The JUST Report: Larry Fink, Marc Benioff and the Death Grip of Mistrust

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images); (Michael Cohen/Getty Images)

In BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s annual letter to CEOs, issued on Monday, he writes, of stakeholder capitalism, “It is capitalism, driven by mutually beneficial relationships between you and the employees, customers, suppliers, and communities your company relies on to prosper.” Interestingly, Fink also says that BlackRock intends to create a Center for Stakeholder Capitalism, to foster “research, dialogue, and debate.” More on that later, no doubt. 

Also released this week was the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d urge you to. It highlights a “vicious cycle of distrust around the world, fueled by government and media” that threatens the fabric of society itself. Strikingly, “My Employer” and “Business” are now both significantly more trusted than government and media, which are viewed as actively “divisive.” Edelman goes on to state, “We now see business as the stabilizing force delivering tangible action and results on society’s most critical issues.” 

We support all this. As I explained in an essay on our site, business can and should do more on our most intractable challenges – inequality, social mobility, health and wellbeing, climate change, and more – not out of some sort of political social agenda, but out of enlightened self-interest.  

Pioneers of the stakeholder movement – including Marc Benioff, CEO of JUST 100 top 10-ranked Salesforce, who was cynically profiled in “Davos Man,” a new book out this week – know this to be true. 

They know that corporate success today depends on how much value you create for all your stakeholders, not just your shareholders. And they know that the prerequisites for such value creation are engagement, accountability, transparency, and, to Edelman’s core point, rebuilding trust. 

It’s a powerful (and unifying) idea whose time has come.

Be well,
Martin Whittaker

P.S. Business leaders seeking to take concrete steps on this can turn to our collection of seven key imperatives for corporate America in 2022.


This Week in Stakeholder Capitalism

Bank of America plans to reduce overdraft fees from $35 to $10. 

CVS and Walgreens cut COVID-related paid sick leave from 10 days to five days per new CDC guidelines. 

Citi releases its third Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) report, detailing its approach to climate change and goal to be net zero by 2050. 

Delta releases a diversity, equity, and inclusion progress report. 

ExxonMobil pledges a 2050 net zero emissions goal, a sharp turnaround for a company that previously was reluctant to set a timeline, though it does not include Scope 3 goals.

According to a new study, nearly 63% of Kroger employees struggle to make enough money to pay for basic necessities each month. 

Starbucks ends its plan to require worker vaccination and testing after the Supreme Court’s ruling last week.
 

What’s Happening at JUST 

CNBC continues its JUST 100 coverage, showcasing interviews with UPS CEO Carol Tome on Squawk Box and HP CEO Enrique Lores on Closing Bell. Check out the spotlights and comprehensive microsite at CNBC.com/just100

Edelman’s latest Trust Barometer shows Americans want to see more from the business community on key societal issues. Our polling team looked back on our last year of survey insights to identify seven imperatives that Americans expect companies to lead on. The most important? Focus on action over words.

Institutional Investor features new research from FCLT Global and Wharton showing public companies that focus on multiple stakeholders are the least volatile and most lucrative bet for investors over the long term. The article cites JUST’s latest Rankings as the place to find which companies lead on a multi-stakeholder approach

Martin joins Bradley Tusk, a venture capitalist and host of the Firewall podcast, to discuss our latest Rankings and companies “competing to do good” to create more value for all stakeholders, including shareholders.
 

The Forum

“Some of the metrics that have been used over the last decades have not really captured in full, the full architecture of market power that we’re seeing and how it’s being exercised. And so for me, the key question is really how do we make sure that our tools and our frameworks and the ways that we’re enforcing the law are matching the world that we’re living in?”

“I’m softening a little. Not from him [Larry Fink], not from him. But from something Paul Tudor Jones said last week, in terms of stakeholder capitalism. Usually, I would have thought, like Milton Friedman, that if you do reputational damage, you don’t stay in business long. If you don’t take care of customers, if you don’t take care of the environment, you don’t take care of things, you’re gone, you’re done – it’s a self correcting mechanism. Then he brought up Purdue Pharma. … So I’ve been trying to figure out how you could’ve stopped Purdue. They’re out of business, but 400,000 people died from Oxycontin.”

“There is real wage inflation everywhere in the economy, everywhere. There were definitely places where I think with hindsight and with the constantly evolving environment of Covid and supply chain changes, the monetary and fiscal policy environment, what they did to savings rates…there was real pressure on wages.”


Must-Reads of the Week

The Wall Street Journal reports on what we might expect next week from the SEC, including new rules to increase transparency around executive compensation and to enhance disclosure around private equity funds, as well as proposals to reform the market for U.S. government debt. 

Pew evaluates how gender disparities widened in the U.S. workforce during the pandemic.Women who are not high school graduates left the labor force at the highest rate, 12.8%.  

CNBC reports that the U.S. unemployment rate fell for all workers except Black women in December. The jobless number for Black women jumped from 4.9% to 6.2%.

Revelio Labs asks, Do Diversity Officers Actually Lead to Diversity? The data is currently trending in the wrong direction. 

What do you do when employees are leaving your company in droves? The Wall Street Journalbreaks down how to handle the Great Resignation. The Journal also examines how inflation continues to eat away at wage gains.



Chart of the Week 

After Microsoft announced its plan to purchase Activision-Blizzard – currently beleaguered by sexual harassment lawsuits – for $70 billion this week, we took a look at how high a hill Microsoft will need to climb to bring the company up to its level across stakeholder metrics in our Rankings.

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