The Executive Order signed last Friday evening by President Trump
suspending or barring immigrants and refugees from seven
countries from entering the United States has not only sparked
protests and outcry around the country; it has provoked
widespread condemnation from the business community that reflects
their customers’ – and employees’ – outrage.
At JUST Capital, a new nonprofit research group that provides
data and rankings on how large corporations perform on issues
that matter most to the public, this comes as little surprise.
We’ve conducted interviews with 50,000 Americans over the last
two years. From these surveys we know the majority of
Americans ranks non-discrimination and diversity among the most
important determinants of a just company. Also high on the list
are issues of fair taxation, generous health benefits and
retirement planning, low political spending, good customer
treatment, worker respect compensation, and truthful advertising.
Many of the 2016 America’s Most Just Companies – the annual list
we release with Forbes – are the very companies currently making
their voices heard.
Starbucks has pledged jobs to 10,000 refugees worldwide. Google
and others have made major donations to the ACLU. The leaders of
Salesforce, Facebook, Apple, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, IBM,
Netflix, Amazon, Nike, and many others joined together in
speaking out about their disagreement with the order.
Many corporate leaders have responded with personal notes or
individual actions. Google co-founder Sergey Brin showed up at
San Francisco’s airport declaring that he too is a refugee, and
Microsoft’s Satya Nadella wrote movingly of his immigrant
In some instances, companies’ responses have had competitive
ramifications. Lyft experienced a wave of popular support for
backing the ACLU, while Uber became the target of a flash online
boycott campaign because its CEO was seen as too supportive of
President Trump and its platform was seen as insufficiently
supportive of a JFK taxi strike.
These reactions are not simple knee-jerk responses to the
Executive Order. They evidence the fact that companies have an
authentic role to play in addressing matters of pressing social,
human, and economic concern. This makes sense.
Companies are fundamentally human ecosystems. They are the
product of human interaction, ingenuity, passion, and hope. They
reflect the culture and values of the people who show up every
day to work there. They affect the lives of millions of families,
small businesses, and communities at home and around the world.
It is precisely in moments such as these that corporations should
show their human side.
As Uber can testify, doing this successfully is by no means
straightforward. There is no clear playbook. However, silence is
increasingly not an option.
At JUST Capital, our mission is rooted in the idea that shedding
light on how companies really act — in an unbiased, apolitical,
and credible way — empowers people. We do this because we know
that across demographics – age, race, political affiliation,
geographic region, and others – Americans want to work for, buy
from, and invest in companies they respect and whose values they
share. In other words, being just is good for business.
Americans want to work for, buy from, and invest in
companies they respect and whose values they share.
Our own research, like that of many others, has found that
companies that treat workers, customers and communities with
respect; that pay their people fairly; that provide for a
diverse, safe, and inclusive workplace; that are led by people
with integrity; and that operate in a way that reflects the core
values of ordinary people make a better return for investors.
The lines between corporate business interests and social action
will continue to blur, regardless of the actions of the Trump
Administration. As they do, business leaders across America and
around the world will see that their license to do business
increasingly depends on the vitality of their relationships with
Those that act on the things the American people – all people –
value most will be the ones that truly prosper.
Martin Whittaker is CEO of JUST Capital. Previously,
he was a founding partner and investment committee member at
Sonen Capital, an
impact investing firm, where he led private equity, real asset
and direct investing activities.