Aguaconsult: Employee Owners Ensuring Sustainable Services for a Developing World

Aguaconsult is a specialist values led consultancy which provides support to public, private and third sector organisations to improve water, sanitation and environmental services for marginalised people in less developed countries.  The company was founded in 2003 by Harold Lockwood, and moved into employee ownership, with 100% of the shares transferring into an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) in August 2023.

Aguaconsult is its people: the talented and diverse team, who have experience across a range of sectors, are a multi-cultural and multi-lingual mix of staff and associates, united by a shared mission and values.  Finding a future ownership structure that respected and would maintain the culture, mission and values of the business was a key consideration for Harold as he began considering his own plans for the future, and the future of the business. It became rapidly apparent that a sale of the business to any third party would be risky, both in terms of the values and culture of the business and the outcomes for the current and future employees, clients and wider stakeholders.

As a small independent consultancy, Aguaconsult has the flexibility and scale to provide agile, adaptive, and client focused services, while fostering strong on-the-ground partnerships, working respectfully and collaboratively with its partners and sub-contractors to create lasting impact – as such the future independence of the company was considered essential for a sustainable future.

Having been aware of employee ownership for some time, Harold began to explore employee owned and alternative ownership models for the business in earnest in 2021, in particular researching Employee Ownership Trusts (EOT), which he saw had the potential to secure the future of Aguaconsult as an independent business for the long term.   However, the democratic nature of the business is such that it was not until all of the employees had had the time to understand and agree the plan for the future of Aguaconsult, that they were ready to move forwards with a transition to employee ownership.

The role of the mission and values of Aguaconsult is key in the future governance of the business and the Aguaconsult Employee Ownership Trust, as 100% owner of Aguaconsult, does not only act in the best interests of the employees, it also has a duty to hold those leading the company to account on the mission and values, now and in the future.

Reflecting on the process in the latest company newsletter, Harold wrote:

“Starting around eighteen months ago, and with a view to the future governance and ownership structure of the company, we embarked on a process of Employee Ownership transition. This has been an intense undertaking involving many long hours of discussions, forecasting and exploring new legal frameworks. It has not always been an easy path, but the shared vision of a future in which all employees have a say and can benefit from the success of the company has been a constant.  We could not have achieved this without the amazing support of the EO specialists at Baxendale, so a big thanks to them all.  As of July 2023, we have succeeded in these efforts, with 100% ownership transferring to a new Trust, and are proud to now be an Employee-owned business.”

To find out more about employee ownership and employee ownership trusts and how they might work for your business, contact Emily Alston emily.alston@baxendale-eo.co.uk

Emily Alston

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