Definition of responsible careers

People with responsible careers seek to address societal challenges such as environmental sustainability and social justice through their work-related choices, including what organisations and projects to join.

They explicitly put their careers at the service of society.  Responsible careers have gained more legitimacy over the past decade, for example in the emerging fields of corporate responsibility, social investing, sustainability and social entrepreneurship.  But all roles offer opportunities for having influence.

Responsible careers are guided by internal values, and are also very pragmatic. They involve continuous learning and judging how best to have impact in current complex and shifting landscapes. What is responsible, sustainable or of social benefit is not clear-cut, especially in the longer term. Therefore responsible careers require discernment and continual review. Networking is essential, for information and dialogue with people similarly committed to change. 

People pursuing responsible careers define themselves primarily in terms of wider social issues and stakeholders, rather than their organisations. They seek to influence the latter well beyond their immediate job remits, and so may be internal activists.[1]


Some people shift to work that they perceive as having more meaning in mid-career, deploying their accumulated expertise and understanding about how to influence change. Others start from high environmental or social awareness and find ways to express this from the outset.  Often, people pursuing responsible careers work across sectors.  They may help to create initiatives, such as new global reporting guidelines incorporating environmental sustainability, that are field-shaping and encourage corporate responsibility more generally.


Article: The rise in responsible careers

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