Ten years ago, if you’d asked the average young job seeker what they wanted most in a company, you would have heard terms like “competitive salary”, “good benefits” and “opportunity to move up the ladder.” You’d have been less likely to hear phrases such as “corporate responsibility”, “diversity initiatives” and “gender pay equity”. It’s not that such details didn’t matter in the past, it’s just that they weren’t top priority the way they are for today’s millennial and Gen Z workforce.
“It's hard to say exactly when we got here — to this point where employees want companies to have their values align with theirs, but we've been getting here for some time,” says Vicki Salemi, a career expert at Monster. “Knowing what one’s company stands for and how they’re making a difference in the world is much more [important] today than it used to be.”
Steve Pemberton, Chief Human Resources Officer at Workhuman adds that “this push is not coming out of thin air; it's a result of a broader societal conversation that is unfolding about issues of equity, access and opportunity. We’re at a major inflection point where businesses have collectively raised their hands and said ‘We’re not just here to raise a profit but to benefit society in a country that has become so fractured that we cannot seem to agree on anything.’”
Indeed, businesses are stepping up to the plate, eager to show both current and prospective employees that they can “not just talk the talk, but walk the walk,” Salemi says. But don’t just take the corporations’ word for it; take Just Capital’s. The independent nonprofit regularly reviews all available data on public companies to give Americans a comprehensive sense of how corporations are contributing to a “more just” society.
A just company does right not only by its workers, but by its customers, community, shareholders and the environment
On Tuesday, Just Capital published its 2020 annual ranking of 1,000 of the largest publicly traded companies in the U.S. The nonprofit measured the companies across five stakeholder groups: how the business treats its workers; how it treats its customers; how it treats its communities; how it treats the environment, and finally, how it treats its shareholders.
“Beneath each of these [five groups] is a series of more specific issues,” Martin Whittaker, CEO of Just Capital explains, adding that the ranking considers matters such as fair pay, job creation, adherence to environmental regulations, and protection of consumer privacy to name but a few sub-issues. “It's quite complex, but all 1,000 companies are ranked in the same way, regardless of industry. Companies do not pay to be ranked and [our findings] are free to everyone. Our goal is to help people make informed, empowered choices.”
Top companies like Microsoft set a benchmark for fairness
In Just Capital’s latest ranking, Microsoft came it at number one, followed by Nvidia, Apple, and Intel, respectively.
“Microsoft is the most just company in America because they do the most [in these categories],” says Whittaker. This isn’t just a win for Microsoft; it’s a win for the people because now, they can potentially use Microsoft as a benchmark.
“You could go into a job interview and say, ‘Hey [Microsoft] is doing this; how do you compare?’ It’s empowering to know how companies stack up.”
Being ‘just’ isn’t just nice — it’s profitable
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It’s also empowering for the companies that are holding themselves accountable, or to go back to Salemi’s phrase, “walking the walk”.
“Employers can't just be the biggest; they have to be a lot more to make employees and customers happy, which will then make shareholders happy,” says Stephanie Ruhle, MSNBC anchor and host of BETTER Business. “The companies at the top of Just Capital’s list are forward-thinking and understanding that yes, pay is important, but it’s just one component of a job. You also need to feel good about the job, and it needs to work for your life and your values. When you work for a company that [invests] in making the world better and smarter, you’ll care about that company and you’ll do better in your job.”
Microsoft and other top companies should celebrate making the top of Just Capital’s list, but they also shouldn’t get complacent. As both Ruhle and Pemberton point out, they — along with every other public facing company — are under constant review by Just Capital. Whittaker notes that last year, Facebook was #35 on its annual rankings; this year it slumped to #149 — a descent that Whittaker notes is largely due to the “major controversies around customer data privacy”.