2012-02-28

Co.Exist

5 Ways To Do Good In Any Job

You may not think that you can control the actions of the company you work for, but there are a few simple ways you can shift the way your employer does business--for the better.

You may be stuck in a job you don’t like, where you feel like you don’t have any control. That’s okay, you don’t have to be a high-powered executive to do some good. In fact, you may be the only person that can. When my co-author Billy Parish and I interviewed people for Making Good, our book on finding meaning, money, and community, we didn’t just talk to the all-star social entrepreneurs. We dug a little deeper and talked to a lot of people that were in jobs that simply weren’t ideal for making change. Somehow not only were they making good, but they were finding meaning in the most unlikely of places. Follow the tips below that we took from their experiences and see what you can make happen in your job:

Change the way your company buys stuff

Companies purchase an enormous amount of things: paper, toner, office furniture. And today there are products in almost all categories that are better for the world than your standard run-of-the-mill, made in China product. Start with something simple like paper, see if you can find your company a better alternative, and then continue, one purchasing decision at a time. Today a good product doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more expensive. By slowly moving your company toward supporting the emerging world of products doing good, who knows where it could end up?

Make something efficiently good

Every industry is filled with small design flaws that produce extra waste, that are unnecessary, and that drain energy, time, and resources. You are the only one that knows what these are for your company. It could be the clothes the store throws out at the end of the season or the offshoots of some industrial process in the plant you work for. Rethink the potential of this waste and repurpose it for good all while making it more efficient. Notice something that needs changing that people on the outside would never see.

Be an Industry Translator

Every industry has a language, a lexicon, and a way of thinking. You know it by just by being involved. You can be a translator. Reach out to a community group that is working to change something in your industry and present yourself as a translator willing to help them. Give them advice on framing their issue, on describing it in a way that will be heard, and on understanding where the other side is coming from. They need it and you have the skills. They would love to hear from you.

Ask Good Questions

It could be as simple as asking a supplier about their labor practices or asking a partner what they are doing to be more environmentally friendly. Ask the question and watch them scramble to find an answer and keep your business. Just making it clear that it is something your company cares about can spur them to try to justify themselves and do some good--even if you don’t have higher up approval.

Get your company to go carbon neutral

From big banks to small businesses, tons of companies are pledging to go carbon neutral. One reason this is happening is because companies are actually saving money by making processes more efficient and converting buildings to higher standards. Talk to operations, talk to the CSR department, or send an email to your boss telling them you are interested in pushing this forward in the company. You may end up the hero saving the company money, while doing some good.

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17 Comments

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  • Kyle Callahan

    These would be great ideas for someone working at smaller companies, or someone in an executive position who has the authority to direct business and make strategic changes. For the vast majority of underpaid and overworked employees, a simple act of suggesting improvements will get as far as your immediate supervisor's office. My experience working for a large organization is that rigid structures and policies severely limit one's ability to "make something efficiently good". I hope not all organizations operate in this way, because top-down planning does little good if the screams from below, "this is not working," are not heard. While my co-workers and I find comfort in the fact we can agree on ways to improve business and the workplace, we know it will never happen. Luckily, I can manage to do one good thing each week: purchase 30% recycled paper. As I look for greener pastures and greater meaning in my career, I will certainly have to check out Making Good.

  • Jennifer West

    Here's a good 5 minute video produced in the 1940's on "the Road to Serfdom'. You'll find specific references to having to work where the government tells you to work and receiving the pay they decide you will receive. You may want to pause the video whenever there is something to read as it is not up there long enough to read. 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

  • Eric_Lew

    I believe these are achievable ideas to do in any business. Simple in the terms of not taking a lot of time or effort to get done, however, if you are not content with your position, these are probably not going to be items you would attack. I say wait until the new job to do these or if your looking for that extra punch on your resume to move you up in your current organization.
     

  • Catalina Moscoso

    It is always easier to complaint about why the job you have is not your dreamed position. But I think this is an excellent article on how you can stand out by participating on activities that are always crucial and beneficial for any business.  

  • Robesinh

    focus to success, is that do you mean ? But author was shared his ambition to us. Hope everything become good in the future.

  • Anon

    These are hardly actions an everyday employee can take. Maybe a director or SVP. And if you're unhappy with your job, I would venture to say you'd take a few hundred other actions before arriving at these...

  • Peter Metcher

    These may not be actions that a single employee can bring to completion, alone.
    However, they are all actions a single employee can contribute to the conversation that gets thses initiatives started and then keeps them moving.

  • Colin Fast

    You had me up until the end. Getting your company to go carbon neutral could hardly be considered a "simple" step.