ENVIRONET, the invasive plant specialist based in Send, has seen record growth since ownership of the company was transferred to its 30-strong team during the pandemic.

Turnover is on track to increase by 100% by July – which will be the third anniversary of becoming employee owned.

Following in the path of Richer Sounds, Riverford Organic Farmers, Go Ape and more than 1,300 other UK companies, Environet established an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) in 2020. This owns 100% of the business, with all staff beneficiaries of the Trust.

Employee ownership is growing in popularity, with more than 430 applications for EOTs made to HMRC during 2022, up from just 19 five years previously, as companies seek to preserve their ethos, reward staff and boost productivity.

Founders Nic and Bertie Seal, who have grown Environet from a start-up in 1996 to become one of the UK’s foremost authorities on Japanese knotweed, bamboo and other invasive plants, explored a variety of options when succession planning, before taking the decision to transfer ownership of the company to its staff.

Nic, founder and MD of Environet, said, “Transferring ownership of Environet to our staff is the best decision we could have made.

“Succession planning is never easy, but our top priority was ensuring a bright future for the company and job security for everyone who has worked so hard to make it a success.

“The culture has really shifted as employees at every level and in every department feel empowered to have a say and make things better for customers and staff,” he added.

“Everyone benefits jointly from Environet’s success as we’re all pulling in the same direction.

“To have doubled our turnover in three short years is astonishing and I take my hat off to the whole team.”

Once ownership was transferred, the senior management structure was immediately strengthened with three senior managers promoted to directors, taking responsibility for the running of the company as the founders step back over time.

Personally invested in the success of the business, staff are more engaged and better rewarded, boosting productivity and profitability, while a Trustpilot rating of 4.9 stars indicates that customers are also happy.

All staff who have been at the company for twelve months, as beneficiaries of the Trust, are entitled to an annual tax-free bonus of £3,600, which has helped them weather the current cost of living crisis.

Project controller Gillian Weston, who joined the company in 2017, said: “I feel much more invested in my own future since I was given a stake in the business, because I’m sharing personally in its success. It’s also reassuring to know the company will remain anchored at our offices near Woking and won’t be swallowed up by someone bigger or sold off when the founders retire.”

According to the Employee Ownership Association, the employee-owned business sector adds to the diversity of Britain’s economy, boosting productivity and performance.

Companies that are employee-owned are twice as productive as the UK average and contribute £30 billion annually to GDP.