How to Find a Job that Prioritizes Social Responsibility and Sustainability Over Profit

Jori Hamilton is a writer from the pacific northwest who is passionate about environmentalism and social justice issues. You can follow her on Twitter @HamiltonJori

Posted on Monday 4th November 2019
Women in an office space having a meeting

There are still many companies across all industries that believe that their capitalistic goals are their primary concern: prioritizing short term profits rather than sustainable, responsible activities. It’s becoming outdated to ignore the many ways in which businesses can be successful while making a positive impact both on their local communities and the wider planet. Conscious capitalism is also starting to emerge as an approach that recognizes the importance of gaining healthy profits, but only when pursued in conjunction with a deeper purpose. 

As employees, there are many considerations that go into choosing which companies we wish to commit our valuable time and talents to. Over the last decade, it has become clear to many markets that workers are most interested in working for companies that exhibit a commitment to sustainability, and are demonstrative in their ethical values. We are demanding that the businesses we choose to associate with spend time and money ensuring their activities have a positive impact both in the present and for future generations. 

How can we successfully approach our job searches with socially conscious priorities in mind? It’s largely a matter of careful research across several subject areas. We’ll take a look at some of those which can yield some useful information, along with areas in which vigilance should also be applied.   

Company Ethics

Regardless of the industry, corporate social responsibility should be a significant aspect of every company. Aside from having a positive impact on the community, it can affect the growth of the business itself, and sets clear ethical expectations for its employees and directors. In starting your search for a company that holds themselves to high moral standards, it’s useful to see whether their company values are reflective of these responsibilities.

Sometimes this will be made obvious in the company’s literature or their website. A lot of businesses have taken to producing a mission statement, which outlines their commercial goals alongside some of the more esoteric considerations such as community commitment and customer focus. This can tell you a little about what they want the public to know their priorities are, but some additional due diligence on your part should be applied in order to ensure that their activities align with their values. 

Company values are often best demonstrated through the actions of employees themselves — there may be news reports that show that workers have acted in ways which are contrary to company (or even legal) standards. However, it’s also important to look at how the higher-ups reacted to this; did they respond with disciplinary actions that placed emphasis upon accountability? You can also get a sense of the importance of ethics in a company by looking at whether they invite inspections, or have a self-imposed code of conduct alongside industry regulations. 

Company Environmental Standards

More often in the past few years, environmental standards in business activities have become a serious consideration in whether talented individuals wish to align themselves with a company. With good reason; climate change is one of the most important and urgent issues today, and we are dangerously close to having caused catastrophic, irreversible damage to our environment. Why would we put time and effort into working for a company that has no regard for the future of our planet? 

There are certain elements that you may only be able to discover by talking to other employees or by visiting the workplace during an interview; does the company encourage activities such as telecommuting, do they utilize low emissions energy sources? If they manufacture products, you can take a look at their packaging to ascertain whether they are committed to using only 100% recycled materials. Larger businesses will often make public statements about their environmental initiatives — but these should be treated with some sensible caution. 

The term “greenwashing” has emerged as something both consumers and potential employees should be wary about. This is, in essence, a company purporting to hold environmentally sustainable standards, when they are in fact acting in ways which are callous or actively damaging.  In order to ensure that a company is making the big environmental strides they are claiming, check whether they have provided verifiable data alongside their statements of sustainability, and look for labels on products which are vetted by reliable third parties.

Valued Traits in Employees 

Your search for a potential employer who reflects your own high standards in sustainability and social responsibility can be assisted by seeing what they in turn are looking for in employees. Companies thrive by the efforts of the people who work for them, and as a result companies want to employ people who will exemplify their goals and values. By taking a look at their job advertisements, we can gain an insight into what our potential employer considers valuable.   

For many companies today, a good range of soft skills has become an attractive asset for a candidate to possess. Soft skills have a tendency to be possessed by those who exhibit emotional intelligence, who have a well-developed sense of empathy, and pursue goals for the purpose of self development rather than money. A job advertisement that puts emphasis upon a candidate’s possession of soft skills is a good indication that an ethical, emotionally intelligent workforce is an important element of their business practices. 

If you’re able to pay a visit to the company, or utilize their services, you can witness first hand the caliber of employee that populates their business. Do they conduct themselves in a manner that is ethical and environmentally considerate? Company reviews on websites such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn can help give you an inside look into how a business might treat its employees, or whether the workers themselves have good things to say about their operating practices. You can gain great insight into a company’s approach to cultural awareness by looking closely at how they invest in people. 

Joining a business as an employee is a huge investment on your part — of time, talent, energy, and emotion. It is only right that the companies that you commit to accurately reflect the ethical and environmental standards that you value. The application of careful and objective research to your job search can help to ensure you match up with employers who are as dedicated to sustainable, socially-conscious practices as you are.

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