Steward-ownership creates the possibility to bring together start-ups, medium-sized businesses and large corporations. It combines modern with traditional entrepreneurship, sustainability with profitable business. On the one hand, steward-ownership is a proven ownership model that has been in place for many decades and implemented by iconic German businesses such as Bosch and Zeiss. On the other hand, it presents a new alternative to conventional and more traditional ownership models. It allows start-ups to legally safeguard their purpose-oriented businesses and enables medium-sized business and Hidden Champions to set-up sustainable charters, where successors can become steward-owners indepedent of family affiliation or acquisition power.
Steward-ownership has the potential to play a role in the transformation of the economy. It focuses on the core of the company itself – namely its ownership, its DNA. The goal is to (re)prioritize the purpose of the company – to the maximization of short-term profits; and to safeguard its independence in the long-run.
With steward-ownership, assets and control remain within the company in the long term.
This is based on two key principles:
Asset lock, or put differently profits serve purpose. For steward-owner companies, assets and profits are not an end in themselves, but a means to an end. They are reinvested, used to pay investors, shared with stakeholders or donated to charity. They cannot be withdrawn for personal benefit.
Self-governance. Steward-owned companies keep control within the business. Voting shares can only be held by the stewards; this way the company can not become a speculative asset. Voting shares cannot be inherited or sold for profits, but are passed on in trust and alignment of shared values and necessary skills.
The Purpose Stiftung gGmbH (Purpose Foundation) was established in 2015 with the goal to inform about steward-ownership and to facilitate its implementation worldwide. As a non-profit, the Purpose Foundation focuses on education and research. Knowledge generated through the practice and experience of and with steward-ownership is made accessible through publications, events, and open-source materials. Its mission: to contribute to an economy that serves people, society and the planet.
The Stiftung Verantwortungseigentum (Foundation for Steward-Ownership), founded in November 2019, connects steward-owned companies in Germany and advocates for a better legal framework for the implementation of steward-ownership. To this end, the foundation is in exchange with six independent legal scholars, who have drafted a bill for a new legal form for steward ownership, and is in direct contact with politicians. The coalition of the new federal government, comprised of social democrats, greens and liberals, has committed itself in its coalition agreement to introduce such a new legal form. In addition to the political work, the foundation promotes education and research as well as information and the exchange of experience on the topic of steward-ownership within the framework of a non-profit cooperation.