The JUST Report: Special Forces


This week I had the privilege of co-hosting, along with Chief Strategy Officer Alison Omens, an amazing discussion with Case Foundation CEO and National Geographic chair Jean Case and Ariel Investments co-CEO and Starbucks chair Mellody Hobson on how companies can do better providing opportunities for women and people of color. It’s a topic that is more important now than ever before.

The conversation was compelling, and packed full of insights, personal stories, and real-life lessons. I urge you to see it. We’ve collected highlights from the talk, and the full video is also available.

One issue we discussed was how so many companies are fearful of being overly transparent about their progress on DEI (and other issues) until they have a good story to tell. It’s understandable, given how polarized the world is these days, but it’s also holding back progress. The criticism leveled at Target this week after it released disappointing new diversity numbers – they reported a 0.7% decline in the number of Black employees over the last year after making boosting minority representation a priority – is a case in point. Target’s leadership on human capital issues has been exemplary, and falling short a little – and being transparent about it – should be seen as part of the journey, not a sign of failure.

Jean likened this to the “progress, not perfection,” aphorism used by Olympic athletes. To Mellody, it was about the idea that leaders “have this invincibility, or this perfection, that then makes someone very, very reticent to admit that they can’t do something or pull it off.” To underscore the point, she recounted how at JPMorgan Chase (where she is a director) CEO Jamie Dimon personally got behind the issue of Black advancement within the company after seeing data on the company’s lack of progress.

Vulnerability can be a strength, for companies and people, too. Mellody shared that she’d been referred to as being “Special Forces” in dealing with these challenges, meaning that only a few can pull it off. But we like the label. Let’s all be Special Forces.

Be well,
Martin Whittaker


This Week in Stakeholder Capitalism

Activision Blizzard is being sued by the state of California after a two-year sexual harassment investigation. Over 2,000 employees signed a petition condemning the company’s response to the suit, alongside a corporate walkout at many of their offices.

Amazon is opening investigations into its cloud-computing unit after an internal petition was signed by hundreds of employees claiming the division has a culture of discrimination and harassment.

Chipotle posts its most profitable quarter since 2015 after recently raising wages for its employees.

Google requires on-campus workers to get vaccinated and delays re-opening until mid-October, joining a growing list of employers requiring vaccines, including BlackRock, Facebook, Lyft, Morgan Stanely, Netflix, and Twitter.

PayPal teams up with the Anti-Defamation League to uncover how extremist groups use financial platforms to fund activities.

Tapestry Inc., which includes the Coach and Kate Spade brands, commits to a minimum $15 an hour wage for U.S. hourly employees and establishes a new $50 million foundation to improve equity and combat climate change.

Walmart announces that it will pay 100% of college tuition and books for associates, whether they are full- or part-time.

What’s Happening at JUST

Yusuf George joined William Sisson, the Executive Director of WBCSD North America, on the Transformational Leadership podcast to discuss the 2021 CEO Blueprint for Racial Equity, including the disheartening stat that without action, it will take 95 years for Black people to be equally represented in corporate America.

HR Dive featured the new cohort of companies joining the Worker Financial Wellness Initiative, including Chipotle, Chobani, Even, Prudential Financial, and Verizon, stating: “Employers can optimize their financial wellness offerings by removing the silos between organizational leadership and HR professionals…Together, these teams can pinpoint employee needs using analytics, augment existing programs and promote new initiatives.”

The Forum

(Best Buy)

“We weren’t handed a magical playbook on how to lead through the pandemic…we heard two things loud and clear: our customers said ‘I feel unsafe,’ and our employees said ‘I am incredibly worried about my personal health and safety.’ And so in 48 hours we moved our entire business curbside. We had no perfect playbook, we just said, we think this is the right thing to do for the business, but need you to help us figure out how to do this well. And that’s when the communication loop really started in earnest.”

“We are creating a path of opportunity for our associates to grow their careers at Walmart, so they can continue to build better lives for themselves and their families. This investment is another way we can support our associates to pursue their passion and purpose while removing the barriers that too often keep adult working learners from obtaining degrees.”

“Our message to investee companies is clear: The climate crisis must not and cannot be ignored. It impacts the very nature of major industries in which we invest, and as such must be high on the agenda of all companies.”

  • Jenn-Hui Tan, Global Head of Stewardship and Sustainable Investing at Fidelity International, on the firm’s announcement that beginning next year it will vote against management that it deems not overseeing sufficient climate policies.

Must-Reads of the Week

This past week marked a disheartening anniversary: It’s been 12 years since the last federal minimum wage increase, the longest period in U.S. history without one. EPI reports after adjusting for inflation that the minimum wage is worth 21% less today.

The latest ADP Research Institute Workforce Vitality Report (WVR) shows that many job switchers received an upgrade in pay: Since June 2020, U.S. wage growth among job switchers increased 5.8%.

The Washington Post reports that the states that cut unemployment benefits did not see overall hiring growth, but did see a shift in the types of people who were working, with teen employment slowing.

The Wall Street Journal highlights people who are hearing back from companies months (or years!) after they originally applied for a job, with employers going through back catalogs of applications to solve worker shortfalls.

Reuters takes a look at how U.S. manufacturers are getting squeezed during the economic recovery, with the price of materials and labor increasing simultaneously.

The Biden Administration proposes a new Buy American rule, which would increase the threshold for how much of a product must be made in the U.S. before being labeled “Made in America” from 55% to 75%, and allows preferential pricing to U.S. supply chains.

Big climate news this week: TPG Rise Climate announces $5.4 billion in subscriptions to its inaugural climate fund, with most of the money being given by leading pension funds and 20 of the largest U.S. companies.

Chart of the Week

This chart comes from our recent analysis of board diversity. Of the 100 largest U.S. employers, a majority have less than 30 non-white directors on their boards. See why that blocks innovation here.

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