Google's Alphabet Is the Most 'Just' Internet Company, Says Study

Zoë Henry (Inc.) | Dec. 01, 2016

In 2014, Google disclosed its abysmal diversity numbers to the public. Since then, it's brought more women, blacks, and Hispanics into the tech sector--to varying degrees of success. That, in large part, led to Alphabet Inc.'s designation as the most "just" company in the Internet sector.

That's according to a recent list of the most socially-conscious companies in America. The report, co-produced by independent nonprofit JUST Capital Foundation and Forbes, measured the performance of more than 890 publicly-traded companies on the Russell 1000 Index across 32 industries.

Many large corporations landed a spot on the list, like PepsiCo (food, beverage, and tobacco industry), Southwest Airlines (transportation), and American Express (consumer and diversified finance).

The list took into consideration of what American workers value most. According to a survey of 55,000 Americans, non-discrimination in hiring, pay, and providing a safe workplace are among the biggest concerns. Other important factors include complying with federal laws, respecting workers, and creating U.S. jobs.

For startups, transformation could even start at the personal level. In a previous interview with Inc., JUST Capital board member Deepak Chopra advised that in order to create lasting change in the world, entrepreneurs need to look inwards. "My romantic notion is that if you have a billion people engaged in personal transformation, you would also have social transformation," he said. "You would have a more peaceful, just, sustainable, happier world."

In addition to its corporate diversity, Alphabet Inc. ranked strongly for worker pay and benefits, including a flexible paid time off policy, and a strong 401(k) savings program, and for its supply chain impact (the company has committed to reasonable worker hours, and to policies such as no forced or child labor). Where it stands to improve, however, is in aligning with its investors.

"Just Capital started with the question, 'What if we could see which companies use their capital not simply to maximize profits, but to create a more just marketplace for all stakeholders?" said Paul Tudor Jones II, the billionaire investor and a co-founder of JUST. "Today, we can see that some of the biggest companies in America -- some of the most important companies in the world -- are doing that, at huge scale."

It's worth pointing out, however, that "experts" also included corporations, which might present a conflict of interest. JUST board member Arianna Huffington's Thrive Global, for instance, works with Accenture, which ranked as the No. 1 'Just' company in the IT services industry. But according to JUST CEO Martin Whittaker, the board is never consulted on specific rankings, and ]members don't see the list until the day it comes out.

What's more, keep in mind that the non-profit is still working out how to respond to "major outliers" that could affect a company's ranking. Consider that Wells Fargo, the banking giant that recently saw its chief executive depart in October -- after news broke that it had opened millions of accounts for customers without their knowledge -- ranked relatively high in the report: No. 6 for it's industry, well above the standard, and just behind Comerica and BankUnited.

"They [Wells Fargo] scored badly on some issues and did well on others," Whittaker said, pointing out that bank pays their employees relatively well. "I certainly think, and we saw this with the election, that polling is really hard," he adds, referring to president-elect Donald Trump's surprise victory last month. "You get a point of view, and there is no right answer to what the public thinks."