Being ‘just’ to workers a priority
Americans prioritize one thing above all others when evaluating whether a company is a good corporate citizen: how they treat their workers.
That’s according to a survey released this past week of 10,000 Americans by Just Capital, a nonprofit co-founded by hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones II that also assesses and ranks companies for how “just” they are in their business practices.
More Americans ranked workers above all other issues or stakeholders — things like customers, products, the environment or communities — when it comes to determining a business’s behavior.
Conducted in partnership with the University of Chicago’s research institution, NORC, the survey found that 85 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Republicans believe companies don’t share enough of their success with workers.
With unemployment at a 17-year low, and at a time when “we haven’t seen corporate profits this high and with equity markets at a record high, there’s still a substantial group of working Americans who just are not benefiting from that,” said Martin Whittaker, CEO of Just Capital. “It doesn’t surprise me that workers, and how a company treats its workers, is front and center.”
The survey also could reveal a missed opportunity for companies that try to promote their social responsibility in a bid to woo consumers or employees who increasingly want to spend money with or work for companies that share their values. According to the survey, 85 percent of Americans said they would pay more for a product with “just” business practices, while 79 percent said they would take a pay cut to work at such a company.
While many companies tout their environmental practices, their volunteer efforts in local communities or their customer service, the survey offers a reminder that they should consider doing more to convincingly promote higher wages or nondiscriminatory hiring practices as a way to set themselves apart.
Too many companies, says William Lazonick, an economics professor at University of Massachusetts at Lowell, are “talking about a lot of issues that don’t cost them a lot to deal with and give them a good face. But the fundamentals of how you treat your workers are being neglected.”