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How to choose an ethical employer

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In this article, the experts at Graduate Prospects, the UK's official graduate careers website, give advice for finding an ‘ethical’ employer – a company with responsible policies about the environment and its employees.

Environmental and social values in the workplace are more important than ever, as a growing number of graduates are actively choosing ethical careers. If you are looking for a career that makes a contribution to more than just your bank balance, then a job with an ethical employer might be for you.

What is an ethical employer?

An ethical employer is an organisation that aims to have a positive effect on society and the environment.

This shows in how a company:

  • invests its profits (for example, an ethical company may fund local charities or pay for schools to be built in developing countries),
  • looks after the environment (for example, a company that uses solar energy and recycled materials is ethical),
  • treats its staff and customers (for example, a company with links to sweat shops is not ethical).

As you can see, ethics can be defined in different ways – a company might look after the welfare of factory staff, for example, but produce materials that damage the environment.

It's therefore best to define an ‘ethical’ career by what is important to YOU. Think about the issues and values that concern you, and what kind of impact you'd like to have on the world.

How can I find ethical companies?

There are many different ways to assess and measure an organisation’s ethics. One tool is the Corporate Responsibility Index (CR Index), which helps companies to measure, manage and integrate ethical values into their business practices.

The CR Index ranks participating organisations on corporate strategy, integration, management areas, performance and impact. In 2014, there were 98 companies on the list.

There are lots of other measurement tools, however, and it’s worth looking for rankings in the country where you will be working.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?

For ethical employers, CSR is the practice of managing the social, environmental and economic impact of their business. It involves looking beyond money and focusing on how the company can help society and the environment.

There are many ways an organisation can make a contribution to the world we live in, whether it’s on a local, national or international scale.

Choosing an ethical career

There are ethical companies in almost all industries, so you shouldn’t need to give up an exciting role or a good salary to have an ethical career. However, it is important to do a bit of research on a company before accepting a job there.

These are Graduate Prospects’ top tips for finding an ethical career:

  • In job applications and interviews, don't be afraid to show your passion for the causes you support.
  • Ask any potential employer questions about the role and their business practices.
  • Wherever you work, you can make a difference – find every opportunity to show how ethical behaviour makes good business sense.
  • At the same time, make sure you develop more general skills such as teamwork, creative thinking and leadership. The more you improve these skills, the more you'll be able to make a difference.

If it’s important to you that your career is ethical, you may want to look for a job with a charity – such as Amnesty International, Save the Children, the Red Cross, Oxfam or Médecins Sans Frontières – or a social enterprise.

Social enterprises are businesses that trade to improve communities, social problems and the environment – they invest their profits back into the business and into local communities. There is a growing number of social enterprises in the UK. They can range from cafés and leisure centres to banks and supermarkets – some examples are the Big Issue, Jamie Oliver's Fifteen, Divine Chocolate, the Co-operative Group, the People’s Supermarket and the Eden Project.

Read more:

   •  Alumni stories: Faraz from Pakistan, founder of a social enterprise for entrepreneurs
   •  Environmental research and innovation at UK universities
   •  How to get your dream job

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