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The Feds Made It Clear an Equitable U.S. Economy Isn’t a Priority. Businesses Should Pick Up the Slack, Say Citizens

Words by Leon Kaye
U.S. Economy

There’s no shortage of commentary making the case that the U.S. economy isn’t working out so well for many Americans. Poll after poll suggests that Americans believe corporate America needs to focus on the needs of workers, millions of whom have confronted the devastating consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

A recent survey shows a wide gap in the percentage of Americans who believe corporations need to step up — and the number who think that is actually the current reality. According to Just Capital, over 90 percent of U.S. citizens say companies should “value all stakeholders,” while only half of them think companies actually do this.

Bottom line: Many citizens have concluded that the U.S. economy has left behind many of the country's lowest-paid workers. By a margin of 4 to 1, Americans responding to this Just Capital survey agree that large public companies have a responsibility to consider the burden their operations have on all of their stakeholders. Nevertheless, many citizens believe the stubborn Milton Friedman ethos still has a vice grip on many boardrooms: Americans are twice as likely to believe companies have a positive impact on shareholders than on the economic well-being of their lowest-paid employees — and do so by a 70 to 35 percent margin.

“To regain trust, companies should align business practice with the priorities of the American public,” said Martin Whittaker, CEO of JUST Capital, in an emailed statement to TriplePundit. “Overall the American public has been remarkably consistent over the last six years in what issues matter most. Across demographics — liberal, conservative, high-income, low-income, men, women, millennials, and boomers — Americans want companies to put workers at the heart of just business practices. It's time to move from commitments to action, and this year’s survey results provide a clear roadmap for what corporate America should prioritize to deliver on the promise of an economy that serves all Americans.”

When Just Capital asked Americans to be more specific about their concerns over the U.S. economy during this survey, challenges that weigh on workers dominate the top 10 most mentioned problems. They include a livable wage, a commitment to human rights in the supply chain, investments in workforce training, ensuring employees’ health and safety, and an offer of some level of a work-life balance for all.

Just Capital says it will announce the companies that have come close to meeting those aspirations for a fair U.S. economy next week.

The 3BL Forum starts virtually on Thursday, October 8.

Starting at Noon ET this Thursday, October 8, and for the following two Thursdays, Oct. 15 and 22, we’ll be talking about business leadership during times of crisis at this year’s 3BL Forum – Brands Taking Stands: Business Elects to Lead. Be sure to register for free here!

Image credit: Joel Muniz/Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.

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