John Speden Lewis took over full ownership of the company
from his father in 1928, and drew up the constitution and trust settlement
which are still in force today. He thought it morally wrong that his family
should take over 50% of the profits from the business, and instead championed a
more sustainable capitalism, which, with some prescience, he called the Third
His business ethic demanded genuine partnership for all –
managers and managed – and a strong belief in the common good. He described the purpose of this partnership
as ‘the happiness of members through their worthwhile and satisfying employment
in a successful business’.
Andy outlined the advantages of this mutually beneficial model,
noting firstly that there are no external shareholders involved. This means that John Lewis can do what is
best for all its partners and the long-term health of the business, and is not
beholden to the City. In addition, there is no conflict of interest between the
various parts of the business. Through
an elected Council, management are held to account across the company and the
common good is upheld.