What is an ethical job? Tell us what you think!

Posted on Jul 13, 2009 04:16 PM |

EthicalJobs.com.au has been up and running for two months now, and we've posted a variety of articles to this blog, but there has been one glaring omission to our discussion of ethical jobs: the big question of "what is an ethical job?!"

We've had a few bits of feeback questioning the ethics of particular jobs that we've advertised on the site.  For example:

"I was initially attracted to the name 'ethical jobs', but how ethical is it to advertise a job at $300 per week for 4 days a week? This is below any sort of going rate for an office manager."

Or try this one:

"I was disappointed that you did not also exclude the alcohol industry.  Alcohol directly and indirectly kills millions of people world-wide.  In Australia it is acknowledged to be the drug most responsible for violence and social disruption in our society."

While we think we have good answers to these questions, they do show that the question of what constitutes an ethical job is a serious issue, and it's one that we spent a lot of time thinking about before creating the website.

There are a number of difficult questions that it brings up:

  • Every person seems to have their own ethics, so how can a job be seen as ethical by everyone? 
  • What if a job was doing something ethical, but the employer was doing something unethical?
  • What about jobs that are doing nothing particularly bad, but nothing particularly good either?

In terms of this site, the reality is that practically, there's no way we can check every element of an employer's record - environmental, health & safety, employee relations, etc - before listing them on the site.  For example, an employer that does fantastic work for people with disabilities might have dodgy policies for their own employees - is that a reason not to list their jobs on our site?

But this question also misses the point that this site is about ethical jobs, not ethical employers.  We don't claim to certify or recommend any of the employers on the site. 

What we do is assess each job to make sure that we feel that the job itself is making a contribution to a more sustainable or more equitable world.  If it is, then we list it, simple as that. 

While we focus on listing community sector jobs, "charity" jobs and environmental jobs, we do list jobs from the government sector too, and also jobs from corporations.  And we cover almost all industries - with the exception of 4 industries: gambling, tobacco, military and uranium industries - as long as they meet those criteria - as long as the jobs themselves are actively making the world a better place.

(Why do we completely exclude those 4 sectors? Because they cause so much damage to so many people that any positive impact a job in these industries might have is completely outweighed.  And why not exclude an industry like alcohol, as the questioner above asked? Well, we reckon that while alcohol can do damage when it is abused, in the end we decided that alcohol isn't something that's intrinsically bad or dangerous (like smoking), since, if used appropriately, it can actually have beneficial health effects. Also, what about all those jobs at organic vineyards and green micro-breweries?)

I know that this won't meet everyone's individual criteria for what is ethical - in the end, we all have our own individual ethics.  But we'd like to hear what the users of our site think.

Have we got the balance right or not ? Are there jobs you've seen on the site that you don't think are ethical?  Why/why not?  Can you suggest a better set of criteria for the site than the one we have?

Let us know your thoughts on what does or doesn't make an ethical job in the comments section below.