Goodwill Industries International Inc. often referred to as Goodwill, is a US-based nonprofit 501 organization. Goodwill helps individuals who struggle with obtaining a job and handling employment by providing job training and employment placement services. Goodwill frequently launches community-based programs and initiatives and hire veterans and job seekers with insufficient education. The organization is funded by an extended network of retail thrift stores and other non-profit organizations. Goodwill commits to the so-called triple bottom line, an accounting framework that holds organizations responsible socially, financially, and environmentally (“Goodwill’s Heritage, Mission, Vision, and Values”). On its website, the company states that it intends to help people preserve their dignity and enhance their quality of life by offering life-changing opportunities.
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Goodwill was founded in 1902 by the Reverend Edgar J. Helms of Morgan Methodist Chapel in Boston. Helms and his congregation collected household goods and clothes in the wealthier neighborhoods of the city. Then they helped the poor and unemployed by training them to mend and repair the discarded goods. By the 21st century, the organization has expanded well beyond the United States, building its presence in South Korea, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay, and Canada. Every year, Goodwill helps millions of people and employs hundreds of thousands.
Today, Goodwill seeks to address both old and new problems plaguing society. While poverty and underemployment persist, there are other concerning tendencies that the organizations attempt to tackle. Semuels writes that the availability of goods is turning Americans into hoarders. Overconsumption leads not only to more waste but also to a mindset shift toward the disposability of clothes and other items. By opening thrift stores, Goodwill gives pre-owned goods a second chance to find a home. It is a sustainable practice that is sound both financially and environmentally. Goodwill encourages shopping at thrift stores and even publishes how-to guides for those who are new to this. The organization highlights the positive effect of thrift shopping: finding a unique item and knowing that it is helping the planet makes the shopper especially content.
Despite its good intentions and undeniable accomplishments, Goodwill is not immune to criticism, especially when it is grounded in facts and evidence. Hrabe reports that the organization barely passes as charitable if one takes a closer look at how it treats its workers versus the managing board. For instance, the President of the Portland branch, Miller received a massive compensation of $838,508 in pay and benefits for the fiscal year 2004. At the same time, as discovered by Hrabe, some employees receive as little as 22 cents per hour. Many others are paid more, and yet, their wages barely match the legal minimum for their states. This implies that Goodwill effectively exploits the most vulnerable demographics who are already at risk of employment abuse.
The exploitation of the vulnerable is not the only problem about how the company functions. Minimum reports that only 12% of all profits made by Goodwill goes to charity, which defeats the non-profit status of the company. Further, the writer argues that the organization sends the goods that it was unable to sell to third-world countries, undermining local industries. Lastly, Moyle describes a recent accident when a worker was killed by a trash compactor due to the company’s negligence. Evidently, the greatest challenge that the company is facing now is actually living up to its mission and vision.
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Minium, Alice. The Dark Reality Behind America’s Greatest Thrift Store Empire, 2018. Web.
Moyle, Alex. Why Goodwill Goes Bad. Web.
Semuels, Alana. ‘We Are All Accumulating Mountains of Things.’ 2018. Web.