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5 Small Businesses With Ethics

Laurie Kulikowski

The term “ethical company” can seem like an oxymoron since a financial crisis that revealed some of the dirtiest secrets in the mortgage and housing industries.

But not every company has grown so large and so greedy that the only thing its executives can think of is how high and fast they can boost their share price. In fact, there are a host of companies that see it as their mission to be more than profit generators…


Online retailer, which sells wireless headsets for office use, has a policy in which three-year employees get a free week of vacation added to every week of paid time off. After five years of service (and every five after that) employees get a one-month paid sabbatical—provided that their job responsibilities are covered while they are out.

CEO Mike Faith says the perk was something he believed in right from the start of the 15-year-old company. He got the idea while working for a small computer-supplies company in the U.K. years ago. There employees were required to take two weeks of vacation consecutively.

“We encourage people to take the time off to either refresh and come back, or find a new job if they want,” he says. “I always bought into the theory that to have a real rest is really important.”

Say what? The company actually encourages its employees to use the time to look for another job?

It’s true. The exercise offers unhappy workers the chance to find an appropriate workplace fit and allows to weed out less-loyal and possibly unproductive employees, Faith explains:

“People can get stuck in jobs forever without that chance to break out and look for something new. We believe that giving people the choice is the right thing,” he says.

In terms of hard costs, Faith says that the sabbatical in effect cost the company about 2% of the employee’s total cost to the company. The pros outweigh the cons, he says.

The perk is a “big morale booster” and a good marketing tool for the company, Faith adds—especially the job-seeking nudge. “People tend to talk about it,” he says. “It generally works out well for us and if someone really thinks they’re better somewhere else, it’s best to go and do it. It keeps us on our toes as well.”

So far about 15 people have taken at least one paid sabbatical. Of that group, two employees have been at long enough to take two paid sabbaticals and two others have left the company after using the time to find a new job, he says.

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