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Poll: Workers Emerging as Major Focal Point of ESG Interest

By:
Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Jan 13, 2022
GettyImages-897664288 Construction Contractor Project Building Worker

A recent poll has found that when Americans think about environmental, social and governance-related (ESG) issues, they consider labor rights and work conditions as the top area of concern, rather than climate change, CNBC reported. The poll, conducted by nonprofit Just Capital, resulted in a ranking of companies' sustainability records, known as the 2022 JUST 100 list of America’s top ESG companies. The poll found that worker issues were weighted at nearly 40 percent, compared to 10 percent for climate. A fair, living wage was the biggest issue overall, with "communities" the second highest issue at 20 percent. A spokesperson for Just Capital said that this eye toward workers has been a growing trend over the last few years. 

This focus on labor has meant that organizations  have had to rethink their ranking metrics. For example, while Uber Technologies rose to the number 41 spot, Just Capital declined to certify the company, as the vast majority of those working for it are not actually employees and so were not included in the firm's workforce data. Just Capital placed other gig-economy companies, such as Lyft and Doordash, under review for the same reason. This is not because of the use of contingent workers by itself. Google's parent company, Alphabet, also has a vast contingent workforce but, at the same time, it disclosed extremely granular data about these workers, allowing the company to claim the number one spot on the list this year. 

Yet Alphabet seems to be the exception rather than the rule. CNBC reported that data on workers is actually quite scarce. Only one of the 100 large companies in the ranking discloses worker data for its contractors and vendors, and for hourly workers, only six companies do.

This focus on workers has been evident over the past few years, as labor increasingly flexes its muscles. In just the past few months alone, the country has seen Teamsters striking in Washington, nurses striking in Massachusetts, grocery workers striking in Colorado, and ski patrol workers striking in Utah. Meanwhile, new unions have recently been forming in places that have typically been difficult for labor to establish beachheads, such as Starbucks, while Amazon workers are preparing for a second effort to unionize soon.