The JUST Report: Defining Days for Democracy and Capitalism

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Russia’s attack on Ukraine is sending shockwaves around the world and global financial markets reeling. The prospect of any sort of near-term resolution appears bleak and I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that if the situation continues to escalate, Europe and the world stand on the precipice of a conflagration the likes of which we haven’t seen since World War II. 

History teaches us that large-scale conflicts don’t just reconstitute the global geopolitical order, they send social and economic systems into chaos. Much like the pandemic, they upend lives in both collective and uniquely personal ways. They remind us of what really matters.

For business, the immediate impacts are manifold – supply chain and operational disruptions, shocks to energy and commodity prices, bond market upheaval, the need to safeguard staff and physical assets, dealing with sanctions, supporting refugees and displaced peoples, and much more. 

But as my colleague Alison Omens wrote on LinkedIn, it’s also worth reflecting on some deeper questions for business. What does it mean for companies to support countries committed to democracy? What is the role of corporations in upholding the core tenets of a healthy free market society and the rule of law? How, if at all, does ESG or stakeholder capitalism play into political conflict, war, and its causes and aftermath?

If you believe in capitalism, and democracy, these are defining days. They put the recent spat about ESG and sustainability accounting standards, important though they are, into full context. They are forcing us to confront, question, and sometimes challenge our most deeply held beliefs. And we are reminded, yet again, how fragile our world really is.

Be well, 

This Week in Stakeholder Capitalism

Apple shareholders are being urged to reject CEO Tim Cook’s pay package of $99 million.

Google has created a $100 million fund to develop effective job retraining and skill replacement programs for low-income Americans. 

Hundreds of Salesforce employees sign a letter opposing the company’s future NFT plans. 

What’s Happening at JUST 

As Black History Month comes to a close, we worked with CNBC to assess which companies stand out for their efforts to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace today. Tune in to The News with Shepard Smith on Friday, February 25 at 7PM ET to find out which companies are leading on five key progress metrics focused on improving representation, including pay equity, workforce diversity disclosures, DEI targets, and board diversity. 

JUST Board member, Dan Hesse, recently joined a CEO Roundtable to discuss gender parity and ESG with Women Business Collaborative. Read a summary on Forbes describing where C-suite leaders and boards need to focus to drive a more equitable recovery, and watch the full talk here

Peruse the latest Purpose 360 eBook by Carol Cone featuring insights from 26 visionaries discussing the power of purpose, including an interview with Martin on how to build a more just economy in America. 

The Forum

“How does this connect to the trends around threats to democracy and the rule of law, and what will the role of business leaders be in this generational and defining conflict? Lots of questions, no answers. But my general feeling is that those of us who believe in capitalism and a healthy market should see this conflict, and what may come, as something we can’t sit on the sidelines for.”

“It’s not a moral or ethical stance. It is reading the signals in the market. We’re undergoing the transition to net zero and need to be responding assertively if we are going to capture the opportunity.”

“We have a new bunch of emperors, and they’re the people who vote the shares in the index funds. I think the world of Larry Fink, but I’m not sure I want him to be my emperor.” 

Must-Reads of the Week

The Wall Street Journal shows how pay raises for white collar workers are beginning to outpacethose of low-wage workers. 

This Washington Post editorial explains through a series of insightful charts by Penn Wharton Budget Model why low-wage earners are still struggling to get by even though their pay has risen in the last year. 

Axios explores the emerging blame game to identify an inflation scapegoat: is it stimulus spending, corporate greed, or something else? CBS News pegs increasing fuel prices and corporate profits – not wages – as core inputs to blame for inflation. 

Our friends at The Harris Poll report on how rising anti-union stances can affect brand sentiment. One key finding: 42% of Americans said they’re less likely to shop with a company that’s trying to stop employees from unionizing.

The New York Times reports that the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Omidyar are dispersing over $40 million to support the establishment of multidisciplinary academic centers dedicated to reimagining the relationships between free markets, governments, and people.

Chart of the Week 

This chart comes from our latest analysis exploring just how long it takes to find and collect corporate human capital data in absence of any common disclosure standards or rules. Dig into the details.

Have questions about our research and rankings?  We want to hear from you!