Nearly a week after Georgia’s Governor, Brian Kemp, signed into law an overhaul of the state’s voting system, CEOs of some of America’s largest corporations have begun to voice their opposition to what they say is restrictive legislation that makes it harder for Americans to vote.
The corporate response, muted at first, grew in volume after 72 Black executives – including JUST 100 leaders Kenneth Frazier and Kenneth Chenault – called on companies on Tuesday to weigh in on Georgia’s new legislation, along with other voting bills that have popped up around the country. By Wednesday, the CEOs of Atlanta-based Delta and Coca-Cola responded to critics calling the bill a deliberate attempt to curb Black Georgians’ access to voting.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian called it “unacceptable” and unaligned with Delta’s values, and said that “the entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie” around mass voter fraud – a statement that has brought him into conflict with Kemp, who denies the criticisms. Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey used similar language, and said that the legislation needed to be “remedied.” Executives from Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, Apple, Home Depot, and others, as well as the Business Roundtable, also released statements with varying levels of specificity around the Georgia bill, mainly sticking to supporting access to voting as a concept. It remains to be seen whether these companies will face boycotts, as some reports have suggested, either by the Georgia bill’s supporters, or even by its opponents, who criticize them for not doing enough.
Our polling suggests that 57% of Americans believe companies can have a significant impact by advocating to roll back laws that have restricted voting rights for groups disproportionately affected, including Black Americans. And in our most recent survey – fielded in collaboration with our partners at The Harris Poll – we found that 95% of Black Americans agree that it’s important for large companies to promote racial equity and 80% think companies can do more to help achieve racial equity in America.
This issue isn’t going away. Democracy, equity, and the protection of basic rights and freedoms are central tenets of a just economy and a just society. We will be tracking it closely.
This Week in Stakeholder Capitalism
Accenture rewards its employees with an additional week of pay as a thanks for their hard work throughout COVID-19.
Chipotle discloses its pay bands and salaries by job title with a transparent and accessible visualization.
Chobani provides vaccines for its employees at the factories where they work.
Citigroup’s new CEO initiates “Zoom-free Fridays” and hybrid work weeks in a drive to reset work-life balance.
Darden Restaurants commits to providing a $10 minimum wage, as well as more than $17 million in bonuses.
J.P. Morgan Chase unveils a plan to hire 300 more Black and Latino advisors by 2025 as part of its $30 billion commitment to advance racial equality.
What’s Happening at JUST
Martin wrote an editorial for Envestnet on stakeholder capitalism and shareholder activism, and was quoted alongside investment luminaries Larry Fink and Robert Eccles on what advisors need to know about sustainable investing in 2021.
The New York Times shines a light on the anxiety shared by retail and fast-food workers in states like Mississippi and Texas, which have rolled back statewide mask mandates. As we show in our recent workplace health and safety survey – which was highlighted in HR Drive this week – now is the time to double down on safety measures to protect workers.
Our Worker Financial Wellness Initiative partner, Zeynep Ton of the Good Jobs Institute, pens a must-read Op-Ed in Politico describing why it’s critically important to start measuring how well companies treat their workers, especially when it comes to pay.
“This impacts all Americans, but we also need to acknowledge the history of voting rights for African-Americans. And as African-American executives in corporate America, what we were saying is we want corporate America to understand that, and we want them to work with us.”
- Kenneth Chenault, Former CEO of American Express, on why he and dozens of other Black executives are banding together to push back on Georgia’s restrictive new voting laws.
“As African-American business executives, we don’t have the luxury of being bystanders to injustice. We don’t have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines when these kinds of injustices are happening all around us.”
- Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck, on why he is working with Kenneth Chenault to push back on Georgia’s new voting laws.
“Since the bill’s inception, Delta joined other major Atlanta corporations to work closely with elected officials from both parties to try and remove some of the most egregious measures from the bill. We had some success in eliminating the most suppressive tactics…but I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.”
- Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta, on the company’s reaction to the final Georgia voting rights bill.
Must-Reads of the Week
Fortune Analytics took a look into how Gen Z feels about capitalism vs. socialism. The results aren’t quite the shock we’ve seen elsewhere: 57% of Gen Z still has a positive view of capitalism, but 58% also view socialism positively.
Insider released New York Comptroller data showing that if the minimum wage had increased over the years at the same pace as Wall Street bonuses (which have increased 1,217% since 1985), the national minimum wage would be $44 dollars an hour. Fast Company revealed that billionaires are $1.3 trillion richer since the start of the pandemic.
Despite pushes for diversity, the Financial Times reports that the share of Black employees in senior U.S. finance roles has actually fallen over the last decade.
Arjuna Capital released their latest “Racial and Gender Pay Scorecard” showing that half of the 51 U.S. companies evaluated received an F.
The Financial Times makes a plea for companies to start including information about their workers in ESG disclosures. In their words, “The corporate world seems more eager to talk about its efforts to protect the planet than its staff who have to live on it.”
Chart of the Week
This week’s chart comes from ESG research provider Robeco, and highlights how investment strategies for insurance companies, pension funds, private banks, advisory firms, endowments and foundations, and several other financial institutions are rapidly realigning to account for climate change.