The Employee Share Ownership (Esop) Centre is a non-profit subscription based organisation which draws from over 30 years of experience to inform, lobby and research in the interest of developing all forms of broad-based employee share ownership plans in the UK and Europe. The Centre works with governments, the European Commission, businesses and employee organisations to build widespread support for employee share ownership and spread the wages of capital.
Broad-based employee share ownership means that all employees in a company – from the boardroom to the shop floor – are able, and indeed incentivised, to acquire shares in the company for which they work. We believe this is good for employees, companies and the economy as a whole – a view supported by a wide range of policy makers, business leaders and ordinary employees. Now is an exciting time for employee share ownership, and the Esop Centre is committed to building on our progress of the past twenty years and helping more employees become shareholders in their companies.
The Centre offers an excellent range of benefits to our members, whose support and professional activities are essential to the development of broad-based employee share ownership plans. Members include listed and private companies operating, developing or interested in establishing employee share plans, as well as professional experts providing share plan services covering accountancy, administration, design, law and trusteeship. The Centre’s regular conferences, seminars and lobbying activities provide the ideal space for industry leaders wanting to communicate their needs to government and network with their peers. Speakers at Esop Centre events have included ministers such as Mark Hoban, David Gauke, Norman Lamb, and Jo Swinson.
The first employee share ownership plan in the United Kingdom was launched in 1987 at Unity, the trade union bank. Esop Centre chairman Malcolm Hurlston CBE - inspired by a visit to the United States where he studied the use of employee stock ownership plans in American airline companies - was instrumental in bringing about this first employee share plan. Drawing on these experiences, he formed the Employee Share Ownership Centre in 1988.
Shortly afterwards, the European Centre for Employee Ownership was established as a sister organisation to spread the benefits of employee share ownership throughout Europe. The European Centre became the World Centre following a successful 2008 pathfinder conference in Dubai.
Since its inception the Centre has helped establish a large number of employee share ownership plans through constant lobbying activities and initiatives. The Centre has been at the forefront of all major developments in the industry, playing a key role in the introduction of the first government-approved scheme – the Statutory Esop – and every other since then, including Company Share Option Plans (CSOPs), Enterprise Management Incentives (EMIs) and Share Incentive Plans (SIPs).