How to Be An Impact Driven Business, All The Time
What if you could start a business where its mission went far beyond noble words backed with good intentions that
ultimately fell to the pressures of the modern world?
 Have you ever wondered how you could… 

Bulletproof your mission?
Focus squarely on impact?
Receive investment without losing sight of your vision? 

You can, as a steward ownership company. This is the path Junai has chosen.

So, what is steward ownership?

There are many places where that have already done a fine job going deeply in to what it is, how it works, who’s doing it and how you can too. This series by we are stewards and Sifted’s look with tangible examples and honest analysis of the pros and cons, and this article by Purpose, a consultancy which helps companies go down this path.  

But, boiled down to its essence, Neils Meijssen of Moonback put it best in the video below: “The voting rights and profit rights are separated.” 

Said in more detail, steward ownership enshrines self-determination and purpose-orientation into the very core legal structure of the business. The leadership, ownership and direction of the company cannot be speculated with, as the power is held only by those directly connected to the company’s operation and mission. In other words, stewards, not absentee owners.

Having a purpose orientation means that profits are untethered from being a goal in and of itself. They are a means to a purpose. There are clear limits to what cab be extracted by the shareholders. Profits are generally reinvested, used to cover costs or donated, after a reasonable salary for staff.  There are several forms a steward owned company can take, including Double Foundation, Single Foundation, Veto Share Model, Perpetual Purpose Trust and Employee Owned Trust. All with different ways of keeping money reinvested (focus of Foundation models), empowering employees (focus of Employee owned trusts) and preventing mission drift (Veto share models and perpetual purpose trust)

You can learn more about those here.  And, lest you think this way of doing business is solely for small, niche players, companies such as Novo Nordisk,Zeiss, Carlsberg, and Patagonia are all some form of steward owned company.

Why does Junai choose to be a steward owned company?

As a company focused on fostering the regenerative economy by a variety of means, there are two key reasons for becoming steward owned

Personal regeneration, and ways of working .

This unique structure eliminates the complexities surrounding equity distribution, freeing everyone involved from the burdens of traditional hierarchies. Here, the emphasis isn't on individual advancement but on collective mission alignment. It reshapes the very notion of leadership; founders are not elevated as bosses but acknowledged as the initial stewards of the company's journey. This shift fosters a healthier dynamic, benefiting both the pioneers and later joiners, particularly if individual skill sets don't perfectly align with various phases of the company's evolution.

For Jasper personally this meant being freed from discussion on equity, hierarchy and mission alignment and free up energy and positivity needed. Starting Junai has been a transformative and more positive experience than traditional high-growth divide the equity and grow the pie ways of working.

At this point we can imagine many of you can relate to. After the strange and transformative start to the decade we all went through, living life in balance has become far more central to a great deal of the population. To have work be a source of enlivening,both in yourself and those your company serves, can be immensely gratifying,  

Ethically the right thing to do to keep an impact focused business

Steward ownership allows for a clear focus on impact. For us this means we can focus on not using plastic anywhere in our product, and open sourcing everything that we do. People could make their own equipment, their own source materials, or use one of our kits to modify their standard 3Dprinter into a ecologically additive regenerative one. It also means down the line we could engage in open source collaboration with others, in the space and beyond, without having to concern ourselves with diluting profitability. Just maximising utility and impact.

The question of focus than becomes a simple one, does this allow us to scale biomaterial fabrication. This does not mean you do not make commercial choices, we want to be able to pay ourselves and grow opur impact where we can, but it does enable the impact to scale even if it would dilute profitability or growth in the near term.

What are some examples of steward owned businesses


Sumthing, a social enterprise, aims to make a profound impact on nature through accessible restoration initiatives. Their digital platform connects businesses and individuals to global restoration projects, showcasing impacts using various technologies.

Recognizing the necessity for scale in nature preservation, they operate commercially, prioritizing purpose alongside profitability. To maintain their mission-centric approach, they adopted Steward Ownership, ensuring self-governance and reinvestment of profits aligned with their mission. Their corporate structure involves distinct shares for voting rights and economic stakes, held by mission-aligned stewards, investors, and founders.

The Sumthing Foundation oversees major decisions, while the Golden Share Foundation safeguards the steward-owned structure. After allocating profits to stakeholders, remaining funds empower the Sumthing Foundation to further nature's restoration.

We Are Stewards specializes in steward-ownership, dedicated to preserving a company's long-term purpose. Whether companies are initiating new ventures or managing existing ones, steward-ownership stands as the foundation for fostering positive impact. Their services encompass

:Inspiration: Offering interactive lectures and workshops, they illustrate how steward-ownership shapes the new economy using real company examples.

Exploration: Through their Steward Start sessions, they guide companies in exploring steward-ownership possibilities. These sessions explore aligning the company's purpose, employee contributions, and potential investor matches.

Purpose Anchoring:
Collaborating with stakeholders, We Are Stewards customizes steward-ownership principles for individual companies. This involves crafting a tailored foundation, including articles of association and shareholder agreements, in partnership with experienced legal professionals.

After over 50 years, Patagonia, the outdoor clothing brand, is transitioning to a "self-owned" model with Earth as its sole shareholder. Rather than selling or going public, ownership is now managed by a trust and foundation, ensuring the company's values and directing profits, approximately $100 million annually, toward combating climate change.

Profits primarily fund mission-aligned reinvestments, with remaining proceeds often distributed as dividends to support initiatives like the Holdfast Collective's climate change actions. Patagonia's shift represents a departure from traditional shareholder capitalism, prioritizing long-term societal impact over short-term profit. It aligns with the growing trend among entrepreneurs emphasizing purpose-driven endeavors, aiming to influence a more equitable form of capitalism for collective well-being. Read more about their commitment to a future oriented organisational structure on their website here

Sprinklr endeavors to expand the market for pioneering organic growers, showcasing the benefits of pesticide-free cultivation. Their goal is to make gardening with organic plants enjoyable and accessible, aiming to influence consumer demand for a pesticide-free market.

Sprinklr embraced steward ownership, aligning solely with its biodiversity mission rather than serving shareholders or founders' interests. Under this model since January 26, 2023, Sprinklr operates independently with Stichting Sprinklr Impact as the sole decision-making body, ensuring alignment with its biodiversity enhancement mission.

Founders Suzanne and Liedewij relinquished ownership but remain as directors. Shareholders transformed their shares into a debt instrument, limiting perpetual profit rights. Sprinklr plans to repay loans by 2027, aiming for all returns and loans to be cleared by 2029, ensuring profits serve the biodiversity mission. Read more about their steward ownership journey here (in Dutch)

First steps into steward ownership

Becoming a steward-owned entity involves several initial steps:

1. Identify Your Core Motivation: Begin by determining your primary reasons for pursuing steward-ownership. Understand why it matters to you and aligns with your organization's values and long-term goals.

2. Engage Early Stakeholders: Convince early stakeholders by emphasizing the simplicity and authenticity of starting from scratch. Communicate the advantages of a steward-owned model, highlighting its straightforwardness compared to traditional ownership structures.

3.Design Organizational Structure: Decide on an initial organizational structure that aligns with your current needs. Opt for a foundational structure initially, as it's legally simpler and cost-effective. This basic structure provides flexibility for future adjustments, especially when external investment becomes a consideration.

4. Establish Legal Structures: Set up the new legal structures required for steward-ownership. Depending on the complexity, seek standard documentation or legal guidance from platforms like We Are Stewards. Consider reaching out to experts like Gijsbert Koren for advice, especially for more intricate setups.

5. Share Your Progress and Story: Communicate your journey openly. Share your experiences, challenges, and achievements as you transition into steward-ownership. Encourage dialogue and questions from others interested in this model, and foster a community around your story.For our organization, starting this process was straightforward, thanks to standard documentation from We Are Stewards. However, for those navigating more complex setups or seeking additional guidance, reaching out to experts like Gijsbert Koren is highly recommended. We're open to sharing our insights and experiences, so feel free to reach out to us with any questions or inquiries.

Is becoming a steward ownership company something you’re meant to do too? Have a look into the resources linked above, and let us know if you decide to go this path!


Jasper Middendorp
Paul Smith
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