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The JUST Report: Your Business Is Only As Good As Your Workforce

The new Target store near the University of Iowa on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 in downtown Iowa City, IA. (Justin Hayworth/AP Images for Target)

As we head into Labor Day weekend, six months into a pandemic that has caused us to revisit our assumptions about what it means to be a resilient business, we have an opportunity to consider the role of arguably the most important business stakeholders in our society – workers.

New York Times reporter Jim Tankersley told JUST in a recent interview about his new book, “The Riches of This Land,” that when we look at the so-called “Golden Era” of the middle class in the years following World War II, we have to look closely at its causes. He pointed us to a groundbreaking study that found that 40% of that postwar growth can be tied to the women of all races and the non-white men whose civil rights victories resulted in lowered barriers to good jobs and career advancement.

When we consider ways to recapture some of that Golden Era growth for the benefit of all Americans, Tankersley said, we should consider that, ”the evidence shows us there are huge advantages across the economy to companies investing in their workers, in training, and – this is the big thing – in the systemic change that allows previously oppressed groups of workers to get ahead.”

If you’ve followed our polling, fielded with The Harris Poll, you know that Americans overwhelmingly agree. We’ve compiled a feature on worker voice showing the increased urgency being placed on critical issues like worker safety, financial security, and racial equity.

Zeynep Ton, president of the Good Jobs Institute, has for years shown how neglecting these issues for the sake of cost-cutting and profit-maximization has resulted in “bad jobs” that become a cancer in business. Employees that are respected, trusted with “good jobs,” and rewarded fairly, are more motivated and productive, which in turn results in a better customer experience and, in time, better shareholder returns.

Be well,
Martin Whittaker

This Week in Stakeholder Capitalism

Amazon was monitoring private Facebook groups for its Flex drivers, Motherboard reports. The company told Motherboard it ended the practice when it deemed it didn’t meet its standards.

Boston Consulting Group announces that it will go net-zero carbon by 2030.

Ford plans for a future with increased remote work after coronavirus.

Levi’s decides to make paid sick leave permanent for every employee.

McDonald’s is sued by former Black franchise owners for alleged racial discrimination.

Old NavyNordstroms, and Tory Burch will give employees a paid day off to volunteer as poll workers in this year’s election.

What’s Happening at JUST

In a new TED Talk, JUST board member Abigail Disney reimagines a world where CEOs have a moral obligation to every human being who works for them. “Whether they fill out the spreadsheets or change the bedsheets” every worker deserves respect, dignity, and a living wage. Also, board member Dan Hesse is featured in “What makes a great leader?” podcast interview with Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger.

Triple Pundit highlights our analysis of the Business Roundtable’s progress towards stakeholder capitalism, and Martin is featured in an Agenda Week feature asking directors if the  stakeholder pledge is “just a PR move?” (behind paywall).

Must-Reads of the Week

Nick Hanauer discusses the future of labor with “How Employers Rule Our Lives” author Elizabeth Anderson on Pitchfork Economics. Hanauer spoke to us earlier in the year about how the coronavirus crisis is further proof shareholder primacy is a “scam.”

With schools starting up across the U.S., Axios and The Brookings Institute take a look at the immense costs of closing schools, while The Century Foundation explores the thorny issue of making sure those who already are falling behind get a good education no matter what.

Fast Company highlights companies that are creating new caregiver policies to help parents struggling to deal with school closures and work.

ESG continues to come under fire from the U.S. government. Bloomberg chronicles a new DOL proposal that would eliminate ESG considerations from 401(k)s, and the pushback it’s receiving from some of the nation’s largest asset managersPensions & Investments details another new DOL rule attempting to narrow the scope of ERISA fiduciaries’ proxy voting.

Chart of the Week

This week, we revisit our Chart of the Week from earlier this summer to reevaluate how companies who fully disclose their EEO-1 reports have performed throughout the trailing three months, showing an outperformance of 22.5%.

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