Where You Work Matters
A few years ago, I was applying for a job at Nestle when a family friend asked me whether I am ok with the ethics of Nestle. He mentioned a case in Africa where Nestle had promoted an infant formula and because of the poor water quality so many babies died because of this formula. Nestle had been held morally accountable for it and for getting third world mothers hooked on infant formula over breast milk. This was in the 1970s and after. Somehow I had never bothered to really check. Yes MNCs are not without their fair share of scandal. But it never occurred to me to check if these claims were valid. If you take Nestle products in general – Milo, Nestomalt – are sugar filled malt based products which are unhealthy to say the least. And they are promoted to the young and the elderly without any warning considering the high level of diabetes this country has. It’s made worse when the likes of Angelo Matthews endorse Milo – makes children think his success is due to drinking Milo. I personally love Milo but it’s not healthy. And I am aware of that.
Similarly, my aunt was once saying how she would never work in an alcohol or tobacco company. Again, it’s a question of what you believe. Smoking is probably one of the worst health risks for any individual – it’s a result of Western colonization and subsequent capitalism that pushed tobacco to be legal and marijuana illegal. Alcohol addiction is responsible for so many deaths, domestic violence and abuse on a daily basis. So yes, these are addictive products. Should we be in a company that sells them to unsuspecting people and those who are addicted need help – do these companies address those needs? No. So when you work in such places – remember what you are inadvertently becoming – a cog in the wheel that feeds addictions. Are you ok with it? Then by all means go ahead. But if not, please re-think what you are a part of.
It’s the same when working in companies that are known for unethical practices – plenty of food companies today are known for re-labelling expiry dates. Plenty of pharmaceutical companies are know for doing the same. I won’t mention names here but I have heard through personal encounters – imported frozen meat sold 2 years after their expiry date, imported chocolate sold 5 years after their expiry date etc. You know what they do when you work in places like that. Do you bother to question your ethics when you are a part of that process? Or do you believe in ‘see no evil, hear no evil’?
Many of us are caught in the vicious cycle of looking for jobs and in the current world market, beggars can’t be choosers. But where possible we should stop and think. Many of us hold ourselves at high moral standards without realizing that we are a part of some of the biggest problems in the world. I have left companies without another job because their work ethic was hypocritical and detrimental to my sanity though they professed otherwise. I have no regrets. I got better opportunities after leaving such places. But not everyone would have the luxury to do that.
Yet, I would say, always think about the company you work for – the bigger picture. Think where you fit in with your community and what your work does for the world at large. It’s not easy, but it is important.