The sustainable brand Nikwax now owned by employees

Tuesday February 1, 2022 was a historic day for the Nikwax Brand. After 45 years of being owner and founder, Nick Brown is passing control to his employees, on three continents, by selling his business to their newly formed Employee Ownership Trust.

Back in 1977, Nick Brown was living in London and had just finished university; he was both unemployed and in love with the outdoors – specifically long-distance walking and backpacking. Nick also had a flair for chemistry and he utilised this talent to create his first product – Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for Leather – which he supplied to the 1980 Royal Geographical Society Karakoram Expedition, and which went on to sell in more than 50 countries.

Water-based products without PFCs

Over the years, Nikwax has grown to be an international company and has branches in Mainland Europe, North America and South America. Nick went on to develop a highly innovative product Nikwax TX.Direct – that is used in a washing machine to restore the waterproofing of breathable waterproof clothing. Subsequently, Nikwax created a range of water-based products for waterproofing aftercare that are both free of solvents and persistent chemicals of concern.

The original Nikwax tin delivered to the RGS 1980 Expedition

Nikwax is the only established waterproofing aftercare brand never to have used PFCs in its formulations (PFCs are associated with cancer and endocrine disruption, and are now known as the “forever chemicals” because they bio-accumulate). Nikwax’s innovation led to its achievement of winning a prestigious 4 Queen’s Awards since it began, the last being The Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development in 2014 – the first outdoor brand to do so.

Nikwax Shared Ownership in an Employee Ownership Trust

Nick Brown is now 67, and whilst he hasn’t hung up his boots, he has been preoccupied for more than decade with how to achieve a smooth succession. The Nikwax legacy is one of trying to do business in a responsible way and taking our planet and peoples’ future into account. 4 years ago, the idea of an Employee Ownership Trust was suggested by Nick’s HSBC Bank Manager, Simon Austin, and that started a long and complex project that comes to fruition today, having been delayed by Covid-19.

Nick Brown on the transition:

“By passing on the business to the employees, I feel that I am not only looking after them, but also looking after the interests of our loyal customers. Outdoor people have come to have high expectations of Nikwax, at many levels, and I would not want them to be disappointed. 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.”

One percent for the planet and for people

Nick has not revealed the details of the deal that he made with his staff, but part of it is a watertight undertaking that one percent of turnover will be forevermore dedicated to environmental and social projects.

Eric Lindemans, Head of Sales Netherlands:

“I am proud and grateful for the altruistic gesture of our founder Nick Brown. This gives the future of Nikwax a huge boost with all the standards and values we already had as a company. Of course we see new opportunities with our team. We will go new ways, make mistakes and have successes.

Everyone is now a shareholder and co-owner of this great company. But once we leave the company, our share will go to our successors. All this to ensure that there is no deviation from the planned Nikwax path. We continue to look for an extension of the lifespan of outdoor products, in a responsible way for humans, animals and the environment.”

More about Nikwax at nikwax.com

Outdoor people have come to have high expectations of Nikwax, at many levels, and I would not want them to be disappointed.

Nick Brown
Nikwax
Hayco Volkers
Hayco Volkers
I have practiced a multitude of sports since my youth to the present. My first sports as a child were judo and athletics. Cycling, hiking, mountain biking, kyokushin karate, diving, baseball, golf and windsurfing, rowing and krav maga were added later.

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