The JUST Report: ‘The Only Sustainable Competitive Advantage’

(John Lamparksi/Getty Images)

To all those business leaders struggling to recover from the pandemic during a tight labor market, our latest polling of the American public found that the majority of respondents are in agreement: Companies have a critical role to play in creating a healthy economy. Fifty six percent support rolling back unemployment benefits, and the majority believes providing higher starting wages and comprehensive benefits are the key pathways for bringing talent back into the workforce.

This is why we are so proud to have announced the initial cohort of our Worker Financial Wellness Initiative, which we launched last year with PayPal, Financial Health Network, and the Good Jobs Institute. The first companies to have joined this new community of practice and perform at least one assessment of their workforce’s financial wellness are Chipotle, Chobani, Even, Prudential Financial, and Verizon, together representing over 260,000 American workers.

PayPal CEO Dan Schulman and Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box on Tuesday to explain that they see the Initiative as a means of attracting and retaining talent, which has been especially important during the country’s reopening.

“The only sustainable competitive advantage that any company has is the strength of their workforce,” Schulman said. PayPal’s experience of assessing the financial health of its lowest paid workers, discovering how many were struggling, and investing accordingly has resulted in higher levels of engagement, an increase in the company’s Net Promoter Score and retention rate, and a decrease in training costs. It’s a model others can emulate.

Niccol agreed. “We’ve increased wages for all of our employees to the tune of close to 20%,” he said. “We tie that in with education, reimbursement as well as debt free degrees and we’ve seen a dramatic change in people’s retention.”

Through the Initiative, JUST and our partners are working closely with companies to discover solutions tailored to their needs. It’s a coalition that couldn’t be more timely, and we would love to have you join us.

Be well,
Martin Whittaker

This Week in Stakeholder Capitalism

Amazon, Pepsi, Apple, Google, and Starbucks are some of the 150 companies calling on Congress to expand the Voting Rights Act.

BlackRock will raise all employees’ starting pay by 8% starting in September.

GE sets a goal to eliminate emissions from jet engine and gas power by 2050.

With an investment from the parent company, many McDonald’s franchisees are stepping up to raise wages, give workers paid time off, help cover tuition costs, and offer child and elderly care.

Synchrony raises starting wages to $20 an hour.

JUST Events

The last year devastated women’s participation in the American workforce, with 2.2 million exiting the labor market in the first nine months of the pandemic alone. And while recent job numbers are showing signs of recovery, women and people of color are missing out on recent wage and job growth.

Please join us Wednesday, July 28 at 12PM ET for a fireside chat with two leading women in business and philanthropy, Jean Case and Mellody Hobson, to discuss how we can address the needs of women and workers of color in a post-pandemic workforce. Sign up to watch here.

What’s Happening at JUST

Pensions & Investments highlighted JUST’s latest insights on board diversity trends from our Corporate Racial Equity Tracker in their feature about the increasing role investors have in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in corporate America.

Alison shared our gender pay gap analysis with Agenda Week (behind paywall) in its deep dive into inequities at different rungs of the corporate ladder. New data from Equilar shows that the C-suite pay gap is related to a promotion gap lower on the corporate ladder and to close it, boards need to focus on developing equity at all levels of the workforce.

A week ago we spoke with Engine No. 1 and Betterment on the launch of Engine No. 1’s $VOTE ETF, which aims to influence companies and transform ESG by bringing proxy voting to retail investors – it made its Betterment debut on Thursday. Read our highlights from the conversation, and check out the full video here.

Martin sits down with Simon Mainwaring on the Lead With We Podcast to discuss how JUST’s data insights give market participants the information they need to hold companies accountable and advance stakeholder capitalism today.

Congratulations to JUST board member Arianna Huffington and her team at Thrive, which recently raised an $80 million Series C round to accelerate their growth and impact in ending the stress and burnout epidemic.

The Forum


Financial well-being is paramount to ensuring people can work and thrive to their full potential. We can’t have conversations on shaping a more inclusive and equitable future of work without addressing the financial realities of our greatest asset and most important stakeholder — our employees.”

  • Christy Pambianchi, Executive Vice President and Chief Humans Resources Officer at Verizon, announcing on LinkedIn the company’s entrance into the Worker Financial Wellness Initiative.

At Chobani, we’ve always put our people first, and that includes strengthening the financial health of our employees and their families. We want to ensure no one is left behind as true financial wellness is more than just pay so we are taking steps to better understand our employees and their financial concerns. Chobani is proud to join the Worker Financial Wellness Initiative, providing the tools our employees need to navigate finances, improve their quality of life and achieve their dreams.

  • Hamdi Ulakaya, Founder and CEO of Chobani, announcing the company’s entrance into the Worker Financial Wellness Initiative.

For over a decade we have surveyed our employees to better understand their financial health and inform our strategy for advancing their financial resiliency. The Workers Financial Wellness Initiative offers us the opportunity to share our insights with like-minded business leaders who are investing in talent to sustain their competitiveness, improving the financial condition of their workforces, and helping to build the financial resiliency of millions of American workers.

  • Rob Falzon, Vice Chair of Prudential Financial, announcing the company’s entrance into the Worker Financial Wellness Initiative.

Must-Reads of the Week

The Wall Street Journal looks at how the pandemic affected median wages across America’s largest companies, revealing a complex story about which worker enticements were actually most effective for businesses. At the other end of the spectrum, The National Federation of Business reports that a record number of small businesses are raising wages this year.

One high-paying industry struggling to find workers? According to The Wall Street Journal, sales positions are much harder to fill at companies despite paying better than many other roles.

Axios features a new Board Ready report showing that companies with more diverse boards experienced less downside and more revenue growth throughout the pandemic.

MSCI identifies companies that are lagging behind on climate change disclosure, and Cerescompares companies’ commitments to climate change and where their policy advocacy efforts may be undermining their own interests.

Chart of the Week

JUST Capital’s highest weighted issue in our 2021 Rankings of America’s Most JUST Companies, per our polling of the American public, is whether or not a company pays a fair, livable wage. Our chart this week looks at the sector breakdown of the companies that score highest on the living wage metric. Within the top quintile of living wage scorers, we find that Technology and Utilities companies comprise the majority of those that excel at covering local needs for food, housing, medical care, and adjusting for cost of living increases.


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