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Nikwax Founder Hands Over Ownership to Employees, Steps Down

Nikwax founder Nick Brown; (photo/Nikwax)Nikwax founder Nick Brown; (photo/Nikwax)
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Nick Brown has been at the helm of Nikwax and Paramo for 45 years. Now, on the cusp of retirement, he’s turning it all into an employee-owned trust.

It’s a move we don’t see often in the outdoor industry, especially now that the market is experiencing unprecedented demand. Mergers, buyouts, and reformations of the little guy by megacorps or VC firms are now commonplace. And concerns over how that will impact business, adventure culture and, ultimately, the world, are raised each time a new deal goes through.

That’s why one well-established outdoor industry CEO, Nikwax and Páramo Clothing founder Nick Brown, has decided to pass his companies — and arguably, his life’s work — to the folks he knows he can trust. Brown, who is based in the U.K., has handed the reins over by transforming both businesses into employee-owned trusts (EOT).

The maneuver, effective February 1, 2022, legally imparts ownership and operational control to workers in mainland Europe, North America, and South America.

Brown has turned nikwax over to its employees (Photo/Nikwax)

Nikwax Becomes ‘Employee-Owned Trust’

Under an EOT structure, a company’s employees are also its partners. The British coalition government introduced special arrangements for EOTs in 2014 to protect and encourage employment.

The model provides job security amid internal changes and gives workers a greater say in day-to-day operations. It also allows founders/owners to achieve succession without sacrificing community or principles.

“Outdoor people have come to have high expectations of Nikwax, at many levels, and I would not want them to be disappointed,” Brown explained. “So many companies end up being aggressively taken over and broken up, and lose their soul. This is our best shot at avoiding that and continuing the guiding principles.”

Social and Environmental Legacy

The transfer arrived on the heels of a sustainability report issued by Nikwax on January 31. The document comprises two parts: a dossier of the company’s current footprint and practices, and a 3-year roadmap that doubles down on its allegiance to eco conservation.

As the industry leader in PFC/PFAS-free care for gear and apparel, Nikwax “understands it has a fundamental responsibility to preserve the natural environment while preventing further damage to the planet and its people.”

That mission is the heart of Nikwax’s 3-year roadmap, supported by six “fields of action”: Clean Chemistry, Climate Action, Conservation, Circularity, Ethical & Fair, and Experts & Partners.

Nikwax's six focus areas for social and environmental responsibility; (image/Nikwax)
Nikwax’s six focus areas for social and environmental responsibility; (image/Nikwax)

Within the pledge’s “Ethical & Fair” statement, leadership clearly lays out the company’s plans for EOT conversion in 2022 and promises 1% of its revenue to social and environmental causes.

“As a values-orientated business, Nikwax believes in treating the people it works with (internally and externally) fairly and equally,” the pledge states.

Although Brown is technically no longer at the helm, the eco-fastidious founder will remain involved in selecting the organizations and initiatives that receive the support of both Nikwax and Páramo.

“Nikwax has been here for 45 years, and it will still be here in another 45 years’ time,” said director of sustainability Maïté Angleys. “Which is why we want to do our best to protect the great outdoors for generations to come.”

For more information about the companies’ ethical commitments, see Nikwax’s Sustainability Report.

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