Thousands of people drive past Wollaston on the A509 to or from Milton Keynes every week, but nestled in the heart of this village, which has a population of just under 3,500 is one of Northamptonshire’s largest corporates, and they have been making a positive impact on their community for years.
Founded in 1921 by Ernest Bader, Scott Bader moved from London to its current location in Wollaston in 1940 to keep the staff and business safe from the threat of bombings in the Second World War.
Hayley Sutherland, Commonwealth Secretary explains;
“Ernest Bader came across Wollaston Manor when he went out on his bicycle looking for a countryside location - it was very much a decision between Wollaston and the Cotswolds, and luckily for us he chose Wollaston! Our current head office building was home to the Bader family for many years.”
After 30 years of running as a traditional business, Ernest sought to find an alternative to the usual capitalist governance way of running a business. In 1951, Ernest gifted the company to the workers by transferring all the shares to the Scott Bader Commonwealth Limited (‘The Commonwealth’) which is a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity.
Hayley explains “This means the shares cannot be sold and are held in trust by the Commonwealth on behalf of current and future colleagues with each generation being responsible for the sustainability of the business. We are self-governing which gives us the opportunity to think long term and benefit from greater commitment, a sense of belonging, duty and responsibility. “
And there is certainly commitment amongst the Scott Bader workforce with many employees having been at the company for over 20 years and the longest serving for 46 years!
As one of the first UK employee owned businesses, their Common Trusteeship structure means that employees are involved in key decisions via elected representatives on issues such as major appointments, significant financial investments and annual charitable giving. Profits are shared, and business relationships with customers and suppliers tend to be more stable and long term since they cannot be taken over.
The Commonwealth has three main bodies of governance – the Commonwealth Board, the Group (operating) Board, the Members’ Assembly. Employees are represented on all three bodies.
The company’s strategy is built on what they call the ‘Three Pillars’ of Humanity, Ecology and Business, which are all inter-linked. This is reflected in Scott Bader’s 2036 Vision, its 7-point strategic blueprint for a sustainable future that amongst other goals aims to;
Protect our environment
Pioneer the circular economy
Unleash colleagues’ potential
Deliver value to society
Success and growth has led to expansion and today Scott Bader has manufacturing facilities in the UK, France, South Africa, UAE, Croatia, Canada as well as offices worldwide. Employing 700 people and with a £225m turnover in 2018, Scott Bader is a global player in speciality chemical applications, namely adhesives, gelcoats and resins for many markets including marine, building, automotive, wind energy, rail and many more.
With its roots in an Anglo-Swiss family, a German operating Group Chairman and a French CEO Scott Bader is truly a multi-national business., Now firmly based in Northamptonshire there is a growing R&D function which aims to bring to life the company Purpose Statement “we pioneer the future of chemistry, making a positive difference to all businesses we serve and each life we touch.”
Their success has not gone without acknowledgement, having received several industry awards over the years, including a coveted Queens Award for industry in 1975. The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award 2014 was jointly awarded to Godric Bader, the son of founder Ernest Bader now Life President of Scott Bader, and to the Scott Bader Commonwealth for the better business model created by him and his family, which continues today as a cornerstone of the Scott Bader Group globally.
The social vision that Ernest Bader had for Scott Bader very much continues, as community is at the heart of the business. Every year, each employee gets to nominate a charity of their choice and Scott Bader will make a donation to that charity. In addition to this, Scott Bader encourages community fund raising, and will match fund any fundraising by employees to a maximum of £1,000. In 2018 Scott Bader donated £257,000 to local charities and causes, with a positive impact on thousands of lives.
Keep House, a Grade 2 listed building, is the Commonwealth’s latest major project. Situated in the grounds of Scott Bader, Keep House has just undergone a £70k refurbishment to convert it into a new community learning, development and enterprise hub which will enable Northamptonshire charities and start-up businesses to rent office space at exceptional market rates, with the option of an additional meeting room. Six vacant units will be available to let from September 2019.
Adrian Pryce, Chair of the Commonwealth Board said;
“It’s been hard work but we know it will be worth it as we look forward to welcoming tenants to the newly refurbished Keep House. This is our opportunity to give back to the local community as we focus more of our charitable activities within the communities where Scott Bader operates. ”
Scott Bader recognise the value of helping those around them and recently held a ‘Community Day’; a day when employees took part in volunteering activities for the benefit of the community for a day. Wellidog, Irchester Primary School, South End Infant School, The Teamwork Trust, and Sofawise were just a few of the charities supported by Scott Bader volunteers. A total of 1110 hours of volunteering where given by Scott Bader employees based in Wollaston.
Today, as Scott Bader looks to the future it continues to strive to maintain the balance between their social purpose that benefits the employees, their families and the communities in which they live and work, ecological sustainability, and their business needs for economic growth and continued efficiency. The Common Trusteeship legacy founder Ernest Bader put in motion nearly 70 years ago most certainly lives on in this company that is proud to call Northamptonshire its home – and one of which Northamptonshire should be proud.