GBA Tries on the JUST Label, and It’s Just Right

Equity is officially #trending. Like its buzzy conceptual sisters (ahem: eco-friendly), equity has found its way into mainstream corporate communications, marking the newest iteration of responsible reporting. This verbal over-saturation has the same impact as an overstocked grocery shelf.  When every product claims to be “natural” or “healthy,” you stop paying attention and just grab the Cocoa Puffs. The solution? Actually look at the ingredients. And the JUST program does exactly that.

Equity Scrabble Tiles Credit: Pixabay

After spending a year eflecting on our external impact (shameless strategic plan plug!), GBA is taking a moment to calibrate how we do business. And what better way than to test the newest disclosure label on the market?  So we’re going to share a bit about what we learned and how we have adopted the label to fit our organization.

In the world of sustainability certifications, International Living Future’s JUST label is a relative newcomer. Returning to our supermarket metaphor, think of it as a nutrition label for companies with social justice at their core. It solidifies all of the unknown components and prominently quantifies them for all to compare. Beyond assessing the pillars of Diversity and Equity, the JUST label also examines Safety, Worker Benefits, Local Benefits, and Stewardship. The trick, of course, is how these categories are actually attained. The label breaks each section down with standardized parameters. Each indicator is scored on three levels, or stars, with three stars as the highest rating. A three-star Diversity rating for JUST means that the organization has a workforce that only deviated 10% from the current state census data on Caucasian and non-Caucasian demographics, with those that may not as closely represent the ethnic make-up of their communities scoring lower. Under Equity, the label outlines how family-friendly a company is by breaking down the number of weeks of maternity, paternity, and parental leave, with the highest rating on the label requiring a minimum of 24 weeks of employment-protected paid maternity leave, four weeks paternity, and 12 weeks parental leave. The Worker Benefits section includes a written worker happiness policy that reports happiness survey results and the percent of healthcare benefits that an organization pays, with a three-star rating requiring 100% of comprehensive premiums paid.

But the benefits shouldn’t stop with employees. Companies are also rated on their community contributions, requiring the applicant to specify where the owner, senior manager, or leadership lives in relation to the business location, in addition to the percent of external goods or services that are locally or regionally sourced. Three-star ratings for these sections mean that a minimum of 90% of the leadership team lives within 50 miles of work, and has bought a minimum of 20% of its goods and services from independent, locally owned and operated businesses that are not part of a national chain (among other factors).

For our part, the JUST process has provided a pause in our day-to-day planning, allowing us to make our core values tangible through daily efforts. As a nonprofit whose work directly impacts our community, GBA holds Community + Equity as vital absolutes. The label made us think about extending our commitment even further by collaboratively and/or individually volunteering up to 16 hours of paid time off per year. In a similar way, the process has catalyzed conversations about how to best advocate for a living wage and encouraged animal welfare through a policy specifying our preference for caterers that source animal products from producers with humane practices.

JUST is more than a label. It puts standards on values that organizations claim to support – holding us accountable to the people and places we seek to serve. Most importantly, JUST makes transparency an easy-to-digest visual. We hope to complete the process in April 2018, when we will be excited to finally unveil our label and further our vision of making every building and community sustainable so every person can thrive.

To learn more about the JUST label, join us as we partner with ILFI’s Living Product Hub to present Cultivating an Equitable and JUST Workplace on April 3.  

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