By Martin Staubus
September 5th marks the launch of Certified EO, a new certification program that affirms a company’s status as truly employee owned.
Modeled on programs such as Certified Organic and Certified Fair Trade, Certified EO is launching with the support of 29 founding member companies across America, including WinCo Foods, Modern Times Beer, Mountain Hardware and Sports, Lifetouch, and Harrell Remodeling.
According to founders Thomas Dudley and Kramer Sharp, the ultimate purpose of the initiative is to make employee-owned (EO) companies more visible - especially to consumers – in the coming years. Says Dudley, “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 virtually invisible.” The plan, according to Dudley, is to create a recognizable brand for employee ownership by combining the reach of employee-owned companies.
Dudley and Sharp came up with the idea for Certified EO while Dudley was a Ph.D. student at Stanford University. Dudley explains, “My research into consumer preferences demonstrated strong support for employee ownership. American consumers want to do business with EO companies, and American workers want to work at EO companies. I realized that the next step for national awareness was to connect Americans to great employee-owned companies in their communities.”
According to co-founder Sharp, getting certified takes about eight hours and involves filling out a questionnaire. Certified EO verifies that companies are at least 30 percent employee owned in a way that is broad-based, for example through an ESOP. Once certified, members earn the right to use the “Certified EO” mark and may access communications materials.
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.
For more on Certified EO, go to their website: https://www.certifiedeo.com/about.