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How to Find Your Dream Impact-focused Job

Extreme fish eye camera photo of city to look like mini planet

This is an edited extract from Good Work by Shannon Houde.

Do you want an impact-focused job role? 

The range of opportunities in the impact space is quite diverse, and it helps to consider what sort of organization and role would be the best fit for you. Note that government is quite different from NGOs, which in turn are different from social enterprises and sustainable businesses. In the same vein, being an entrepreneur is very different from working in operations for a company.

It can be useful to think about where your ideal roles and organizations intersect, and perhaps build up your own grid to evaluate your options. Consider the sustainability careers matrix (Table 2.1). Career coach Katie Kross originally published a version of this matrix in her excellent 2009 book, Profession and Purpose. The one I provide in Table 2.1 is reworked to reflect today’s landscape, and is designed to help you think about whether you want to help a traditional company become more sustainability-oriented or to help a sustainability-oriented company to grow.

Put another way: do you want to make a big company ‘green’, or a ‘green’ company big? Remember, somewhere in this impact space is a role for you with the right cultural fit, and there are various pathways you can follow to get to it.

table-2-1-good-work-png.PNG

So, are you going to choose a traditional organization or a sustainability-focused one? Are you going to pursue a role that is sustainability-oriented or a traditional role? Do you envision changing a big multinational company from the inside, or do you prefer working in a more nimble, start-up environment or a B Corps, which are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment?

World's most sustainable corporations

Perhaps it would help to look at some examples of sustainable companies. An organization called Corporate Knights does an annual ranking of corporate sustainability performance, which they release every January at the World Economic Forum in Davos and publish in leading media outlets.

They rank companies based on publicly disclosed information – such as financial filings and sustainability reports – rather than self-submissions from companies. Corporate Knights consider multiple key criteria for their ranking, including:

  • energy, carbon, water, waste productivity;
  • CEO to average employee pay;
  • percentage tax paid;
  • pension fund status;
  • safety performance – lost time per injury and fatalities;
  • employee turnover;
  • leadership diversity;
  • sustainability pay link.

Take a look at the most recent list. Look up the leading companies and see how they’re structured, what they do, and who occupies the positions that might interest you.