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Our Advice for Pursuing a Just Label

March 12th, 2024 | 7 min. read

Our Advice for Pursuing a Just Label

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Overseen by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), Just is a third-party platform for measuring an organization’s commitment to equity and social justice. The voluntary program allows organizations to transparently disclose their operations, how they treat employees, and their financial and community investments with a simple, easy-to-understand label. 

At Neumann Monson, we received our first Just Label in 2020. Participating in the program helped us notice our blind spots and make operational improvements. When we reapplied in 2022, we increased our rankings in several categories. 

We understand how the Just program can benefit an organization and encourage others to participate. If your organization is considering a Just Label, this article will discuss the application process and how you can prepare. 

Why Pursue a Just Label? 

A Just Label provides many benefits. First, it can help your organization identify blind spots and opportunities for operational changes. The label measures several factors, including: 

  • Gender and ethnic diversity 
  • Pay scale equity 
  • Healthcare benefits and family leave 
  • Retirement provisions 
  • Charitable donations and volunteering 
  • Purchasing practices 

A third-party assessment of these factors can inform conversations with your employees, board, or shareholders. All Just Labels are publicly available on the ILFI’s website, giving you the chance to compare your organization to others and assess your strengths and weaknesses. 

Second, a Just Label can be a powerful marketing and recruitment tool. It demonstrates your organization’s commitment to your employees and community, helping you attract top talent and form partnerships with like-minded clients. 

We decided to pursue our Just Label in 2020. During a year marked by social unrest and change, we wanted to take concrete steps toward strengthening our culture and embodying the change we wanted to see.  

For us, the Just program was about accountability. It transparently outlined our policies and encouraged us to “walk the walk.” 

Participating in the program also set us up for success when helping the Stanley Center for Peace and Security pursue a Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification. On an LBC project, at least two team members need Just Labels—whether it’s the architect and the client, the architect and the contractor, or another combination. 

Another five team members must complete a Just self-assessment. Although this requirement does not result in a Just Label, it gives organizations a quick overview of their operations. The intent is for organizations participating in the LBC to take the time to evaluate their policies and practices. 

Applying for a Just Label 

Applying for a Just Label is a straightforward process, but it requires some data gathering. In your submission, you will need to provide information related to your organization’s demographics, including gender and ethnic diversity. 

You will also need to provide salary and benefits information, including healthcare plans, retirement provisions, and family/medical leave, as well as information related to supply and service purchasing. It helps to include your Human Resources department in this process to ensure the information is accurate and updated. 

A Just Label also measures employee engagement and inclusion. You should be prepared to survey your staff and include the results in your application. 

After submitting, the ILFI will review your application and tally your scores. Typically, it takes one to two months to receive your label. 

Advice for Pursuing a Label 

When pursuing a Just Label, there are a couple of routes you can take. First, you can collect and submit your materials without making operational changes beforehand. This route will give your team a better understanding of your current practices. 

Another route is to evaluate your policies and make changes before submitting. The self-assessment can help you notice areas of improvement before you begin the application process and inform conversations with your team. 

The route you take is up to you and your team. While we applied for the label without making policy changes our first time, other organizations may want to use the application process as an opportunity to reevaluate their practices. 

Before applying, we recommend creating written policies for each Just Label category and incorporating them into your employee handbook. Written policies are the first step within Just’s point system. It helps to develop these policies alongside the application and use the language featured within the scorecard. 

After receiving your label, we recommend sharing it internally and externally. Posting it to your website and social media is a great way to demonstrate your organization’s commitment to transparency, your employees, and your community.

Sharing your label can also encourage others to apply. Like all ILFI programs, the Just program seeks to make a larger impact. Everyone benefits from organizations evaluating their policies and practices, and discussing the program can facilitate positive change within your industry or community.   

Participate in the Just Program 

The Just program has been foundational to our firm’s ongoing evolution. An objective, third-party evaluation of our operations has helped us notice opportunities for growth and make concrete policy changes. 

After receiving our first Just Label, we have increased our ranking in several categories, including employee well-being, local communities, and equitable purchasing. 

We have offered more flexible working options for our employees and have become more diligent with our purchasing practices, with over 30% of our purchased products and services coming from locally owned businesses. We’ve also become more intentional with our hiring practices to improve gender and ethnic diversity at all levels of our organization. 

Knowing the benefits, we encourage anyone to participate in the program and apply for a label. To get started, visit the ILFI’s website and explore the Just handbook