Interview and Webinar: The Limitations of Ethical Certification and the Power of Employee Ownership

Amelia Evans on ABC News Impact x Nightline

Since we began going Beyond Corporations in 2021, we have been learning from the failures of multi-stakeholder initiatives to envision businesses as centering workers and communities in their ownership and governance. This fall, we had the opportunity to highlight this exciting transition and share some of our findings on ABC News’ Impact x Nightline and at the Center for Financial Inclusion’s Financial Inclusion Week. Videos for both are available online. 

Limitations of ethical certification on ABC News’ Impact x Nightline

ABC News

ABC News’ Impact x Nightline produced an episode investigating the ethical certifications (multi-stakeholder initiatives) in the coffee industry and their attempts to mitigate human rights abuses. Our Executive Director, Amelia Evans, had the opportunity to interview with the Impact x Nightline team to share the conclusions from our decade-long research project into MSIs: that MSIs fail to provide effective protection against abuse as they were created to do. Furthermore, MSIs could inadvertently risk doing more harm than good by creating a perception that critical issues, like child labor, are being taken care of when they are in fact being perpetuated. 


We’re excited to see these critical conversations move into the mainstream. With this system of MSIs, the power ultimately lies with the companies who participate since they’re involved in the funding and governance of these initiatives. We aren’t going to see transformation occur while this is true. Through our research into MSIs, we identified that a true shift in power would require that (1) workers and/or affected communities be at the center of decision-making and (2) benefits and ownership accrue to workers who generate value for a business. 

The power of employee ownership spotlighted at The Center for Financial Inclusion’s Financial Inclusion Week

The Center for Financial Inclusion allowed us to spotlight this second principle at their annual Financial Inclusion Week. This global virtual gathering is a place to exchange community-driven ideas and practices that advance the financial inclusion of marginalized and vulnerable groups. For our on-demand session, we highlighted a key, overlooked contributor to the steady increase in wealth inequality: the inequitable distribution of business ownership and how employee ownership has the power to address economic inequality. One recent study found that if all businesses become just 30% employee owned, then the median black household wealth would quadruple as with the wealth of the bottom 50% of all Americans. Employee ownership has a powerful yet underutilized capacity for addressing economic inequality. 


These two moments highlight the pressing need and immense opportunity to advance an equitable economy. As workers and consumers continue to grapple with the complexity of ethically produced goods and services, MSI Integrity will continue to advocate for the shift in power to workers and communities in our work. 


Subscribe to our newsletter for updates and keep an eye out for details on our upcoming project and reports:

  • Shifting Power: Assessing Worker- and Community-Centric Alternatives to Conventional Corporations, analyzing existing alternatives to corporate structures that already give workers and communities decision-making power and a share in profits and ownership 

  • Creating Shared Value: A Guide to the Growing Employee Ownership Investment Opportunity, evaluating employee ownership structures and how to increase investment to fund them.

Summer 2022 Update

As 2022 enters its latter half, MSI Integrity staff have been hard at work advancing the Shifting Power project, which was announced in late 2021 as the next iteration of our organization’s evolution towards understanding some of the root causes and structural features of corporate power in the United States. Towards that end, we’re thrilled to announce our collaboration with both our Summer Legal Fellow — Amelia Tam — and the Forum for Global Human Rights (FGHR)

Amelia Tam joins us from the University of Baltimore, where she is pursuing a J.D. with an interest in employment, labor, and immigration law. Her work with us is focused on research and analysis for Shifting Power. It has been an absolute pleasure working with Amelia since May 2022! 

Forum for Global Human Rights logo with overhead view of 3 abstract people embracing each other to form a circle to the left of the organization's name in an all caps serif font

FGHR is a new, student-led and run organization that aims to provide opportunities for young people interested in human rights research and advocacy through practical experience and partnerships with organizations from around the world. FGHR students and recent graduates will be assisting MSI Integrity on research and outreach activities related to the Shifting Power project until October 2022.

We will soon enter a period of review and community collaboration on Shifting Power. We are preparing a draft interactive website that gives an overview of existing alternative corporate models that hold the promise of greater worker economic benefits and decision-making, as well as a new framework for workplace rights — the right for workers to have input and influence over their working conditions, and to share in the profits/economic benefits they generate (i.e. to share in ownership) — against which we have assessed whether and how each of these alternative models show promise. Interested organizations and individuals are welcome to participate in our upcoming review, and should contact us to learn more about how they can be part of the review process or related outreach events and activities.