Harnessing the Power of Democracy

The John Lewis Partnership is a business like no other. For over 100 years, it has operated on democratic principles, sharing power with all Partners – values that remain as true today as they did in 1919.

Today our democratic network of elected councils, committees and forums enables Partners to participate in decision making, challenge management on performance and have a say in how the business is run. We have over 3,000 specially elected representatives who feed into our three governing authorities – Partnership Council, Partnership Board and the Chairman, which run the Partnership.

Not many companies have a written Constitution. The Partnership exists today because of the extraordinary vision and ideals of our Founder, John Spedan Lewis. He believed an ‘industrial democracy’ where employees shared knowledge, power and profit and was a better form of business. That vision was set out in a written Constitution – a framework to define the Partnership’s principles and the way it should operate.

There are a number of ways we safeguard our democratic principles at the John Lewis Partnership. Click the drop downs below to find out about each one.

Partnership Council

The Partnership Council represents all Partners, reflecting their opinion, to ensure the business is run for and on behalf of all Partners. It shares responsibility for the Partnership’s health with the Partnership Board and the Chairman. Its role is to hold the Chairman to account, influence policy and make key governance decisions such as choosing the Trustees of the Constitution, select Board elected directors, change the Constitution with the Chairman’s agreement and dismiss the Chairman.

Partnership Board

The Partnership Board ensures the business is run on a financially prudent basis, major policy issues are addressed and high standards of governance are maintained.

Our Board is different to most, with a mix of appointed and democratically elected Partners. As set out in our Constitution, Partners from anywhere across the business are elected to the Board. Our Elected Directors ensure Partner opinion is reflected in the direction and management of the business. They also bring special insight and knowledge of the business and participate in big decisions such as the decision on Partnership Bonus, approving Partnership strategy, major investment plans and restructuring programmes.

The Board is assisted by four Committees: the Audit and Risk Committee; the Nominations Committee; the Remuneration Committee, and the Ethics and Sustainability Committee.

The Chairman

The Chairman carries personal responsibility for ensuring the Partnership retains its distinctive character and democratic vitality, as well as delivering our Purpose. As the senior executive in the Partnership, the Chairman is also ultimately responsible for the Partnership’s commercial performance and so twice a year appears before the Partnership Council to answer questions on our performance. The Chairman chairs the Partnership Board and leads delivery of the Partnership business plan.

The Gazette

Partner opinion is also enabled through our weekly in-house magazine, the Gazette, in print and online.

The Gazette was first published in 1918 and is now the UK’s longest-standing internal publication that has not changed its name since launch. The magazine was written into our Constitution by our Founder, John Spedan Lewis, as he saw knowledge and understanding of our business as one of the keys to a happier working life.

The Gazette sets its own editorial agenda and has a unique, independent role, operating separately from management, publishing both Partnership news but even more importantly allowing Partners to submit letters on any subject. Letters vary from enquiries to criticisms but vitally creates valuable, ongoing dialogue on subjects that matter most to Partners.

John Lewis Partnership Trust Ltd.

John Lewis Partnership Trust Limited (‘the Trust Company’) holds the Deferred Ordinary Shares in the capital of the Company, in trust, for the benefit of the Partners. The main purpose of the Trust Company (‘the Trustee’), under the constitution, is to protect the constitution and democracy of the Partnership. The Trust Company has five Directors: the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Partnership and three Elected Directors, who are known as the Trustees of the Constitution.

The Articles of Association of the Trust Company state that the Chairman appoints both their own successor and the Deputy Chairman. This follows the wishes of the Partnership’s founder, who believed that each appointment should represent the interests of the Partnership and work to preserve its future. The Nominations Committee oversees the appointment process of the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman. The Trustees of the Constitution are elected by the Partnership Council.

Our Values

The Partnership has always had clear business values, which are set out in Principles 2 to 7 of our Constitution. We also have a set of five personal values that were created by Partners for Partners, to explain what it means to be a Partner and what makes a great one. It has never been more important that we support one another with care and compassion and live by our values.

DO RIGHT:  We act with integrity and use our judgement to do the right thing.
ALL OR NOTHING:  We put everything we have into everything we do.
GIVE MORE THAN YOU TAKE:  We put more in, so everyone gets more out.
BE YOURSELF. ALWAYS:  We’re quirky, proud and at our best when we are free to be ourselves.
WE NOT ME:  When we work together anything is possible. Being employee-owned, we operate using unique democratic principles, with all Partners sharing power.

Being A Partner

Being a Partner, a co-owner in the Partnership, makes you so much more than just an employee. Because of this, it comes with a different set of responsibilities compared to working in other organisations.

As Partners, it’s our role to ensure that our democracy and business continues to thrive by asking the right questions and holding each and everyone of us to account, including our leaders. But we do so in a way that holds true to our values, treating everyone with kindness and respect, with our own integrity and with the best intentions of the Partnership’s success at heart.

It’s a powerful, unique way of doing business, a way in which we think is for the better.

Democracy at the heart of the Partnership.

Hear from our Partners.

“Being a Partnership Councillor, I find being able to talk frankly with our Director James Bailey about how our Partners are feeling, sharing best practices and just feeling seen by the people that lead our business is so very important.” – Kirsty, Partner & Team Leader, Partner Operations.

Democracy at the heart of the Partnership.

Hear from our Partners.

“I consider it to be an honour to represent 500 + Partners in the wider business community, so that their voice is heard at the highest level.” – Susanne, Partner & Food Service Assistant