In recent years, the spotlight has shone brightly on corporate America, and the public has increasingly demanded accountability and responsibility from the country’s largest corporations. At the forefront of this movement is JUST Capital, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting a fairer, more just economy. And leading the charge is Martin Whittaker, its CEO.
Martin Whittaker is a man on a mission. He is passionate about corporate responsibility and has made it his life’s work to ensure that companies prioritize their social and environmental responsibilities. As CEO of JUST Capital, Whittaker has brought together investors, business leaders, and the public to create a movement that is transforming corporate America.
We sat down last month on The Caring Economy to discuss Whittaker’s career and his work at JUST Capital.
Whittaker is a recognized leader with over twenty-five years’ experience at the intersection of global business, finance, philanthropy, and social and environmental impact. As the founding CEO of JUST Capital, the leading nonprofit in the stakeholder capitalism arena, he is responsible for the overall leadership of the organization. He is also a senior advisor to Edelman, a co-founder and Board member of the CREO family office investment syndicate, a board member of H2 Clipper, a member of the Forbes Finance Council and Forbes Contributor, a member of Harvard Business School’s Impact Weighted Accounts Initiative Advisory Council, and a Commissioner to the World Business Council on Sustainable Development’s inequality initiative.
Whittaker was recently named to the 2020 NACD Directorship 100 – the annual list of the most influential people in the boardroom and on corporate governance – and to Business Insider’s 2020 List of 100 People Transforming Business. Previously, he served as a board member of the Carbon Disclosure Project U.S., and as a member of the G7 Impact Taskforce’s Working Group on Impact Transparency and Integrity, an Advisory Council Member of PayPal’s Employee Financial Wellness Program, and a member of Robin Hood Foundation’s Taskforce on Racial Justice.
The Lead Up
Whittaker shares his career narrative with us during the interview. Noting that prior to JUST Capital, 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. He has also served as Director of MissionPoint Capital Partners, a family office-led private equity firm; Senior Vice President at Swiss Re, where he was part of the Environmental and Commodity Markets team; and Managing Director at Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, Inc., a pioneering sustainable investment advisory and ESG research firm.
Whittaker has also served as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto, provided expert testimony on environmental markets to the U.S. Senate, consulted to multiple major corporations on sustainability- and impact-related matters, and been an invited speaker and guest lecturer at business schools including Yale, Columbia, Harvard and MIT, He is a published writer and has presented to audiences at, among others, the World Economic Forum, the White House, CNBC, The New York Times, Bloomberg, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Economist, and the BBC.
Evolution of JUST Capital
Under Whittaker’s leadership, JUST Capital has become one of the most influential organizations in the world of corporate responsibility. It has built an extensive database of information on the largest publicly traded companies in the United States, analyzing their performance on a range of issues, including worker pay and treatment, community engagement, and environmental impact.
The organization has also worked closely with investors to encourage them to prioritize companies that score well on these metrics. This approach has paid off, with a growing number of investors recognizing the importance of social and environmental responsibility in their investment decisions.
In addition to its work with investors, Whittaker, and his team at JUST Capital have also been successful in engaging the public in their mission. The organization has conducted extensive research to understand what the American public considers to be important issues for companies to address. Its surveys have shown that the public values fair pay, good benefits, and environmentally responsible practices.
Based on this research, JUST Capital has developed a ranking system that evaluates companies on their performance in these areas. The ranking system, known as the JUST 100, is published annually and has become a highly respected benchmark for corporate responsibility in the United States.
Whittaker has been instrumental in driving JUST Capital’s success. He is a charismatic and visionary leader who has brought together investors, business leaders, and the public in a common cause. His passion and energy have inspired others to join the movement for corporate responsibility, and his dedication to the cause has helped to make JUST Capital one of the most influential organizations in the field.
This Year’s Ranking
In January, JUST Capital, along with media partner CNBC, announced its 2023 Rankings of America’s Most JUST Companies, including the marquee JUST 100. The Rankings are the only comprehensive evaluation of how the nation’s largest corporations perform on the Issues that matter most to Americans today, including creating jobs in the U.S., paying a fair, living wage, acting with integrity at the leadership level, supporting workforce retention and training, protecting worker health and safety, providing benefits and work-life balance, protecting customer privacy, minimizing pollution, and more.
Out of the 951 analyzed companies, Bank of America is America’s Most JUST Company for the first time, having risen steadily in the Rankings over the past five years, from #104 in 2018 to #71 in 2020 to #5 in 2022, to the #1 spot in the 2023 Rankings. Bank of America’s standout leadership on Workers Issues – particularly its efforts to pay all employees a fair, living wage – especially drive this high performance, as well as its work to offer sustainable financing products, eliminate barriers for hiring, and prioritize board diversity and independence. This year, NVIDIA, Microsoft, Accenture, Truist Financial, Verizon, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Apple, Intel, and JPMorgan Chase round out the top 10.
The methodology behind JUST Capital’s annual ranking of America’s top 100 companies involves a rigorous analysis of publicly available data on the 1000 largest US public companies. The analysis includes gathering data on the 29 issues identified as most important to Americans, and assigning each company a JUST Score, which ranges from 0 to 100. The companies are then ranked based on their JUST Score.
A More JUST Future
Whittaker’s vision for the future is one in which companies are judged not just on their financial performance, but on their social and environmental impact as well. He believes that by working together, investors, business leaders, and the public can create a more just and equitable economy that benefits everyone.
As with all guests on The Caring Economy, Martin Whittakerexemplifies how leaders with purpose-driven lives and careers are shaping our contemporary lives for the better.