Gibbs Smith is one of the few employee-owned book publishers in the country. The company's Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) bought half of the company in 2015 from founders Gibbs and Catherine Smith. Then, on August 31, 2022, the Gibbs Smith ESOP purchased the other half of the company from Catherine Smith. (Gibbs Smith had died in 2017.)
ESOP ownership means that every full-time Gibbs Smith employee earns shares in the company; that employees have tax benefits, retirement gains, and a vested interest in their workplace; and that the longtime viability of the company is assured.
When the ESOP purchased the second half of Gibbs Smith, Catherine Smith said, "It has been 53 years since two humanities majors decided to start a publishing company. We chose a lofty motto: 'to enrich and inspire humankind.' Being a publisher can be a great life, not necessarily for amassing wealth, but in finding and exploring the essential fascination to be found in people, places, and events around us and sharing it. I congratulate the new owners, the remarkable people who have made the company a success."
And CEO Brad Farmer, representing the executive management team, said, "We are excited to fulfill Gibbs and Catherine Smith's dream of becoming a fully employee-owned company. Being 100% ESOP owned is a dynamic change in the company's status and is in complete harmony with our triple-bottom-line focus on people, planet, and profits. We are proud, as employee owners, to carry Gibbs and Catherine's legacy into the next generation of ownership and evolution."
Employee ownership has made a big difference for the staff. For example, Nick Kiriazis, Internal Sales Rep, Gibbs Smith Education, said, "It is a tremendous professional honor and responsibility to be an employee-owner. Knowing that we're all in this together and relying on each other imbues me with a sense of greater community and purpose in my work."
Danielle McGuigan, Art Director, 7 Cats Press, said, "Even though I am working remotely in Pennsylvania and the corporate offices are in Utah, being an employee owner makes me feel like a bigger part of the company."
Lisa Higley, Accounting Supervisor, Gibbs Smith, added, "Being an ESOP to me means I am seen. Too often single mothers in the work force are not valued. At other companies I have felt like a doormat. I had to come to work no matter the environment to provide for my kids. I did the same work as others but received lower wages and no acknowledgement. Working for an ESOP has provided me opportunities to have a voice and grow into a leader. I have been able to serve on the Board of Directors and help create a work place that I enjoy."
And Diane Collett, Photo Editor, Gibbs Smith Education, said, "I love being an employee-owner. I appreciate the transparency and the ability everyone has to be part of leadership decisions. I also like that we are B Corp certified. Not only does it help show the world our commitment, but it also reinforces the importance of our work to our fellow employee-owners as well. We're all in this together, and I am grateful to be part of it."
Gibbs Smith is also one of the few book companies that's a B Corp, making it "the only 100% employee-owned, certified B Corp publisher and distributor in the U.S."
On February 4, 2023, Gibbs Smith was certified by B Lab as a B Corporation (B Corp) after meeting its rigorous social and environmental standards, representing the company's commitment to goals outside shareholder profit. B Lab was founded in the U.S. in 2006; any for-profit company in business for at least a year is eligible to pursue B Corp certification. There are some 6,700 B Corps in 90 countries, including Bookshop.org and Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Gibbs Smith says that it became a certified B Corp "to demonstrate our active commitment to our communities," which include its employee-owners, local communities, the book and education industries, and last but not least, the planet.
As part of the company's commitment to sustainable environment and community practices, it tracks its Scope 1, Scope 2, and partial Scope 3 carbon footprint and offsets 100% of it. Gibbs Smith physical office facilities, business travel, production/printing, and outbound shipping are all carbon neutral. The company's efforts support forestry, landfill gas capture, and wind farm projects.