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100 years

Past colleagues, trustees and contributors reflect on 100 years of Scott Bader

We’ve been in touch with some of our now retired colleagues and trustees who contributed so much to Scott Bader. We asked them to reflect on our Centenary year and their experiences of our unique organisation.

Ian Henderson

I was 50 when I joined Scott Bader and retired at 60 so I was MD for the whole decade of the 90’s. There were many key events for the Commonwealth concluding with the end of a millennium and its famous Bug, a bit different from the present dreadful one.

I had been in management for over 40 years in the polymer industry with prior experience in start-ups and multinational companies with operations worldwide and experience in production, marketing and overseas acquisitions. I had, over the years, developed a commitment to people involvement, decentralised activities and customer satisfaction. But nothing compared to the unique experience at Scott Bader and I trust that following M.D.‘s feel the same.

The concept of employee ownership attracted me from the start and I was convinced of the need to develop it internationally at ‘Baders’.

My early feelings about Scott Bader were about huge unrealised potential. The plants and distribution facilities at Wollaston had lacked ambitious investment, to put it politely and led me to urge a programme of reequipping and modernisation. The successful policy of technology licensing had nevertheless under-realised the international potential of that technology and those overseas kernels of people talent and the future innovation that more accelerated research could bring.

I felt that the role of Scott Bader as a catalyst in the development of employee ownership could also be developed along with investment in learning centres as a lever to deeper involvement. Certainly the training of employee directors stimulated by my first Chairman, Jim O’Brien, was an excellent example to the whole employee community and there was a ready acceptance of the learning centre opened in the cottage. Indeed, acceptance of change in the 90’s by the community was much to be applauded.

Acquisition of SRL, Strand Glass, and SB At Amiens had all been successful in the decade before my arrival and laid the foundation for further successful acquisitive moves in France, USA, South Africa, Dubai, Sweden, Croatia and Hungary.

In that decade the Community Council at Wollaston encouraged by its nominee directors began to take more interest in overseas operations and sowed the seeds of proper involvement in distant parts encouraged by contributions from the likes of Les Pitcher, Joe McKeever and Alan Green.

I remember my years at Scott Bader as a privileged place to be and hope future generations of members will feel the same.

Jeffery Legg

Hello from Jeffery Legg. I spent 12 years with Scott Bader between 1996 and 2008. During this time I lead the IT teams and the role out of M3 across all the sites. I served on the Community Council and the Commonwealth Board.

Scott Bader allowed me to meet people from all across the globe. I enjoyed the challenges presented to me and found the importance of backing up charity donations with our skills and time to ensure monies are being used to maximum effect by the charities supported.

Keep up the great work you’re doing and I would like to wish you all success for the future and congratulate Scott Bader on reaching its 100th birthday.

Susanna Hoe

In 1976 I was asked by Godric to write a biography of his father, Ernest. It was published by Heinemann in 1978 entitled The Man Who Gave His Company Away: A Biography of Ernest Bader, Founder of the Scott Bader Commonwealth, with a foreword by EF Schumacher, best known for Small is Beautiful.

It was an honour to be asked, and a pleasure and eye-opener to research and write. I interviewed Ernest for many hours over several visits, all on tapes given to Godric some years ago, and, of course, Dora, as well as many members of the Commonwealth and Trustees. My memory can easily summon up fascinating visits to Scott Bader, then much younger than it is now, but already full of purpose and promise.

Ernest was not always easy, but his vision and drive were undeniable, resulting in much of what Scott Bader and its Commonwealth are today. Visions are one thing, but Ernest had the determination to put his into action almost against the odds. It should be more widely imitated than, perhaps, it is. I’m so glad that what Ernest put in motion has reached this impressive milestone, shepherded with similar strength of purpose by Godric, and wish it well in the challenging years ahead.

Joe McKeever

Thank you for your invitation to make a contribution for the 70th and 100th anniversaries.

I worked with Scott Bader for a 10 year period from 1996 to 2006 as C.E.O. of Scott Bader Middle East and I also had the honour of serving on the Group Board during that period. With the passing of time I have gained a greater appreciation of how special Scott Bader is. Nowhere else can we find such a commitment to running a business enterprise as it should be run – fair treatment for its employees, stakeholders and customers alike. The great pity is that after 100 years it has very few imitators.

Wishing everyone at Scott Bader continued success. A truly amazing company. Continue to be inspired!

Les Norwood

Joining Scott Bader in early January 1975, I had found not only an interesting job but also a truly unique Company and started to learn more about the creation, in 1951, of the Scott Bader Commonwealth as a result of the inspirational vision of Ernest Bader, wife Dora, son Godric and fellow shareholders who gave away their shares to the Scott Bader Commonwealth Ltd., to be held in perpetuity as a trust.

My technical role, as the manager of the materials science laboratory, gave me great opportunities to meet customers, licensees and colleagues from around the world and, as the Scott Bader Group grew globally in the 1990s, I became the Scott Bader Group Technical Manager (Composites).

Over the years I also became involved in the Governance structure of Scott Bader as a Commonwealth Board of Management Director, as an Internally Elected Group Board Director, on three separate occasions, serving with three different chairpersons and as chairman of the UK Community Council for one year.

The years flew by and I retired from the Company in June 2006 after a truly fulfilling career with an inspirational company.  However, my association with Scott Bader Commonwealth did not end there because after retirement I was initially asked to join the Constitutional review team, then became a Guardian Trustee and the Chair of the Commonwealth Board for several years. I am currently a Trustee Director on the Scott Bader Pension Trustees Board.

Scott Bader gives the opportunity to every eligible Commonwealth Member to serve on the Governance Bodies and I would recommend that everyone considers serving on, at least, one of the Scott Bader Governance Bodies for an experience that is unavailable to employees in most companies.

Thank you Scott Bader for a wonderful career and the proof of what is achievable without ‘greedy’ shareholders which are the cause of much unrest and discontent in so many companies today.

I wish Scott Bader and everyone involved a prosperous and enjoyable future. Happy Birthday, congratulations on reaching 100 years as a company and 70 years as a Commonwealth. Best wishes to all.

Dr Syed Omar Hayat

I first heard about Scott Bader when I was 14 or 15 years old, when my father, who was a Friend of the Gandhi Foundation, came home and said he had today met an eccentric yet extraordinary man who had given away his chemical company to his employees. His description of Godric fascinated and stayed with me. Years later, when I became a Trustee of the Gandhi Foundation, I started to read a little more about who this man was and what drove these founders of the company to gift it to the employees and what this company now stood for.

The more I found out about Scott Bader, about Ernest and Godric, the more I realised what a visionary group of people they must have been and what a visionary company Scott Bader is.

And years later still, I had the honour and privilege to be asked to serve as a Guardian Trustee of the Scott Bader Commonwealth and so see the workings of the Company from the inside. It was an absolute pleasure to serve Scott Bader in a small capacity and an education to have seen the company from such a close perspective and to feel the enthusiasm and dedication that each of the people have for the Company.

It was also a time of some significant change and here the business democracy, so envisioned in the founders minds, actively played out in dealing with Governance, Company expansion, the environment, welfare of Scott Bader staff and society in general. This is not to that say all was perfect but the genuine desire to make the right decisions in upholding the founding principles was palpable. There was a commitment to charity, to a just redistribution of profits, to protect and to provide financial stability, in as much as is possible, to staff. For as Ernest and Godric had often stated, personal growth requires a certain level of financial stability, otherwise we are too preoccupied with day to day financial pressures to consider personal development and this was one of the rational for Ernest and Godric to change the structure of Scott Bader to that of a Trusteeship.

So as we celebrate 100 years of Scott Bader and 70 years of the Commonwealth, I am convinced that in another 100 years from now, Scott Bader will not only be around, in some form, but will be looked upon as one of the most important pioneers of how business should be conducted away from a purely capitalist model to one with humanity and compassion.

Happy birthday Scott Bader and may you continue to flourish.

Ralph Woolfe

It is with pleasure I write to congratulate Scott Bader on its 100th anniversary and the Commonwealth on its 70th anniversary.

The two are inextricably linked.  When I joined as MD in 1978 the company was technical and market leader in resins and gelcoats , it was the year of the oil shock, its financial position was weak, its productivity low, overstaffed and management was struggling.   In a conventional company it would have been taken over. Of course without the past success of the company the Commonwealth would have ceased to exist and not fulfil its charitable obligations

Ernest Bader’s vision in setting up the Commonwealth meant Scott Bader was protected from takeover. Other means of survival had to be found and were. Godric Bader’s determination kept the the twin objectives of the Commonwealth, to preserve Scott Bader’s  independence and to integrate Judeo/Christian values into life at work, alive. One major example of this was the Company wide series of workshops to explore how the values should be applied and to understand what they meant.

In my view then and now the Commonwealth Board as a separate entity encouraged the psychological split, held collectively and individually, in which the the Commonwealth Board was experienced as holding all the good in society and the business all the bad. As a result the usual level of mistrust experienced in conventional companies. of the executive is intensified at Scott Bader.  As the unconscious splitting leads it to be felt the executive could not adhere to the values as business does not have values only the mindless race for profit.

I am delighted I have lived long enough to remember the warmth and companionship I experienced from many in the company and not just the pain. This came from negative projections and of course my own mistakes that fuelled some of the experiences.

My wish for the future is the Company and Commonwealth Board become one to meet the challenges of the 21st century and others will be praising its achievement in 2121.