The JUST Report: CEOs Face Tough Choices Ahead on Stakeholder Leadership

(Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Companies seeking to do right by their stakeholders will have their mettle tested in the weeks and months to come.

Consider wages. Polling featured on CNBC indicates that inflation has pushed the number of Americans living paycheck to paycheck to 58%. Harris Poll research showed similar results. Rising consumer debt (as people charge more to the credit card) will only exacerbate economic vulnerability and widen wealth gaps. Protecting worker financial wellness will not be easy.   

SCOTUS’ reversal of Roe v. Wade is another key area. Many companies are making it clear where they sit on covering travel and other costs for employees seeking abortions in states where bans have or will come into effect. We’re tracking company announcements here and interviewed experts to help provide guidance here. Tough questions remain, however, on how abortion coverage intersects with paid family leave, childcare support, and other benefits (Patagonia is one of the few connecting the dots), and how employee privacy policies might be affected. 

Companies also have to contend with the intensifying backlash against “woke” capitalism, sustainability, and ESG. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is the latest to get caught in the crossfire. We track corporate stakeholder leadership closely, and have not yet seen a drop off – MicrosoftFordWalmart, and HPE all made major announcements in the last few weeks, on issues ranging from lifting wages, adding jobs, tying executive compensation to ESG performance, and salary transparency – although it may be too early to tell. Certainly the potential for political retaliation is real, as we’ve seen with Disney in Florida and Citi’s experience on abortion policy in Texas. The SCOTUS ruling on EPA authority this week may now extend that further into the climate arena.

Both Andrew Ross Sorkin in NYT’s DealBook and Gillian Tett in the Financial Times drew attention to CEO silence on the January 6th hearings, citing a fear and fatigue among the business community in addressing today’s complex societal and political challenges. Will that now start to affect other areas? 

Be well,
Martin Whittaker

This Week in Stakeholder Capitalism 

American Airlines raises the pay of pilots at regional carriers to as much as $90 per hour. 

CVS, Walmart, and Rite Aid limit sales of Plan B after a surge in demand. 

Tesla lays off 200 workers from its autopilot team in California.

United signs a deal to increase pilot pay to deal with a hiring shortage. 

Walmart raises the wages of its pharmacists to an average of above $20 an hour.

What’s Happening at JUST 

In the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned, we spoke to experts for insights on how corporations should prepare to respond and also started a corporate response tracker, which we will continue to update as companies announce plans and benefits to support employee reproductive care as well as other notable actions. 

Because the loss of federal abortion protection comes at a precarious time for women in the workplace, it is worth revisiting some of our earlier work on gender equity issues including polling from April on what Americans want companies to prioritize, what leadership looks like today on paid parental leave policies, the stalled progress on gender pay equity, as well as the companies leading the way on six critical equity issues.

The Forum

(Aspen Ideas Festival)

“Only 20% of our employees are in the office 3 days a week or more. I don’t think it’ll ever cross 60, so I think we’ve learned a new normal.”

“And what makes political issues doubly difficult for the C-suite to deal with is that their own employees are often also politically polarised. The CEO of one big company recently observed, in private, that his company had initially planned to make an immediate strong statement about the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling — but backed away when a staff poll showed that attitudes were more split on the issue than top managers had realised.”

“You’ve got to think about the benefits that today’s products provide while you’re working on the costs that come along with them — and ignoring the benefits and focusing purely on reducing the cost means society as a whole will pay a high price…you have to look at what happens when people don’t have the energy they need to support their current standards of living. It plays such a fundamental role. You can’t ignore that part of the equation. You’ve got to look at the whole and try to address both of those, and I think any policy or position taken that completely ignores the benefits that today’s global energy system provides is going to be short-lived.”

Must-Reads of the Week

Fortune’s raceAhead discusses why the end of Roe v. Wade is an economic, diversity, and workplace equity issue.

Quartz looks at why, despite the flurry of company healthcare expansions, there are many issues with Americans now having to rely on their jobs for abortion access.

Insider looks at the potential talent crunch coming for companies with offices in states with abortion trigger laws, debating if these employers will struggle to hire and retain women in their workforces.

CNBC lists the five best and worst states for women-owned businesses in America. 

Fortune reveals that the C-suite wants to get in on the “Great Resignation”– 70% of execs are considering quitting their jobs for one that better supports their well-being.

Vice examines how the task of shifting America to solar power is done with grueling, low-paid labor. 

Chart of the Week 

This chart comes from The Daily Capital, and shows the fears that Americans have around inflation and some of the most common tactics they’re using to try and offset increased prices.​​​​​​

Get to Know JUST 

Hubert Joly
Former Chairman and CEO, Best Buy
JUST Capital Board Member

Hubert Joly is a JUST Capital Board member, a senior lecturer at the Harvard Business School and the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Best Buy. He also serves on the Board of Johnson & Johnson and Ralph Lauren Corporation, and is a member of the International Advisory Board of HEC Paris.

Hubert is the author of the national bestseller, The Heart of Business, which helps guide corporate leaders in placing purpose and humanity at the forefront of capitalism. The Heart of Business  was recently featured on a Forbes’ list of Corporate Social Impact Books To Take To The Beach.

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