By Nikhil Bumb
As Jains, we’ve been raised with a sense of purpose and “doing good.” Whether from the intrinsic values of seva (service) and ahimsa (
That desire to make a positive impact in the world doesn’t disappear after college. It manifests differently. We make lifestyle and purchasing choices through daily Anuvrat that reflect our values. Some of us choose to be vegan. Others choose to purchase cruelty-free and sustainably sourced products. In doing so, we’re all contributing to the change.
But when it comes to our work, there is often a cognitive dissonance between the values we live by outside of work and how those translate to our professional decisions and actions. How many vegetarians have worked for or operated a business where the primary revenue source, and therefore our income, is based on the propagation and consumption of meat – e.g., a fast-food franchise? Or perhaps your employer has a disproportionately large carbon footprint, contributing to rapid climate change and the killing of numerous life forms and ecosystems.
“Doesn’t that logic basically rule out most companies?” Even if their business doesn’t entirely revolve around meat or other non-Jain practices, many companies have large negative externalities for the environment or might have HR policies and a culture that is unfair or discriminatory towards women, people of color, and other marginalized groups.
No company is perfect. When I worked for a large management consulting firm, I often struggled with some of the clients the firm took on – such as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (at the time of the Muslim ban and implementing a Muslim database) – because they inherently conflicted with my Jain values of Ahimsa and Anekantvada. Through my own Anuvrat, I chose to personally opt out of working for those specific clients.
Finding employment that fully reflects our values is extremely tough. The ability to do so is a privilege. Everyone’s economic and living situation is different, which often means we can’t be as picky as we want with where we work. But, in many circumstances, we do have a choice.
Having your work reflect your values isn’t just about who you work for but also what work you do. If you are employed by a company whose values inherently conflict with your own, you don’t necessarily have to start looking for a new job immediately. You may still find ways to live out your values at work. Don’t underestimate your ability to play an important role and influence change within the organization – e.g., by working in a sustainability role, improving harmful supply chain practices, championing diversity initiatives, or advocating for paying fair and livable wages as well as better labor practices.
It is easy to feel frustrated or stuck in our current jobs, like we don’t have a strong enough voice to enact change within a company. In the same way we express our values in the candidate we vote for or where we spend our money, we can also express our values – our Anuvrat – through our professional choices.
Our resume contains just as much – if not more – power as our ballot or our wallet.
Nikhil Bumb is a Director with FSG, a mission-driven social impact strategy consulting firm, and heads the firm’s Corporate Racial Equity practice. He works with multinational corporations, governments, international NGOs, foundations, and social enterprises on emerging markets and social impact strategies across issues, with a focus on global health, agricultural development, and financial inclusion. Previously, he helped launch Deloitte’s Social Impact strategy consulting practice and spent some time living in Kenya working with Technoserve on financial inclusion programs for dairy farmers. He did his MBA from Yale University.
People Also Ask… ….
What makes Jainism unique?
The distinguishing features of Jain philosophy – its belief in the independent existence of soul and matter; the denial of a creative and omnipotent God, combined with a belief in an eternal universe; and a strong emphasis on non-violence, morality, and ethics.