Are you happy? It may seem like an odd question in times like these. But according to Mo Gawdat, former Chief Business Officer at Google X, and renowned happiness expert, it’s a question more and more employers should be asking of their people.
Gawdat’s journey from successful tech executive to AI authority and happiness specialist – motivated by the tragic death of his son Ali – is a fascinating one I’d urge you to check out. He writes prolifically about the science of happiness but also about the practical ways companies and organizations can go from employee satisfaction to employee engagement to employee happiness, and foster “happier, healthier, more ethical, and more innovative workplaces.”
There’s also a strong AI component at work, with Gawdat both signaling the social dangers of unregulated AI, but also seeing AI as a way to advance individual happiness.
A close cousin of happiness – optimism – is getting a lot of attention this week. “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto,” published by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, lays out a vision (presumably shared by many tech elites) for a free-market, technology-led path to a better world. For anyone pondering the future of democratic capitalism, and regardless of your ideological persuasions, it’s well worth a read.
One thing to note is that I think he either fundamentally misunderstands or misrepresents ESG and sustainability as being part of “a mass demoralization campaign” that is “anti-technology and anti-life.” That’s certainly not been my experience, nor what I witnessed at the FT Moral Money conference on ESG in New York this week, where business leadership on major societal problems was on full display.
Team JUST Capital is once again running the New York City Marathon! We have five supporters running the marathon on our behalf with the goal of raising $25,000 between them. One of those supporters is Dan Day. You can learn more about why he’s running and donate to his page here. We appreciate your support!
JUST IN THE NEWS
JUST Capital publishes our latest review of quarterly stakeholder performance. In Q3 2023, four of the five stakeholders we track delivered positive performance, and the Workers stakeholder delivered the strongest performance with a long-short spread of 7.24%. Over the longer term – from January 2018 to September 2023 – leading companies outperformed their lower-ranked peers by 56.5% as measured by JUST Overall Score.
JUST Capital Chief Information Officer Robert Marsh pens a thought-provoking post about Just AI, our latest initiative to help companies implement AI in ways that reflect Americans’ values around fairness, privacy, inclusivity, and shared prosperity.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“The idea of a clean energy transition is woefully insufficient. We have a global emergency …. The deck is stacked against a successful outcome of COP28 … We need to remove the political obstacles and opposition being put in place by the fossil fuel companies.”
- Former Vice President and climate activist Al Gore said in an interview at the FT’s Moral Money Summit this week.
“Competition today and successful performance today requires business to perform well across a range of environmental, social, and governance related issues. These issues are material to business performance, they are related to what workforces, customers, and shareholders think about value and value creation. If the market doesn’t believe that you’re a leader on DEI or climate, or whatever issue is most important to them, you’re not going to get the benefit of that. It’s a combination of action and communication. You do need both and one can’t outstrip the other.”
- JUST Capital CEO Martin Whittaker speaking on the “Defending your ESG Credibility: Protecting Your Business From Greenwashing” panel at the Moral Money Summit.
Researchers at Stanford, MIT, and Princeton release an assessment of AI developers’ transparency practices giving them a failing mean score of 37 out of 100. All of the models contained major disclosure issues, leaving critics asking questions about the merits of self-regulation. Axios has the story.
Pew Research Center has a new report out on data privacy and AI. Of Americans Pew polled, 70% say they do not trust companies to make responsible decisions about how they’ll use AI and 81% believe the data collected by companies will not be used in ways originally intended.
Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, publishes a “Techno-Optimist Manifesto” arguing that the risk of slowing AI outweighs the risk of speedy innovation. Several outlets including The New York Times, Axios, and VentureBeat discuss how his pronouncement of “enemies” to progress including “trust and safety,” “tech ethics,” “and “stakeholder capitalism” hurt his case.
A new study on healthcare and AI led by the Stanford School of Medicine found that while chatbots could help alleviate busywork for healthcare providers, they are perpetuating racist debunked medical theories.
CNBC reports that Ford is the first automaker to reach a tentative agreement with the UAW, which includes a 25% pay increase over the terms of the agreement bringing the top wage to more than $40 an hour and an increase of 68% for starting wages to over $28 an hour. The deal also features cost-of-living wage adjustments, and major gains on pensions and job security.
New York Times columnist David Leonhardt and author of the new book “Ours Was The Shining Future,” explores the ways progress for American workers has drastically slowed since the 1980s and how the idea of the American dream can be revived. One key takeaway he took from his research was the strong role labor unions have played in combating inequality.
The Financial Times highlights the difficulties companies face communicating about the Israel-Hamas War. Some have been criticized for “picking a side” while others have been called out for remaining silent. Many have made the emotional well-being of their workforce the top priority. ABC News discusses how statements from Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Google have sparked controversy.
The Washington Post reports Meta faces a lawsuit from 41 states and DC, making the case that the tech giant is harming children by programming addictive features into Instagram and Facebook. The legal action stems from a 2021 investigation on young people and mental health.
Millions of consumers may be losing access to their local pharmacy as a large number of CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens locations plan to close. Health experts worry the shift could create healthcare deserts in underserved, low-income neighborhoods. The Washington Post has the story.
Investment News shares that asset managers are ignoring anti-ESG rhetoric and pushing forward with sustainable strategies. A new report from Cerulli Associates found that no one surveyed plans on ending ESG considerations although they were more cautious around messaging.
Harvard Business Review focuses on the unsung heroes of sustainability at companies, middle management. While CEOs can set the tone, mid-level leaders are the ones propelling initiatives forward, exploring customer demand, and embedding sustainability into core processes.
Axios showcases new data from Third Way and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, underlining the likelihood job losses in the tech sector will be at the expense of women. Two thirds of the roles at risk are currently held by women without college degrees.
CHART OF THE WEEK
In our latest analysis of corporate supplier diversity data, we found that having a policy did not necessarily translate into a clear and actionable spend disclosure. Of the 892 companies in our Rankings in both 2022 and 2023: 49% had a general supplier diversity policy, but just 22% disclosed spend; 38% had a veteran supplier policy, but just 4% disclosed spend; and 28% had a local business supplier policy, but only 7% disclosed spend.