30 Places We Want to Work
Every three months, GOOD releases our quarterly magazine, which examines a given theme through our unique lens. Recent editions have covered topics like the impending global water crisis, the future of transportation, and the amazing rebuilding of New Orleans. This quarter's issue is about work, and we'll be rolling out a variety of stories all month.
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Companies. They are where we work. There are some bad apples (those are usually the ones you hear about on the news). But most are pretty quotidian: just the source of our weekly checks. That’s why companies known for their good practices and treatment of their employees are so rare and so commendable.
Since companies and nonprofit organizations are the basis of working, we’ve compiled a list of 30 of the companies that, if we worked there, would have us excited to get out of bed each morning. Some are huge corporations, some are tiny start-ups, but they are all the kind of place that inspires us to make our own company better.
The After-School Special
With local tutoring centers that double as everything from pirate-supply shops to time-travel marts, 826 National inspires and improves student writing with committed volunteers, field trips, workshops, student publishing, scholarships, and an all-star roster of writers, actors, and comedians dropping by to help.
New Leaf Paper
Print’s Not Dead
Everyone knows the pulp and paper industry eats trees, but New Leaf Paper looks far beyond the forests to do its part. This founding B Corporation extends its focus on sustainability concerns to its entire business: water consumed, waste produced, greenhouse gases emitted, and energy used.
When your idea is as catchy as your slogan—“Wheels when you want them”—you have a good thing going. Zipcar has not only introduced car sharing to a wide audience, it has also embraced technology (check out its mobile app) to make it as pleasant, simple, and seamless as possible.
Code for America
Cutting Red Tape, Through Programming
Starting next year, this nonpartisan nonprofit will dispatch a crop of tech-literate “fellows” to a select group of cities, where they will build new applications to make local governments more transparent and more efficient. The upshot: CFA elevates the position of programmers, web designers, and developers in the effort to improve government.
CreateHere is doing big things in a small city, by training a new generation of civic leaders and giving grants to artists and businesses in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The organization itself is merely an incubator, but the results mean a better hometown for everyone.
Organic from Day One
For 34 years, this German clothier has produced quality organics while also showing the notoriously wasteful and unethical garment business that it’s possible to make millions without compromising your standards. Now, in a bid for the fashion crowd, it has teamed up with Miguel Adrover and Bodkin to offer stylish alternatives to the basics on which they built their brand.
The Other eBay
Five years ago, a former furniture designer named Rob Kalin had an idea for a website no one thought would work. Now, his online crafts marketplace generates more than $130 million a year, has more than 5 million members, and boasts 400,000 sellers. Etsy has provided a home to a new crop of DIY entrepreneurs and also miraculously made handmade things cool again. Now that’s crafty.
Investing in Change
Ten years ago, Acumen Fund introduced a new model for aid: Instead of charitable donations or strictly for-profit development efforts, Acumen focuses on bringing the two together through significant investments and loans along with the idea of “patient capital”—taking calculated risks, being business-savvy, and focusing on long-term commitments.
Makes Giving Look Good
A pioneer of the buy-one-give-one model, Toms Shoes, which was launched just four years ago, just delivered its millionth pair of free shoes to people who need them. In so doing, the shoe company is helping increase access to education while protecting people from soil-transmitted diseases, infection, and cuts—one $44-pair of shoes at a time.
Better World Books
Waste Not, Want Not
Founded eight years ago by three Notre Dame graduates, Better World Books has donated $7 million to literacy groups, delivered more than 550,000 textbooks to colleges through Books for Africa, and has held drives on more than 1,200 campuses worldwide. How? By collecting unused books and selling them. Simple as that.
Giving Students What They Need
Cutting out middlemen is always a good business model. DonorsChose.org removes cash-strapped school departments from the equation, allowing you to donate directly to teachers, based on what kind of supplies are needed in their classrooms. You know exactly who your money helps: kids.
From its humble beginnings in Austin, Texas, to today, the grocer has become synonymous with sustainable living—and sustainable business practices. From perpetually shortening its supply chain to reducing waste and focusing on local, pesticide-free products, it is constantly reassessing its own practices to do better—for its customers and its bottom line.
Like Other Agencies, Only More So
We tip our hats to the agency behind two of our favorite trends in marketing: Using social media effectively and combining advertising with real social impact. Recent examples? “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” social-media response videos for Old Spice and the Levi’s Braddock campaign (which we’re working on, actually).
Best Practices in Action (Sports)
Patagonia was so far ahead of the curve when it comes to responsible business that the rest of us are just now catching up. A list of their philanthropic contributions could fill this whole magazine, but suffice it to say that they give 1 percent of their total sales to environmental causes, have built best practices into their corporate DNA, and have for almost 30 years shown other companies how to do good business.
Putting the “We” in Web
Talk about a company that lives its values: The suite of well-designed, cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools it developed have allowed it to build a decentralized business (which now includes 5 million users and personal investment from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos) in a lean and efficient manner. Then the employees wrote a book about it.
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
For Your Information
Investing $400 million with 1,000 partners to advance journalistic excellence in the digital age, Knight runs on the belief that information is “a core community need,” and that access to it enables democracies to thrive.
Plays Well with Others
As a leader in fairly traded coffees, teas, and snacks, Equal Exchange is a rare example of a for-profit business with a bottom line exactly aligned with the interests of farmers, consumers, and the planet.
One Block Off the Grid
Staring at the Sun
By finding ways to make solar power accessible through innovative business practices (collective purchasing lowers the price of solar panels) and excellent design (an easy-to-use website that makes the prospect of solar panels seem less daunting), 1BOG is reducing our dependence on oil, one block at a time.
New Resource Bank
A Financial Institution that Doesn’t Suck
Over the past few years, while most big banks were booby-trapping the economy, sneaking in new costs for customers, and lining their pockets, New Resource Bank was figuring out how to offset its energy use and eliminate ATM fees for customers. The San Francisco-based bank is now a certified B Corporation.
Transparency Amid Murkiness
When it comes to ingredients in home-cleaning products, most companies operate under a veil of secrecy. Seventh Generation doesn’t. A pioneer in sustainable, nontoxic cleaning and personal products, Seventh Generation is committed to full ingredient disclosure and consumer education about the chemicals in, on, and around us.
Hyperlocal gets More Hyper
This website, which stemmed from a project plotting Chicago’s crime data onto a Google map, is now the place to go for hyperlocal information: You can find Yelp reviews of restaurants next to the latest building-permit requests. In a world where we can drown in the flood of available information, EveryBlock—rapidly being expanding to new cities—lets you know everything that’s going on right outside your door.
All or Nothing
Pioneers in “crowd funding,” this company, still in its infancy, rallies the rest of us to support causes, artists, and general do-goodery through microdonations given easily online. So far, the website has attracted more than
100,000 250,000 funders, and there are more every day.
Lectures You Won’t Sleep Through
By now we’ve all learned something new and amazing from watching a TED talk. By helping brilliant but underexposed thinkers like E. O. Wilson, Jill Tarter, Dan Dennett, and Dan Ariely distribute polished presentations to a global audience, TED has made big ideas sexy—and created a new kind of salon for the 21st century.
Because Everyone Is Thirsty
So often with charities, donors don’t know where, exactly, their money goes. With Charity: Water, founded in New York City by the nightlife guru Scott Harrison in 2006, it’s clear: Every penny collected goes straight into on-the-ground projects that bring potable water to people who need it.
Your National Neighborhood Grocer
Great wages, great two-dollar wine, great customer service, reasonably paced growth, laudable employee ideals, reasonably priced food—Trader Joe’s makes itself very easy to love.
Lots of people design water filters, yet billions of people still lack access to clean water. When Catapult attempts a design solution—like wind turbines, solar-powered health clinics, or rainwater-harvesting systems—the nonprofit ensures that it can actually reach those people who need it most.
By offering financial prizes for successful scientific discoveries, X Prize has given an incentive for invention. With contests for space travel, fuel-efficiency, mapping the genome, and more, the company is spurring the kind of scientific advancement that doesn’t have market forces behind it, but does improve society.
Protecting the Beach, Every Beach
Guardian angels to beaches and coastlines the world over, Surfrider Foundation has, since 1984, embraced the mission of ocean protection through its 70 U.S. outposts and a growing number of international chapters.
Enough Creativity for Everyone
This consultancy, formed in 1991 and based in Palo Alto, California, has worked behind the scenes, doing design pinch-hitting for companies you might not expect to need help: Apple, Seventh Generation, Muji, Prada, and a host of other corporate giants. When groundbreaking companies need creative new ideas, they come to IDEO.
New Belgium Brewing Company
Drinking and Driving Change
New Belgium Brewing Company, based in Fort Collins, Colorado, is famous for its delicious Fat Tire Amber Ale. It became the world’s first wind-powered brewery in 1999. It’s also employee-owned, has an adult-sized corkscrew slide in the office, and gives every employee a stylish cruiser bike on their one-year anniversary with the company.