‘Business!’ cried the Ghost. ‘Mankind was my business’”
For me, the festive period is a time for family and celebration, but also a time for reflection. A moment to take stock – of our lives, our careers, our hopes and dreams. One thing I’ll be thinking about a lot is where we are at JUST Capital, and the state of our mission. Capitalism, it seems to me, is undergoing a transformation, not unlike Charles Dickens’s famed Christmas creation, Ebenezer Scrooge. The question is whether its future will be different from its present and its past. This was Dickens’ intention of course – to influence the national discourse on poverty and inequality by examining the true spirit of humanity. “A Christmas Carol” went viral – first published on December 19, 1843, it had sold out by Christmas Eve. It resonated with audiences and captured an essential ethos of the time. In that sense, and perhaps even to that scale, we hope to emulate its outsized impact.
In a way, our Rankings of America’s Most JUST Companies are a stocktake of sorts on how companies are doing on the defining characteristics of just business behavior today. They capture the reality of how companies are taking action on key stakeholder issues. Unlike Dickens’ novella, they are not a morality tale. They’re all about business. And to us, they represent the start of the conversation, not the end.
Our Rankings drive the kind of programmatic work with companies – such as our Worker Financial Wellness Initiative including Chipotle, Verizon, PayPal, and Prudential – that advances positive outcomes for thousands of employees in multiple industries (this video series tells the human stories behind the data). They help us set up innovative initiatives such as our Corporate Care Network, which is advancing the well-being of workers and demonstrating the long-term value of increasing access to care benefits (we announced it at the annual Global Citizen Festival in April). They also pave the way for critical direct work with companies, of which there is no better example than the workshop we hosted in October in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation and PayPal at the Bellagio Center. Here, we brought together executives from global corporations collectively employing almost five million American workers to engage in peer learning and develop tangible action plans that benefit workers.
The stories behind the data are also becoming increasingly critical to our work. It’s why the conversations we had with TIAA’s Chief Information Officer on AI, with HPE’s leadership on paid care benefits, and Bank of America’s CHRO on human capital management and worker pay are so important. Connecting directly with business leaders – as we did in Atlanta with our Board member Roosevelt Giles, at the NEST Summit in New York City during Climate Week, and at the New York Stock Exchange to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the JUST ETF – is also becoming ever more important.
You’ll be hearing more about JUST’s own transformation in 2024 very soon, but for now, suffice to say that as we approach our 10-year anniversary, it is clear that JUST business leadership – that creates value for all stakeholders and gives more people access to a better future – is expected and needed more than ever. We’ve elevated key internal leaders, namely Alison Omens to President and Tolu Lawrence to our first-ever Chief Impact Officer. And thanks to our partnerships with Empower Media and CNBC, you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more about us from January on.
If you’d like to support our essential work, please hit the donate button below and know that everyone at JUST is grateful. I’m going to take a break from my usual correspondence next week and return with an exciting update on what to expect from JUST Capital in 2024.
Meantime, Seasons Greetings, and Happy Holidays to you all!
IN-DEPTH CONVERSATIONS FROM 2023
JUST Capital brought together many industry leading executives, experts, and business changemakers over this past year. Here’s a look at some highlights:
- Most recently, JUST spoke with Sheri Bronstein, the CHRO of Bank of America and dove deep into the investments and policies that made the bank the number-one company for Workers this year. A must-read for anyone interested in how to shape best-in-class workforce policies.
- Early in the year, we spoke with Alex Heath, head of U.S. sustainability at Edelman, for a closer look at how companies were navigating the growing anti-ESG movement and accusations of “greenhushing.” This conversation has only continued to gain relevance over the year.
- Paid parental leave became a forefront issue this year in much of our research, and two of our best interviews came from executives at companies leading the way. The first was a conversation with Samanntha DuBridge, HPE’s Vice President of Global Benefits, Culture, & Engagement, to learn how HPE implemented its leading paid parental leave policy and the resulting impact on workers and the enterprise as a whole. The second was our sit-down with Dr. David Stark, Morgan Stanley’s Chief Medical Officer and Global Head of Benefits, Analytics, and Technology Strategy, to learn why the company expanded its paid parental leave benefits to 16 weeks for all caregivers.
- This summer, we spoke with Maria Colacurcio, CEO of Syndio, a software software tech company that helps Fortune 500 companies like Salesforce, Walmart, American Airlines, General Mills, and others advance policies promoting pay and career equity, and fair pay and promotion. A must-read for any company looking at its own pay equity efforts.
A LOOK BACK AT SOME OF OUR FAVORITE EVENTS
JUST Capital sparked many engaging conversations this year. Here are several highlights:
In March top corporate, investment, and sustainability leaders gathered for the 8th JUST Leadership Summit – a place to celebrate corporate leadership and spotlight action from investors and American companies to help build a more just economy. We discussed the broad state of play with Deloitte, why employee stock ownership is a winning strategy with KKR, how JUST jobs build better companies with Two Sigma, and recognized the achievements of this year’s JUST 100, the leaders topping our 2023 Rankings of America’s Most JUST Companies.
In April, Tolu Lawrence joined Global Citizen NOW to announce the creation of the Corporate Care Network, which connects and supports companies committed to advancing the well-being of workers through access to and awareness of inclusive care benefits, like paid leave, flexible work, and child care support.
In June, we celebrated the five-year anniversary of the JUST ETF at NYSE. The celebration included “The Value of Investing in Just Business,” a conversation featuring Priscilla Sims Brown, CEO of Amalgamated Bank, the financial institution self-described as “America’s socially responsible bank”, as well as Roy Swan, Director of Mission Investments at the Ford Foundation.
Back in September, Martin led a panel at The Nest Summit with three executives making real headway on environmental issues at Ecolab, Trane, and Workday. What does it actually take to drive major environmental action within a company or industry? What moves a company from making public commitments to executing scalable plans? Watch the full discussion here.
In November, Martin joined the New York Times’ DealBook Summit, to discuss the U.S. economy, stating: “We need more people to believe American capitalism is working for them, not against them. With politics bereft of long-term vision and serving only to divide, the private sector must lead. An economy in which companies compete by creating value for all their stakeholders is a powerful uniting force.”
IN-DEPTH READS FROM THIS YEAR
Paying a fair, living wage was once again the No.1 issue for the American public when it came to just business behavior. We created our Living Wage Explainer to help explain the concept and why businesses should use it, and released a series of videos with our Worker Financial Wellness Initiative highlighting how investing in wages and career development dramatically impacts workers.
On a similar note, we released our annual list of the Top 10 Companies that Treat Employees the Best, providing business leaders insight into best practices on supporting their employees. Indeed, paid parental leave and pay equity both rose to the forefront of our research this year. The Top 4 Companies Leading for Women in 2023 and the Top Six Companies Leading on Paid Parental Leave in 2023 both highlighted companies implementing policies that help uplift working women and mothers.
ESG investing continued to face pushback on the national stage. Amid much debate, we gathered insights from focus groups with the American public and rounded up our five key takeaways for companies and investors to lead through increasingly difficult conversations.
Lastly, our yearly coverage of America’s 36 Industry Leaders on Environmental Performance in 2023 is a perfect snapshot of the progress being made across industries.