A nonprofit set up by a hedge fund legend is tackling on the No.1 question for corporate America

Ford engineersFordFord engineers (pictured above) work at the most ‘just’ automotive company, according to Just Capital’s rankings.

Corporate America is out of touch.

A majority of Americans believe that corporations are headed in the wrong direction, and that business leaders do not understand the challenges they face.

The biggest question in corporate America right now is how to change that. For some, increased regulation is the answer, while others propose deregulation. There’s the potential for public pressure, through marches, protests, and media attention.

Just Capital, a nonprofit organisation set up by legendary hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones, is taking a different tack: using data to educate Americans on the companies that are “just.”

“It’s exciting because we’re trying to focus on outcomes of non-traditional performance criteria,” says Just Capital CEO Martin Whittaker. “But to do good, you’ve got to harness the forces of capitalism. You cannot always rely on philanthropy.”

Just Capital’s declared mission is to “improve company performance on the issues Americans care about most.” The nonprofit pursues that mission through the publishing of a “JUST 100 List,” which ranks the best performing companies in thirty-two different industries based on the American public’s priorities. Some of the industry leaders were Microsoft in software, Silicon Valley Bank in banking, and Southwest in transportation.

“I view markets as a force for good. Steering capital to improve companies’ behaviour is the best way to improve society,” says Whittaker. “I believe capital will flow to corporations that are more just, ultimately leading to a balanced business world that takes into account human needs that are so often neglected today.”

The organisation also partners with other groups to develop projects such as the “Data Challenge for America,” a project being launched with The Data Incubator aimed at finding new ways “data science can help create a more just economy that better serves the broader best interests of the country.”

But defining exactly what is “just” is no easy task. Just Capital’s stance is that Americans should be the ones who define the term, so they conduct an annual, multi-phase survey with NORC at the University of Chicago and other specialty polling and survey organisations to determine what corporate issues are most relevant to Americans.

The survey encompasses more than 50,000 participants. As a measuring stick, consider that the Bureau of Labour Statistics’ monthly unemployment figures are based on a survey of 60,000 households.

According to the nonprofit’s research, workers’ pay and benefits was a leading issue that participants cared most about. Worker treatment and other workplace related issues polled generally polled ahead of other issues like environmental impact.

“We want to explore all angles. Leave no stone unturned. Capture an accurate reflection of the American sentiment,” says Whittaker.

According to Whittaker, a sample size that large allows the data to accurately reflect the preferences of several different demographics including retirees, millennials, and both low and high income, and left and right leaning individuals. Whittaker also believes this type of data is of interest to the groups that are central to their mission.

That’s in part because Americans do want to do business with “just companies.” The majority of survey participants across all income levels expressed interest in buying from, working for, or investing in companies based on their “justness.”

“We know companies want data on this, both on themselves and on their competition, and they want to get better,” says Whittaker. “At the end of the day, that’s whose behaviour we are trying to influence. We’re trying to create a race to the top.”

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