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How to contribute to a more transparent world through the JUST program

Sustainability By Hannah Morton, Associate Director, Sustainability – 12 May 2016

Front façade of the University of Wollongong Sustainable Buildings Research Centre


Hannah wearing suit standing in front of a plant

Hannah Morton

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Cundall recently completed the JUST Social Justice Label process for the Australian business, becoming the second company in Australia to go through the JUST program. As the leader of the team that compiled the information, I would like to share my experience of the certification process and why it is so important that other companies take part in this revealing program.

What is JUST?

The JUST™ program is a voluntary disclosure program and tool for all types and sizes of organisations. The program provides an innovative transparency platform for organisations to reveal details about their operations, including how they treat their employees and where they make financial and community investments.

What motivated us to sign up for the program?

The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) is conscious that Living Buildings, while bringing us closer to a ‘restorative’ future, can also do more. For this reason, there are a number of other projects to fill in the gaps, one of them being the JUST program. I first found out about the JUST program through my work with the Living Building Challenge (LBC) and was so captivated by the simplicity of its intentions that I started talking to my colleagues about the possibility of participating.

Cundall works hard to reduce its environmental and social impact through the One Planet Living endorsement, so looking at social justice equity through the JUST program seemed to fit well with our ethos.

The JUST Social Justice Label also puts Cundall as a front-runner for all Living Building Challenge projects, where the new requirements is that one company working on a project must be JUST labelled. Cundall is already delivering the University of Wollongong’s SBRC building which is aiming to be the first in Australia to achieve the Living Building Challenge, and was recently appointed on another project in Melbourne.

Going through the process

The JUST program requires organisations to address many aspects of their business, including reviewing policies and gathering information which we had not previously captured. This meant working with various stakeholders in the business including HR and Finance who had access to the information.

I would like to thank Viridis, the first company in Australia to go through the JUST program, for their helpful advice about the application and their approach to some of the criteria. As with every international program, some of the criteria needs to be interpreted for the local market, something Viridis had already done and were happy to help us with.

Some of our policies had to be updated and, in a few cases, new ones created for certain aspects of the process. This was a healthy exercise for Cundall. Transparency, which is key to the JUST program, also meant we had to work with the board and the marketing team to ensure that we were making information available to everyone. This is something that many risk averse companies may find challenging but it is a necessary step which is made easier if you have support from your directors from the outset as we did.

The result

A frequent question I’m asked is: “So, what rating did you get?” Working in the built environment with our various rating tools, we are used to ratings like “Platinum”, “Outstanding” or “6 Star” if we are performing to the highest standard. However, JUST has its own unique rating system. We received a score between zero and three for various social justice and equity indicators. You can choose to not publish these indicators but, having gone through the process, we chose to make all the indicators public, even for those where we scored a lower mark. After all, transparency is about showing your good points as well as the areas you need to improve on!

We scored highly on areas such as Diversity, Equity, Safety and Local Benefit. However, we need to improve on our Stewardship, particularly in the area of Charitable Giving. It’s a good thing that Cundall decided to pledge 40,000 hours of volunteering by all staff during our 40th anniversary year, so we hope to see this score improve.

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Going forward

The great thing about this process is that we can use the JUST program to quickly identify where we should focus our efforts in order to improve. The fact that it is in the public domain for all clients, current and future employees to see also means that there is nowhere to hide.

I would encourage all companies to undertake the JUST program. By creating transparency, you will learn about yourself as an organisation and allow your clients to see the values that you stand for. You may even find that your business improves when your clients share your corporate principles!