified EO’s advisory board, “Certified EO is playing an important role in the growth of employee ownership. Their work is the key to a positive reinforcement cycle for employee ownership. It’s tremendous to see this happening!”
Certified EO’s members include more than just B2C companies. While major consumer brands including Winco Foods, Lifetouch, and Modern times Beer have joined, the founding members also include Butler/Till, a marketing and advertising firm, Miklos Systems, a systems engineering company, and Locke Supply, an HVAC and electrical distribution company.
While creating a true national identity for employee ownership will take years, keep a look out for the Certified Employee-Owned mark in your community.