Every year since 2015, JUST Capital has surveyed more than 150,000 Americans to identify how they think US companies should shape their corporate behavior. Responses help form the JUST Capital rankings, which measure companies according to the interests of not only shareholders but workers, customers, communities, and the environment.
Focusing on ESG investing research, the nonprofit is dedicated to assessing companies according to their impact on a range of issues. The group also rates corporations for the effectiveness of their governance. JUST Capital’s rankings for 2022 provide compelling insights into the ESG issues most important to Americans and how some of the world’s largest companies are performing.
This year, JUST Capital’s annual public polling found that Americans believe treating workers well is the most important behavior a “just” company can adopt. “I would say the urgency or intensity has increased,” said Alison Omens, chief strategy officer at JUST Capital, told CNBC. “And people are saying with more specificity, ‘This is very important to me, as a worker, as a parent to a worker, and as a consumer, I really want to make sure companies are thinking about this differently.'”
Among other results from JUST Capital’s 2022 polling was a point of agreement among 85% of Americans—companies need to disclose more about their business practices and impact on society. Meanwhile, nine out of 10 respondents believe that it is important to have a common, standardized reporting structure for companies. An average of 87% of respondents support a requirement by the federal government for corporate disclosure on human capital and environmental impact data, ideally making it easier for those carrying out ESG investing research to compare performance across companies and industries.
Having identified which business behaviors are most and least important to respondents in defining a just company, JUST Capital then applies metrics to measure how well members of the Russell 1,000 Index—the largest publicly traded US companies—perform relative to them.
For instance, if surveys show that the public prioritizes considerate worker treatment, a company that demonstrates those values will score well according to the “worker” stakeholder. Each stakeholder-focused rank—including communities, shareholders and governance, customers, and the environment—is weighted according to the survey results and added up to create an overall score.
Claiming the overall crown in 2022 is Alphabet, parent company to Google. The company ranked number one and two within its industry for all stakeholders. Intel, Microsoft, Salesforce, Bank of America, PayPal, Apple, NVIDIA, Verizon, and Cisco Systems round out the top 10 overall ranks in that order. Conversely, Meta (formerly Facebook) plummeted from 12 to 712 overall in just a year, bottoming out at 901 for customer treatment.
Takeaways for Investors and businesses
COVID-19 has enhanced enthusiasm for stakeholder capitalism, where companies seek long-term value by accounting for the needs of their stakeholders and society at large. These changes have arrived against a background of growing concern about inequality and combat climate change—and many corporations’ records are scrutinized with fresh intensity. However, the pandemic has also challenged this approach, especially in sectors facing falling sales and tight profit margins.
The JUST Capital rankings survey shows that many corporations still have a long way to go in their efforts to make strides in ESG issues, especially when it comes to treating employees fairly. ESG investors are well-placed to push companies, governments, and regulators for greater transparency.
Just Capital leaves investors and consumers with a message: “With your voice, your purchase decisions, your investment dollars, your career choices, your leadership, you have the power to make the world a more just place.“