In 1984, journalists Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering published a landmark book called The 100 Best Places to Work for in America. I didn't want to work for any of them. The list is updated every year through the San Francisco-based Great Places to Work Institute, and it runs in Fortune.
The institute looks at things like pay, benefits, and perks, as well as at trust and culture: Does management accept input freely? Are workers in involved in key decisions? Do people feel part of a team? All of these are important factors in a workplace.
But the selection process doesn't look at what the company actually does.
For example, Texas Instruments is on the list. It's also a defense contractor that makes precision-guided weapons systems. You know, bombs. Starbucks the voracious chain that drives out small local coffee shops is on the list. So is Whole Foods and Microsoft and Goldman Sachs.
I'm not saying that Levering, who runs the institute, isn't doing good work. But when you talk about great places to work these days, I think you also should be talking about places that have a positive impact on the environment.
The world is facing two cataclysmic crises these days. The planet is melting down. So is the economy. The only way we're going to fix both is to look at economic development that is also environmental development. And a lot of it is going to happen in cities.
Real sustainable development includes green jobs (Bay Area activist Van Jones is bringing that agenda to the White House) and a commitment to preserving locally-owned, independent businesses and a diverse community.
Those aren't conflicting goals, they're complimentary. But looking only at one piece of the puzzle how many jobs we create, or how nice they are isn't going to get us where we need to go. *
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