Does morality matter when it comes to making a living?

Excellent video. (No? Might just be a Kiwi thing…)

Seriously though.

Would you ever? Are there any companies or industries you would never consider working for?

When it comes to earning a crust … I’ll admit I once entertained the thought of joining the armed forces for about a millisecond, mainly thanks to T’s suggestion. It’s not a bad lifestyle for some people, and it’s definitely one that’s enjoying a resurgence. And if you’ve got a degree, you get to go in at a decent level.

That would be all well and good, as long as you’re not on the frontline. Because infantry = weaponry.

And that’s something I have a problem with. Guns.

T has used pretty much the most lethal ones you can get (during his army stint) and since he’s been back, he’s owned a rifle and a couple of airguns. And yes, I’ll give you that guns don’t kill people; people kill people. (Using guns.)

But you cannot tell me that guns are a neutral thing. They are designed and manufactured to kill, or at least injure.

I see cigarettes in the same light. They do not serve any positive purpose whatsoever.

I’d have to be in dire straits, quite honestly, to consider applying for a job at a tobacco company. Or a company that dealt in arms. (Richard Branson, in Like a Virgin, states that despite Virgin’s famed diversification strategy, he has never considered entering either of those sectors.)

Where does that stop, though? Would you not work for McDonald’s, because no matter how many healthy menu options they introduce, their core business is in flogging artery-clogging excuses for food? Would you not work for an oil company? Would you not work for an alcohol brand? Would you not work in an industry perpetuating harmful body image – in cosmetic surgery, or modelling?


12 thoughts on “Does morality matter when it comes to making a living?

  • Reply Melissa May 29, 2012 at 00:56

    I’d like to say it does, and that I’d probably never work for a company that, say, made cigarettes, or funded charities that threatened women’s rights, or something like Enbridge that’s doing so much damage to the environment, but then again, I don’t work in these fields, and I haven’t been in the position to have to say yes or no to them.

    I have, in the couple of years I’ve been a journalist, refused to apply for any jobs with a particular (very large) media company, because when I was in university I wrote a magazine feature about how their practices were extremely unethical with regards to how they treated their staffers and freelancers. I’ve heard things have changed, but I never could bring myself to apply, on a matter of principle, since I’d been so harsh on them in my piece. Even when I really, really needed a job when I was first starting out, I didn’t apply. (They probably didn’t want me anyway! I’m sure I was on a blacklist somewhere.)

  • Reply John | Married (with Debt) May 29, 2012 at 03:49

    I think the world is having such a morality crisis that it’d be hard to find a job if we only worked for moral companies. I guess I’d draw the line at companies or organizations who actively harm people, but every company pollutes, most food companies are slow killers, etc. Really tough question.

  • Reply Holly May 29, 2012 at 04:13

    I think there are definitely business/industries I would avoid because of moral issues. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would never work in an abortion clinic.

    That being said, when I was in university I swore I would never work for the Gap after giving a seminar on their unethical practices but ended up working for Old Navy (which is under the Gap umbrella) for two years while attending college. I hated it – I was such a hypocrite! – and was always on the hunt for another job but … yeah.

  • Reply silverneurotic May 29, 2012 at 03:24

    There are definitely businesses and industries that, given the qualifications, I’d avoid because of a moral dilemma. Even something as simple as working a grocery store gets me upset sometimes when someone on foodstamps comes through my line with either high end products (lobsters anyone?) or an entire order of all junk food/processed crap.

  • Reply Michelle May 29, 2012 at 06:34

    I would never work for a cigarette company because my dad died partly from lung cancer. There are other companies that I wouldn’t work for either. If my heart is completely against it, then I wouldn’t be able to work.

  • Reply Sense May 29, 2012 at 12:39

    Yeah, there is a majorly lucrative avenue that I could do with my degree. With ten years of experience after my MS, I could be making well into the high six figures by now in that profession–they start you off with a six figure salary, right out of college! I say no to it every day by going to work that I believe in. Going to work for those companies would mean ‘selling my soul’ to me–a major ethical breach. Just doing my part!

  • Reply Jackson James Wood (@_jjw_) May 29, 2012 at 15:15

    Thanks for the link to the video! Glad you enjoyed my Kiwi humour. Check out Josh’s video application for the job here: http://joshuadrummond.com/2012/05/21/application-for-the-job-of-press-relations-and-regulatory-affairs-manager-at-british-american-tobacco-nz/

    I have made it a point to never work for an organisation which is evil. This of course is totally arbitrary as each person’s definition of evil is a bit different. But to put some parameters on it: I wouldn’t (now) work for tobacco, alcohol, gambling, arms, personal finance — generally anything that plays off addiction, violence, or will, on the face of it, make peoples’ lives worse or cause human misery.

    Second tier evil is a toughy. I have worked for Telecom New Zealand and at bars because I was a student and really needed the money and retail and hospo are easy to get jobs in. Even when I was working for places that aren’t so squeaky clean ethically I’ve always tempered them with my own moral compass: actually stick to the law around providing alcohol, don’t let people sign up to hire purchase agreements when they can’t afford it.

    So, yes, morality does matter when it comes to making a living. But your morality can be twisted by your current economic circumstance. We need to, through good legislation and consumer habits, ensure that the market doesn’t make it overwhelming attractive to work for an evil company.

  • Reply Miss JJ May 29, 2012 at 18:10

    I believe in “Never say never”. My straits have never been dire enough for me to forsake the little principles I have, but I won’t kid myself that the day may come when I would choose food in the belly over everything else.
    I also think that if people wish to apply specific morals/principles to making a living, they should apply it in all parts of their lives for consistency’s sake. A person may refuse to work with/for BP after the Mexican Gulf incident, but continue to consume petroleum products. In this case, I don’t see morality, but hypocrisy.

  • Reply Anya June 2, 2012 at 01:24

    I think it depends. When you don’t have very many options for jobs/career choices, you take what you can get. When you do, you have the luxury to turn down jobs. For instance, I’m an accountant and I work in health care. I could easily go to an oil & gas company and make at least 10-15k more – but I choose not to because of my principles. DH and I are comfortable where we are with our salaries (he’s a teacher and makes less than I do) so it’s nice to have the option to be picky. My dad, on the other hand, is about to lose his factory job. My mom is a cancer survivor and cannot go without health insurance, so if my dad got a job at Wal-Mart (a company I despise), I wouldn’t blame him. It’s a big company and if he can get full time work, he can get decent health insurance for him and my mom.

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  • Reply CollegeBoy June 4, 2012 at 16:26

    You will always run into companies that could be shallow in morals. If you can work and avoid any difficulties than stay, it’s sometimes tuff to find another job. But if things are so bad you can’t stomach it or conscience is bothering you then go.

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