A Year Into the Pandemic, Hope in the C-Suite and Concern on the Frontlines

We passed the year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of the coronavirus pandemic this week, and with cases, hospitalizations, and deaths on the decline and vaccines making their way into millions of arms, it appears the end is finally in sight. But there is a dichotomy in the U.S. that should not be overlooked, and it’s captured in a batch of reports out this week.

On the one hand, CEOs are feeling great. In PwC‘s annual global CEO survey, 76% believe economic growth will improve over the next 12 months, a record high for that question. The Business Roundtable’s quarterly CEO survey captured similar results. As the BRT’s CEO, Josh Bolten, told the Financial Times of the 21-point jump in chief executives’ economic outlook since December, it was “among the sharpest and quickest recoveries in optimism in the history of our survey,” covering the same ground in one quarter that took eight quarters following the financial crisis.

Granted, CEOs are a notoriously optimistic bunch. But even so, their views contrast sharply with those of their workers, who have a decidedly different take on the situation.

Our latest survey research on the state of workplace health and safety, conducted with The Harris Poll and supported by the Ford Foundation, found that nearly a third of workers do not feel safe and protected from the coronavirus at work right now. Workers were also more than twice as likely than managers to say that management is doing only the minimum required to keep workers healthy and safe (32% of workers vs 14% of employers) and that workers’ health and safety was often set aside for the sake of profits (37% of workers vs 19% of employers).

Moreover, as our friends at the Financial Health Network pointed out in their recently released Pulse survey, the most financially vulnerable in the country have been unable to make up their lost income from the past year and stand to fall even further behind. On top of that, there are now 9.5 million fewer jobs in the country than there were a year ago.

CEOs who’ve successfully led their organizations through the crises of the last 12 months mustn’t lose sight of what made them stronger and more resilient in the first place: their investment in workers. In our latest blog post we pinpoint three actions CEOs can take to bolster this, based on everything we’ve learned over the last year.

Be well,
Martin Whittaker

This Week in Stakeholder Capitalism

Thirty-five large institutional investors, including BlackRock and Pimco, sign onto the Paris Aligned Investment Initiative, dedicated to implementing a “Net Zero Investment Framework.”

Chipotle announces that it is tying executive pay and bonuses to ESG goals.

Exxon, after pressure from activist investors, is investing in carbon capture technology.

IBM released new research on women achieving leadership positions. Key takeaway: There are fewer women in the pipeline to fill executive roles now than just two years ago.

Mastercard issues a $600 million sustainability bond.


What’s Happening at JUST

JUST’s living wage analysis was featured on NBC’s The Amber Ruffin show in a segment about economic anxiety. We couldn’t agree more that investing in workers is not a zero-sum game where customers or shareholders lose. Growing the pie helps everyone, and companies that invest in their workers outperform their peers. You can watch our late-night debut here, and take a look at our analysis referenced here.

JUST’s Alison Omens was featured in Bloomberg Equality’s latest update of its data visualization tracking S&P 100 actions in response to the Black Lives Matter movement: “This is a significant step forward in measuring diversity within companies,” said Omens, chief strategy officer at JUST Capital, which has been pressuring companies to release such data. “Disclosure in the first step in advancing racial equity.”

And if you haven’t already, please read the powerful, “Billionaires Profit During Pandemic While Masses Suffer,” penned by JUST Board member, Peter Georgescu in Forbes.

The Forum

“Jane [Fraser] and I were both working moms. A lot of limitations women put on themselves are self-imposed. I struggled with saying I have to leave [to care for children] while I’d have no problem saying I have to leave for another meeting.”

“It doesn’t take a scientist to notice our clients are affected by changes in climate. …What’s important to our investors is important to us. Ultimately, they own our company. And they are speaking pretty loudly.”

  • Jon Weiss, CEO of corporate and investment banking at Wells Fargo, to CNN Business, regarding the bank’s new commitment to net zero emissions by 2050

“Nothing can erase how tough the last year was, but eradicating the pandemic and strengthening the U.S. economic recovery can help us turn the page. For that to happen, it’s important that as many people as possible get vaccinated when eligible and continue safety practices.”

Must-Reads of the Week

The Department of Labor announced this week that it will not enforce rules enacted by the Trump administration that put restrictions on ESG investing in retirement accounts.

The Wall Street Journal explains why more ESG shareholder proposals could reach ballots under new SEC leadership, which has signaled more support for ESG-oriented finance.

Harvard Business Review offers three important principles to help speed up the adoption of ESGprinciples across corporate America.

The New York Times reveals that when Amazon raised wages in a region, other companies followed suit, improving hourly wages for many more workers.

The Urban Institute published a comprehensive study of credits scores across the U.S., by demographic group, over the last year to explore how the pandemic and the economic response influenced credit health and overall financial health.

In the wake of nearly a million parents leaving their jobs in 2020 due to childcare issues, Axiostakes a look at the future of workplace family benefits and how they must adapt.

Chart of the Week

Our latest Chart of the Week asks if companies that act more ethically outperform their competitors that don’t.


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