As part of MSR Design’s focus on sustainability, equity, and designing for generative impacts, we are participating in ILFI’s JUST 2.0 label disclosure tool program. A nutrition label for socially just and equitable organizations, JUST provides a transparency platform for organizations to disclose their operations, including how they treat their employees and where they make financial and community investments. Through the JUST program, ILFI calls for all organizations to accept social responsibility by publicly declaring and showcasing their social justice and equity policies and practices.
“Continual improvement is something we strive for in every part of our practice,” says MSR Design CEO Traci Lesneski. “The JUST 2.0 program offered an opportunity for us to step back and critically assess how we’re doing and to identify areas where we organically do the right thing but with intention could have more meaningful impact.”
Currently, MSR Design is the only Minnesota architecture firm and one of two organizations located in the state to have a JUST 2.0 label. Participating in the program helps us nurture a culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. It also provides a compliance pathway and credit toward Living Building Challenge (LBC) petal certification of our new 510 Marquette studio space, which we applied for in December 2020, pursuing the materials, equity, and beauty petals.
“Considering the improvements to the JUST label with version 2.0, in combination with our pursuit of LBC petal certification for our new office space, we decided it was the right time to enroll in the program,” says MSR Design CFO Doug Franzwa. He continues, “We embrace the transparency of the label. The spirit of the program aligns well with the value we place on equity and being good stewards of our community.”
The JUST label documents our level of performance in six different areas: diversity and inclusion, equity, employee health, employee benefits, stewardship, and purchasing and supply chain. We have achieved the highest score (level 4) in several subcategories. For example, in the engagement subcategory under diversity and inclusion, a level 4 score requires that at least 70% of employees are engaged, based on a firm engagement survey. MSR Design exceeded this goal with an 80% engagement score. In the equity area, we achieved a level 4 score in three subcategories: full-time employment, pay-scale equity, and gender pay equity. For employee health, we scored a level 4 for well-being, and for stewardship, we achieved a level 4 for charitable giving by exceeding the goal of donating 3% of our net profits to charitable organizations.
Doug states, “I’m particularly proud of MSR Design’s high rankings in the equity and employee health categories. And I look forward to using our current label as a benchmark to continuously improve upon in future renewals of the label.” Given the transparency of the JUST label and biannual renewal requirement, the program provides a clear path for continual growth with clear metrics and goals to meet and measure our progress. The process has helped us develop an intentional path toward social justice, equity, and inclusive design that we can share with the world.
“The label isn’t an end-game—it’s an ongoing process,” Traci adds. “It’s gratifying to know that MSR Design is the first Minnesota firm in our profession to have a JUST 2.0 label. We were the first Minnesota firm to sign onto the AIA 2030 Challenge in 2007. Both programs are about accountability and transparency, and we are proud to lead by example.”