The JUST Report: How the Midterms Might Affect Corporate Stakeholder Leadership

(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

I’ve spent much of the week talking to business leaders about what Tuesday’s election results could mean for corporate stakeholder leadership. The answer – like the outcome of a few key races – is not yet clear, although with the balance of power in the House and the Senate certain to be evenly distributed it’s unlikely there’ll be any fundamental shifts in company strategy required.   

The general sense is that if a thin Republican political majority does materialize as expected in the House, hearings on the anti-ESG agenda are likely and CEOs would be summoned to testify. The business case for stakeholder leadership will therefore come under the spotlight – and perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Our research shows the case is pretty clear. A divided Congress also means CEOs will continue to be more cautious of making public statements on divisive issues, and may even embolden some to oppose ESG regulation. On climate, support for domestic fossil fuel production will increase, although a lack of governing majority means that “the policy status quo (on clean energy) remains fundamentally intact for the next two years,” as Goldman Sachs notes. Efforts to regulate ESG disclosure may come under closer scrutiny.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway, however, is that voters on both sides are concerned mostly about core inflation and economic issues. This year’s Americans’ Views on Business Survey, out this week, supports this view, along with our 2022 Issues Survey that focused on kitchen table issues like fair wages and good jobs. It is the most powerful bridge there is, and one where business can really lead by example. Suzanne P. Clark, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, put it this way in a statement on the election results: “It has never been more important for elected officials to address our nation’s challenges by bridging divides and forging durable solutions – just like business leaders across this country do every day.”

For companies the best approach for now would therefore seem to stay focused on the thing that we know really matters: supporting their workers’ economic well-being. 

Be well,
Martin Whittaker

This Week in Stakeholder Capitalism 

Home Depot workers voted against forming its first store-wide labor union in Philadelphia. 

Macy’s plans to invest $30 million into minority-owned businesses over the next five years. 

Meta lays off 11,000 workers, or nearly 13% of its staff, and will extend its hiring freeze into Q1 2023.

Salesforce lays off hundreds of employees on Monday after demand lightens in some countries and industries.

Stripe lets go of 14% of its staff, but is praised by HR professionals for its humane approach, especially compared to other companies like Twitter.

What’s Happening at JUST

This week we released our in-depth 2022 Americans’ Views on Business Survey Report, which provides unique and critically important insights into how everyday Americans think about business today, and when viewed in the context of our previous seven years of polling – how it has shifted over time. For instance, perceptions on whether capitalism is working for the average American plummeted 10 percentage points this year, with a stark difference in demographics. Peter Vanham at Fortune covered the report this week in the new Impact Report newsletter

Martin joined Leslie Norton and John Hale from Morningstar on Twitter Spaces to discuss the election results and what they mean for ESG, as well as his thoughts on COP27. (The conversation starts at 4:40 in the recording.)

The data on the impact of human capital management is paltry. That’s why we’ve teamed up with the Ford Foundation and have opened up a request for grant proposals focused on advancing human capital management research and accessibility. Help us improve our collective understanding of how companies manage and support their workforces, and how it impacts their bottom line. Submit your proposal now through December 9!


The Forum


This is about driving those four constituents [customers, employees, shareholders, and the larger community] in a way that aligns capitalism to what society needs from us. So that people see the value of capitalism.”

“With the talent wars so strong, we’ve needed to find other good avenues for recruiting folks. And guess what? We already have that with our veterans pipeline. They have great transferable skills, plus they bring additional skills of leadership, flexibility, dedication and all the other intangibles that veterans bring. So in 2021 and 2022, we’re up almost 400% in veteran hiring, versus 2020 and earlier years.

“Government targets, supporting policies and transition plans can provide clarity, predictability and the competitive landscape to encourage more businesses to take action and to make transition-aligned investments.” 

Must-Reads of the Week

Joe Nocera explores in NYT DealBook what the midterms results could mean for business, and the Financial Times describes how U.S. companies are preparing for a potential wave of congressional hearings to investigate businesses’ environmental and social positions.

Al Gore and David Blood of Generation Investment Management pen an editorial in the Wall Street Journal explaining why ESG investing is consistent with fiduciary duty, and Leslie Nortonat Morningstar builds a strong case for why ESG and sustainable investing won’t be stopped and will survive the current demonization and backlash. 

Axios reports that to the extent that layoffs are underway, it’s currently largely contained to one sector – tech. Fortune and leadership consultant Scott Monty take a closer look at what Twitter(and others) could learn from how Stripe handled their layoffs. 

Gizmondo reports on Microsoft’s push to create more climate-smart workers, finding that at most companies, “60% of sustainability team members joined without expertise in the field.” 

The Wall Street Journal creates a compendium of all of its ESG coverage over the last several years. 

Forbes counts down the Best Employers for Veterans. 


Chart of the Week 

With U.S. midterm elections dominating the news cycle, we’re showcasing one of the many charts from our 2022 Americans’ Views on Business Survey Report, which shows that even across political affiliation, Americans are more aligned than we may think when it comes to how they want companies to be supporting their workers. Explore the insights here. 

Get to Know JUST


Team JUST Capital had a blast running the New York City Marathon and raising $35k ($10k over our goal!) to create a more JUST economy. Here are some pictures from the day – and feel free to check out our Team JUST Capital fundraising page if you still want to donate.

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