2020 was a challenging year for SunEarth. Over 22 million workers lost their jobs as a result of the initial COVID-19 pandemic spread and response. Small businesses faced temporary shutdowns that in many cases became permanent; by September 2020 nearly 100,000 small businesses had closed forever.
As hard as this time has been, the COVID-19 recovery offers us the opportunity to rethink business as usual. Is there a better way to build resilient local communities that will better handle the next economic crisis?
A growing group of voices across the country are saying that rebuilding our economy around employee-owned (EO) businesses is the best answer to this question. Research over the past 40 years has shown that companies with significant and broad-based ownership help local economies stay strong during recessions. For example, during this most recent crisis, employee-owned firms were three times more likely to retain jobs.
But an employee-owned economy would offer more than just downside protection. In good times, employee-owned businesses create broad-based wealth that benefits large swaths of the community. Shopping at EO companies is like shopping local on steroids. Not only do dollars spent at EO companies stay local, but the wealth created by that business activity stays local as well. And because they are owned by members of the local community, successful employee-owned companies are much less likely to outsource jobs.
While there are over 6,000 employee-owned companies today, they represent just 1 in 200 American businesses with at least 10 employees. This model is ready to scale, and the COVID-19 recovery is the perfect opportunity to strengthen local economies by building back with employee ownership.