If you’ve got to work for a living, you might as well love your job. And your job is a lot easier to love when you’re with an employer who treats you well, with a benefits package, salary, and other perks that make work just a little more fun. It’s a plus if your employer also happens to be socially and environmentally responsible, making sure to do good to the world, not just to its employees.
So, where were some of the best places to work in 2012? There are a lot of ways to judge companies, including through self-nomination, anonymous surveys, and rigorous rubrics. I compiled data from a couple of different sources, and some of the top entries surprised me.
Google, with almost 20,000 employees, kept coming up on top. This employer is famous for the perks in its offices, including gourmet food, fun and games, and of course the 20 percent time system, which allows employees to spend up to 20 percent of their time on their own projects in the workplace. Yet, the company hasn’t been without controversy; some ex-Googlers have been very outspoken about problems with the workplace culture, and numerous privacy concerns have been raised about the increasingly integrated nature of its products.
Facebook, another tech company, earned a lot of praise from employees, who cited it as a challenging and open workplace. Of course, like Google, Facebook has also been mired in privacy controversies; both companies may provide great benefits for staffers and offer fantastic services to members of the public who want them, but what about those with legitimate privacy concerns and worries about the ubiquity of Facebook’s sometimes invasive presence?
M D Anderson Cancer Center, working on cancer treatment and research, gets high marks from employees. And with a cause like cancer, the company’s clearly heavily invested in social responsibility. M D Anderson is also committed to environmental responsibility, with a range of energy retrofits on its Texas campus, and the development of an “eco-infrastructure” to support environmental programs.
Southwest Airlines famously advertises that it’s one of the best places to work right on its aircraft. The low-budget aviation giant gets great reviews from its personnel, even though the wages aren’t fantastic, a common issue for flight crews across the business. Apparently all the “LUV” makes up for it; and as a passenger, I have to say that Southwest flight crews are among the most consistently friendly I’ve ever encountered. And environmentally, Southwest has kept pace with other airlines in terms of being a green operator; as much as you can be when you’re flying a jet aircraft! The company even introduced a “green plane” in 2009.
Several grocery stores, including Trader Joes, Wegmans and Whole Foods, enjoy high rankings as well. With good benefits, flexible schedules, and in-store discounts on products, these companies aim for employee retention and provide a lot of opportunities for advancement; one of the most common comments about them in reviews from employees is that they offer almost unlimited potential. And they’re committed to environmental issues as well, with initiatives to increase the use of power from renewable sources, use more recyclable and compostable packaging, and cut down on waste. But, critics fear, some greenwashing may be at work; as all of these chains cater to environmentally-conscious consumers, it’s important to remember to take environmental claims with a grain of salt.
Costco is another surprise entry; I wouldn’t think of a budget wholesale store as the kind of place that would treat employees well, but in fact it’s just the opposite! The company gets great rankings from personnel, who cite good benefits, wages and opportunities for professional development. That said, while it’s great for employees, it’s not so great for the environment. Costco has been cited for environmental violations, and many of the sources of its products are of dubious ethicality. Cheap goods can come with a high underlying price.
Image credit: BriYYZ