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The JUST Report: What Percentage of Americans Think Corporate Political Donations Are Harmful to Democracy?

Business and politics collided this past week. We’re monitoring the situation closely – as noted below, dozens of high profile corporations, like Charles Schwab and Verizon, have pulled or paused political funding, and tech companies like Twitter and YouTube purged themselves of accounts planning further political violence. As Harvard Business School’s Rebecca Henderson says, it appears as though corporate America has realized it can’t take democracy for granted.

But business also seems to have an opportunity to bring the country together. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reports that business is the only trusted institution right now, and our own polling this week shows that majorities of both Republicans and Democrats agree that the federal government and the private sector should work together to address society’s most pressing issues.

We also wanted to see what the public thought of this wave of corporate responses to the attack on the Capitol, and our survey is the most thorough assessment yet. Yes, there were expected partisan divides on whether companies should stop donating to congresspeople who challenged the vote certification (Republicans’ 45% to Democrats’ 74% in favor) and on Big Tech’s “deplatforming” (Republicans’ 42% to Democrats’ 82% in favor).  But you may be surprised to learn that the majority of Republicans and Democrats are actually in agreement about pulling back corporate spending in politics in general.

How does this all tie back to stakeholder capitalism? Simple. It’s about giving people – all people, without bias or exclusion – a stake in the future. Good jobs. Better wages and benefits. Healthy communities. These are the hopes and dreams that unite us. If politics can’t get the job done, business can and must step up.

Be well,
Martin

This Week in Stakeholder Capitalism

We’ve been tracking corporate responses to the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6. Below are some of the highlights, but you can read the whole list here.

JUST 100 leaders including American Express, Amazon, AT&T, Best Buy, Comcast, Mastercard, Verizon, and Walmart are among two dozen companies that are suspending contributions to any members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of the presidential election. Dozens more suspended all political giving, and Hallmark took the bold move to ask for refunds.

Amazon, Apple, and Google moved swiftly to deplatform Parler since it refused to “identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others.”

Stripe announces it will no longer process payments for Trump’s campaign website due to violating policies against inciting violence.

Twitter permanently suspended @realDonaldTrump “due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” and removed over 70,000 accounts related to the QAnon conspiracy theory, as it moves to distance itself from violent content.

JUST Events

 

On Jan. 28, JUST Capital’s Yusuf George joins Judy Samuelson, the Founder and Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, for a conversation on how intangibles, such as reputation and trust, are beginning to have a greater impact on business value – particularly during a time as tumultuous as this. Sign up for the event here.

On Wednesday, we spoke with Brian Lamb, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at JPMorgan Chase, on the company’s $30 billion commitment to advancing racial equity in communities it serves, and its enhanced efforts to recruit and advance Black talent, and how the events of the last week are influencing the bank’s actions. Watch the replay here.

What’s Happening at JUST

The Financial Times argues that now is the time for CFOs to invest in its workers, and Martin was quoted talking about the shift from “shareholder return to thinking about total stakeholder return.”

Reset Work spoke with PayPal about its work to boost employees’ financial wellness, highlighting our partnership to build a movement and encourage other companies to perform a worker financial wellness assessment.

As we kick off a new year, we revisit some of our most popular features from 2020 including our top 10 features overall as well as our top five ESG-focused reports and interviews.

This Week’s Forum
We asked some influential voices in business what they think about corporate responses to the Capitol attack, as well as the overall role of a business leader today.

 

Rebecca Henderson – Professor, Harvard Business School, and author of “Reimagining Capitalism”

“Two things are going on. The first is that some number of companies are waking up to the idea that democracy really is fundamental to the well-being of our society as a whole and to their own well-being in particular. They are horrified about what happened and are keen that it not happen again. The second is that there are also a number of companies who were willing to support Trump, despite his populist and authoritarian proclivities, because it suited them – he offered real benefits in terms of tax reductions and regulatory rollbacks that had immediate, tangible value. Both are now trying to distance themselves from what happened.

“My guess is that the second will largely ‘pause’ or ‘evaluate’ their giving, pulling back from all politicians and parties, and will seamlessly resume what they have been doing in around six months. This allows them to say that they don’t approve of what’s happened, but also to keep them in the good graces of both parties – and to continue to fund and lobby whom they please, which often has real tangible benefits. I very much hope that at least some of the first group…will take this as a moment to not only significantly rethink their political giving but also to rethink what they can do – alone and collectively – to strengthen our system.”

 

Daniella Ballou-Aares, Cofounder and CEO of the Leadership Now Project

“In the short term, the reaction to Jan. 6 sends a clear message that business leaders care about democracy and believe they have an active role in protecting it; this has been confirmed by Leadership Now’s polling. The next step? These reactions could create a broader movement toward aligning political engagement with companies’ stated social impact and sustainability interests, from climate change to racial equity. This alignment would create the basis for the dramatic and collective actions we need to solve the challenges ahead.”

 

Bennett Freeman, Principal at Bennett Freeman Associates and Former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

“These steps … are only the beginning of a new corporate responsibility in post-Trump America. That responsibility is to safeguard not only democratic elections, but American democracy itself, by disclosing and limiting all political contributions and at the same time supporting fundamental campaign finance reform that takes corporate money out of our democracy altogether.”

 

Brian Lamb, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at JPMorgan Chase

“We’re not going to become a political entity – that’s not what we’re here to do. I think we’re very clear on where we stand… I see myself as a business leader with a responsibility to be conscious of the social, racial, economic, and political events that could impact our agenda and ultimately impact our stakeholders. We approach those things from a business perspective. And what I mean by business is not the lack of empathy or the things that you may initially think of with business, what I mean are the business disciplines that ultimately allow us to put very clear objectives in place – initiatives that ladder up into the priorities that we’ve agreed upon as a firm that we think will drive the right change.”

 

Must-Reads of the Week

*Image courtesy of Edelman*

Edelman releases its 2021 Trust Barometer. The big takeaway? Business has a big opportunity to lead in this moment. It is “not only the most trusted institution among the four studied, but it is also the only trusted institution…and the only institution seen as both ethical and competent.”

Here’s a shocking stat: Women lost 156K jobs last month while men gained 16K. Fortune explores the implications of this here.

USA Today reports that nearly 30% of employees would quit their company if they had to return to the office after the pandemic.

Chart of the Week

In our latest ESG Chart of the Week we take a look at our 2021 ranked companies that had controversies across all of our various stakeholders to show that, unsurprisingly, companies with fewer controversies slightly outperform those with more.

We’re trying some new things with the newsletter and would love to hear what you think. Please send feedback to our editorial director, Rich Feloni, at rfeloni@justcapital.com.

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