The JUST Report: Larry Fink Turns Up The Heat


I wrote in the opener of our 2020 Year In Review, released yesterday, that “Stakeholder capitalism has gone beyond being merely an idea.” Boy did this week prove that out.

First, Larry Fink issued his annual letter, calling for CEOs to commit to publicly releasing plans for achieving net zero emissions by 2050. In its letter to clients, BlackRock broke down key components of its own net zero plan and explained why it matters for investors. Mastercard also announced its commitment to become net zero by 2050 and GM, once the world’s largest auto manufacturer, pledged to phase out gas- and diesel-powered vehicles globally by 2035, and reach carbon neutrality by 2040.

Sixty-one companies are now committed to the World Economic Forum’s Stakeholder Capitalism Metricsincluding JUST 100 leaders Accenture, Bank of America, HP, Mastercard, PayPal, and Salesforce – and WEF also announced a coalition of 48 organizations committing to racial justice. BlackRock is also now asking CEOs to include a thorough DEI section in their sustainability reports. Oh, and the World Benchmarking Alliance published its list of the 2,000 companies most influential in working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Investor and regulatory pressures on stakeholder performance are also mounting. President Biden’s acting SEC chair has been a vocal supporter of mandatory ESG reporting and greater disclosure on this, and diversity (especially for boards) is widely expected. This ties in directly with Glass Lewis’ recent guidance on proxy voting. Biden’s DOL will also review the rulelimiting the consideration of ESG factors in retirement plans regulated under ERISA.

And finally, ExxonMobil responded to Engine No.1’s pro-climate activism campaign by stating they will evaluate the latter’s proposed board changes. Since the start of the campaign, XOM has made a string of new pledges including further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to support the goals of the Paris Agreement. We are, as they say, monitoring the situation closely.

Be well,

Martin Whittaker

This Week in Stakeholder Capitalism

Anheuser-Busch forgoes its Super Bowl ad to redirect advertising spending toward COVID-19 vaccine awareness.

Citigroup, one of the few companies reporting openly on its gender wage gap, announces its latest, modest progress of shrinking the gap to 26% from 27% last year.

Facebook and Amazon top all other U.S. companies in federal lobbying expenditures last year, according to the WSJ.

Google is joining the ranks of Disney, Amazon, and Starbucks in converting many of its facilities into COVID-19 vaccination centers to help speed up distribution.

Sephora releases an in-depth report aiming to quantify racial bias across the retail industry.

Target is giving 375K frontline workers a $500 bonus thanks to a strong earnings quarter.

What’s Happening at JUST

This week, we published our 2020 Year in Review, a deep dive into our analysis, insights, and impact over the past year – one that demonstrated just how urgent and necessary the shift to stakeholder capitalism is. Additionally, we look back over our top polling insights from 2020, our best ESG analysis, and the most-read pieces of content of the year.

Paul Polman shares three actions U.S. CEOs must take to uphold democracy, quoting our recent survey data insight that “54% of people (both Republican and Democrat) now trust CEOs over politicians to take action to protect and uphold democracy.”

Forbes features our unique ESG datasets and our JUST U.S. Large Cap Diversified (JULCD) Index in its guide to ESG investing. On the topic of ESG, SmartTrust UIT President and CIO Kevin Mahn was interviewed on about the company’s collaboration with JUST on its latest sustainable impact investing trust, and Morningstar highlighted our COVID-19 Corporate Response Tracker when talking about how the “social” aspect of ESG is coming to the forefront.

And finally, as we consider the biggest stories of last year and their implications for 2021, JUST’s Sam Schrager collaborated with researchers at the machine learning company Converseon for an analysis of how the public perceived the actions of 11 major corporations during the early days of the pandemic.

The Forum

“[Y]our future customers are going to look like this. Your future employee pool is going to look like this, and so it’s in your interest to have them creating wealth and growing, and be ready for the next generation of workers you have to hire.”
Charles Phillips, founder of the DEI initiative OneTen, in an episode of Fortune’s “Leadership Next”

“We are really at the threshold of a major change in business philosophy where we define capital not just as financial capital, but as human capital or social capital as national capital.”
WEF founder Klaus Schwab, in an interview with Business Insider

“Over two-thirds of all philanthropic dollars donated to the pandemic came from the corporate sector. Purposeful companies realized, yet again, they can fill societal, governmental, and economic gaps in times of crisis.”
Brittany Hill, founder and CEO of Accelerist, in Purpose Collaborative’s trend predictions for 2021

​​​Must-Reads of the Week

Lots of great momentum building for wage increases, including The Wall Street Journal’s How Higher Wages Can Increase Profits, Bloomberg’s Biden Should Target a Living Wage, Not a Minimum One, and Unilever’s bold commitment to ensure that “every worker in our supply chain gets a living wage” featured in CNN.

Joe Nocera argues in Bloomberg that Biden has a once-in-a-generation chance to fix capitalism.

The New York Times DealBook builds the business case for boardroom diversity.

New research from NYU’s Tensie Whelan in Harvard Business Review shows why boards are stymying ESG efforts at their own peril.

PwC released a report showing that only 18% of consumers believe companies are committed to serving all citizens, vs. 68% of U.S. business leaders.

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