Continuing our JUST Practice: 2.0

Taylor Dearinger, AIA
April 2021
Group photo of David Baker Architects employees

DBA is an early and ongoing participant in the JUST Label program—a social justice, equity, and transparency platform organized and vetted by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI).

In January, DBA renewed our JUST label, and we are excited to continue the process of biannual renewal and plan to continually challenge ourselves to be a more equitable organization.

In 2019, ILFI released JUST 2.0—the second iteration of the JUST program. After feedback from the first round of the program, 2.0 was updated to better capture data for each indicator, as well as remove or replace some metrics with ones that more effectively meet the intention of the program.

The changes to the language and the metrics shifted both our scoring and our thinking. The Diversity category was updated to Diversity & Inclusion, adding new metrics for inclusion and engagement that take into account both gender and ethnic diversity of staff and give a better representation of how well staff members feel welcomed and involved in firm culture.

DBA is interested in creating an inclusive environment that values collaboration and open participation from individuals with different backgrounds, ideas, viewpoints, and perspectives. Although we had a high enough score on our inclusion survey to achieve a level 4, the ethnic diversity of our staff earned a lower score, setting us at a level 2 for Diversity & Inclusion. We are working to expand our avenues and processes for hiring to create opportunities for a more diverse staff. For example, we have recently hosted our first NOMA Fellow as part of a program that pairs firms with graduates from historically Black colleges and universities, with the goal of creating an ongoing relationship that will lead to hiring.

The Safety category was recast as Employee Health and now includes indicators for physical health and well-being. Previously, the occupational safety and hazardous chemicals indicators that measured workplace safety were less relevant to our office environment and type of practice. Our previous high score did not reflect the full picture of how firms can support employees—the new physical health and well-being indicators challenge us to actively contribute to the health and wellness of our staff. We have added new health-oriented benefits including a subscription for virtual coaching and therapy sessions and the option for Flexible Spending Accounts. We created updated office policies to support schedule flexibility—including ongoing remote work if desired—as well as financial and operational support for effective and ergonomic work-from-home stations

With JUST 2.0, our goal was to maintain the same level across all metrics, improving where possible. At the time of the first submission, DBA’s gender equity was clearly an area that had opportunities for improvement—specifically in senior leadership. The JUST process sparked us to identify and assess our gender pay variance, which we brought within 3% across all staffing levels, reaching the highest benchmark for gender pay equity.

As part of this process we have adjusted our approach to charitable giving, setting percentage goals rather than dollar goals, so that our community giving increases in line with profits. This did not change our scoring in JUST, but formalizes an approach that will help us continue to meet high standards in this area.

JUST 2.0 is also starting to incorporate other certifications that work toward the same goals, which has inspired our firm to pursue additional transparency and data-driven initiatives. In the Positive Products and Services indicator, you can achieve a level 4 if you are a B Corporation, a business that meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability to balance profit and purpose. Inspired by this metric, we have been actively working on our B Corporation assessment and hope to be certified this year.

We feel that our new JUST 2.0 label is a better representation of our office, culture, and values. We have consistently been able to use the guidelines internally to make decisions about pay, hiring, and employee and community benefits. We look forward to continuing to promote and embrace transparency as the best form of “walking the talk” and use these ambitious frameworks to guide our path.

Read more about how we started building a JUST practice back in 2017.