Green-eyed investors are starting to reposition for the post-pandemic future. Just this week, Denmark’s Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners raised $1.7 billion for a bet on renewables infrastructure, while venture capital firms Prime Coalition and Pale Blue Dot each raised more than $50 million for early-stage climate tech.

It’s a sign that the attraction of green investment may be holding up during the early stages of the coronavirus recession. Climate conscious-investors are aware that decisions being made right now could shape global economies for years to come. But Covid-19 also has highlighted structural inequality, and the question of who benefits from whatever recovery comes (assuming there is one) after the pandemic recedes.

One reform corporate executives may consider was popular back when Ronald Reagan was president. Leo E. Strine Jr., former chief justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, wrote in Bloomberg Opinion that if companies want a fairer system for employees, they should re-open the door to employee profit sharing:

The pandemic made clear that the people doing the risky work essential to our economy make much less than the national average. And the pandemic has highlighted the persistent racial inequality in our economy, with Black workers suffering more from layoffs, having less wealth to ride out the storm, and...being more likely to be a low-paid essential worker.

Profit-sharing was more common in the 1980s, when tax credits supported it. But it subsequently fell out of favor, existing only at a handful of public companies, such as General Motors.

That may be changing. Recently, profit-sharing has become a key feature of dozens of small companies. Many have employee co-op or stock ownership plans, and their results so far suggest the model might be sustainable. Energy bar maker Clif Bar and reusable water bottle company Klean Kanteen, for example, use employee retirement plan ownership models, while $3.2 billion investment firm Trillium Asset Management is employee owned. 

“It’s a very different model between labor and management,” said Sarah Stranahan, an editorial associate at the Democracy Collaborative who has been studying employee-owned companies and sustainability. “There’s much more input from workers about safety, efficiency and saving the company money because the workers share in the profits.”

A recent analysis by Stranahan and her colleagues found employee-owned B Corp companies were scoring 21% higher on standardized sustainability assessments than non-employee owned B Corp firms. Sustainable breweries, such as New Belgium Brewing, and solar design firms, like Amicus Solar, were among the most common types of employee-owned “green” companies. But the group also includes well-known brands like clothing company Eileen Fisher and King Arthur Flour, which suddenly found itself a coronavirus growth story as stay-at-home orders inspired a wave of baking.

Moreover, employee-owned companies don’t necessarily need to grow to succeed, making them even more important to greening the planet. “You can have an employee-owned company that grows to an optimal size and stays there, unlike a shareholder-owned company that is constantly competing for shareholder value,” Stranahan said. “In a way, our growth addiction is at the heart of the environmental crisis—the need to produce and sell more goods is often driven more by financial concerns than consumer needs.”

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.