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Have Your Say: How do we bring our social conscience to the workplace?

Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.

It's that soul-zapping time of year when many Canadians arrive at work in the dark, and leave work in the dark – surviving the mid-winter office doldrums by going through the required motions, and going for a chocolate sprinkle ball in Candy Crush Saga.

In our lives outside of work, we can find meaning by volunteering, helping others and making socially conscious choices. But you don't have to quit your desk job and join the Peace Corps to make a difference at work. Bringing your values to the office can spruce up your work life, even through simple acts such as printing on both sides and adding those little "Think of the trees, do not print this e-mail" signatures.

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We'd certainly be more valuable employees if we did, suggests Richard Barrett, author of The Values-Driven Organization: Unleashing Human Potential for Performance and Profit. When you can incorporate your personal values into your work life, he reasons in a web-based video lecture, it "releases commitment, enthusiasm, and creativity."

"Our average workday is full of a hundred different opportunities to integrate our values and ethics," argues Alan Kearns, founder of career coaching firm CareerJoy, "from how we respond to an e-mail to how we manage a budget line item." Even if we feel like just a tiny cog in a huge machine, we can make a tiny but tangible difference in the lives of our colleagues, clients and environment with simple gestures of help, humour, waste reduction and conscience.

So, since multitasking is a workplace virtue, after we bring a fair-trade coffee to the guy in the neighbouring cubicle, how else can we make both a living and a (slightly) better world at the same time?

This week's question: How can we each integrate our social and ethical values into our work lives?

THE EXPERTS:

Cathy Driscoll, professor of business ethics at Saint Mary's University in Halifax

"It's important not to preach our social and ethical values to co-workers, yet have the moral courage to live out our core values and be role models for others. If you value integrity and accountability, stand up to the supervisor who asks you to do something you know is wrong. If you value mutual respect and transparency, don't double bill a client or call them names behind their back."

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Shari Austin, vice-president and head of corporate citizenship for Royal Bank of Canada

"RBC and its employees have found many ways to give back to the communities we live and work in. For example, thousands of employees around the world help clean up shorelines, set up rain barrels, clear parks and ponds and plant trees for our Blue Water Day, and thousands of other employees lace up their running shoes in our Run for the Kids fundraisers."

Lance Secretan, founder of the The Secretan Center Inc. in Caledon, Ont.

"I have a simple benchmark for any decision, action or assignment: 'Is it life-affirming?' This is about personal integrity and choices. We can choose not to work for life-abusing industries, and to work to ensure that where we work is pursuing a life-enhancing mission."

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