Whether you are a Just leader or Just-curious, the most important part of the Just disclosure tool from the International Living Future Institute is the community of practitioners it has engaged who can share their wisdom and make everyone’s journey easier, less lonely, and more impactful.

That is why we are excited to share some of the learned experience from some local Just firms as we get ready to celebrate their accomplishments at the March 7th Just Celebration organized by the BE+ Living Future Community. Beyond these stories, we hope you will join us on the 7th for an inspired discussion with folks at all stages of the Just journey.

Advice for other organizations considering Just

Enjoy the ride (process), not the race (score).

Iterate. Achieving a socially equitable workspace requires continuous work. We have been through several rounds of Just certification, and each cycle we find new opportunities for reflection, change, and improvement. The business landscape is also quickly evolving and responding to challenges such as pandemics, economic strains, and significant and dramatic changes in workstyles and ages. It is helpful to keep evaluating, communicating, and testing our policies. The JUST Certification process is a valuable framework to keep elevating and to solicit feedback from staff to make sure we are aligned, nimble, and adaptive. Each cycle, we incorporate changes that we can handle and bookmark long term goals to work continuously towards. Being transparent about our process and intentions helps the entire team work towards our vision.  –Next Phase Studios

Be prepared to closely examine company policies and procedures with a fresh set of eyes. This is an opportunity to write and revise policies to align with the inherent ideals and beliefs of your organization. –The Green Engineer

Collaboration between different internal departments is really important and you may learn that your company has been doing some of the best practices outlined in the standard all along. –Humanscale

Lessons learned, changes made

Based on our experience, we feel that the Just certification process is a serious undertaking. We had the good fortune to have an outside consultant who helped us determine best practices for our firm and provided the necessary guidance. For other firms beginning their Just journey, our suggestion would be to either work with an outside facilitator to help keep the focus on the process, or, if using an internal resource, allocate time during the work week to be sure that the work gets done. One of the intricate parts of the process for us was determining how the firm’s aspiration goals to provide time for education and volunteering, as examples, fit within the legal employment requirements of the state of Massachusetts. We found it beneficial to have someone help “check our work” as it were to keep us compliant. –Auburndale Builders

In 2022, Humanscale launched an employee-run Local Communities Committee. This group identifies needs within the community and then executes outreach and volunteer events to alleviate those needs. The creation of this group was in part because of our participation in the Just label and its Local Communities Imperative. So far, the committee has hosted multiple litter cleanups including a now annual event along the Connecticut River, grown vegetables to be distributed within the community and collected food for a local food bank. –Humanscale

As we were already a B Corp and had a Just v1 Label, recertification for JUST was the natural next step for our organization. This pushed us to make some changes to our policies and gave us the opportunity to memorialize our commitment to social justice, equity, and employee engagement. –The Green Engineer

The internal value of participating in Just

Since receiving our Just Label in 2022, CambridgeSeven has used the Just framework to examine our values and focus on opportunities for improvement, not only to obtain a label, but as a tool of continual self-reflection. In addition to continuing to increase diversity within our office, we’ve been looking at our responsibilities beyond, including our impact through design. We’ve been digging into our process for engaging communities around our projects, working with clients to effectively identify stakeholders across our wide variety of project types, recognizing that the process for a children’s museum will look very different from a higher-ed campus or a residential development. Another significant area of focus is the selection of materials and how our decisions affect people throughout the supply chain. Working with other collaborators and organizations like Design for Freedom, we’ve reorganized our materials library to remove products at highest risk of child labor and modern slavery, and we’re working to identify and specify materials that have evaluated their supply chain for fair labor practices. –CambridgeSeven

What Just has allowed us to do within our organization is to determine whether we are meeting those ideals that we have set for ourselves. Rather than just espousing the policies and best practices we want our firm to aspire to, Just provides a realistic framework that we can measure ourselves against. Specifically, a goal of Auburndale Builders is to pay employees equitably. Our Pay-Scale Equity and Living Wage Policies, which were created with the Just framework in mind, not only codifies our commitment, but also provides tools we can use to determine that we are in good standing now and in the future. We understand that the Just certification is an on-going process and we are committed to using it as a touchstone as we grow our business. –Auburndale Builders

One of the most valuable benefits of going through the Just process for the first time is having a framework to learn from and creating a baseline for our company. Without a framework, it’s challenging to know how you’re doing as a company with regard to social justice. Social impacts aren’t as commonly reported on as something like carbon emissions so there aren’t many frameworks out there. Creating Just labels allowed us to benchmark ourselves and identify areas in which we could do better. We do not have perfect scores, but we now know where we have room for improvement. For example, we always strived to have a good impact on our local communities and were participating in volunteer activities but didn’t have a committee dedicated to identifying needs within the community and helping to alleviate those needs. Now we have a group of Sustainability Ambassadors who focus on this specifically. –Humanscale

JUST is well known in the design community and having the label sets our organization apart. It also shows our employees that we will always seek out areas of improvement when it comes to our policies and benefits. Meeting the criteria for the Just label pushes our organization to do better. We also believe JUST has broader name recognition with the AEC community than BCorp per se. In addition, clients, institutions and organization that draft RFPs in the AEC industry could consider highlighting JUST and BCorp in their selection criteria, or giving preference to firms that are either JUST or BCorp certified. –The Green Engineer

We found that we were already meeting many of the Just indicators but didn’t have official policy, frameworks, or metrics to document, articulate or evaluate our business and operational behaviors. Getting our policies and processes documented has allowed our employees to be seen, engage, and share consensus on the operations and matters that impact them. The Just framework and certification process also provides resources to conduct surveys, identify opportunities, and craft programs. We do not have a full-time HR staff, so the framework allows any of our regular staff to be involved in policy changes, input on operations, and even administration of surveys. It empowers our team members to define and impact the direction of the firm. Our size also allows us to be nimble. Based on feedback outcomes during our certification process we were able to readily implement ideas, suggestions, and requests, including adding an additional feedback channel. Our pursuit of Just has made our values clear to the team, encouraged conversation, and collected thoughtful feedback. –Next Phase Studios

We are incredibly grateful for our Just Celebration sponsors who have generously shared these insights from their Just journey. We hope their experiences can clarify, inform, and inspire your journey, that together we can raise the bar for social justice, equity, diversity, impact, and belonging across the industry.

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