Occupy From the Inside
To some readers, the very notion of working within a corporation is tantamount to selling out their values as advocates for social or environmental justice. While this is a valid perspective, there is another view. Liz Maw, (executive director of the MBA's for social justice group Net Impact) articulated this view in her opening remarks for the 2011 Net Impact conference, when she said, "We are here to occupy Wall Street from the inside." The standing ovation was spontaneous, sustained and genuine. The audience represented a whole new generation of young people moving into the workforce with their sights set on working for societal good from within a company.But, as the occupy protests drag on, the popular view is far more divided. Are all corporations greedy and self-interested? Can corporations really be a force for good? These are questions that have been pondered for some time. The legendary economist Milton Friedman authored a New York Times op-ed in 1970 titled "The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits." Friedman pulled no punches in the opening to this piece:
"The businessmen believe that they are defending free enterprise when they declaim that business is not concerned "merely" with profit but also with promoting desirable "social" ends; that business has a "social conscience" and takes seriously its responsibilities for providing employment, eliminating discrimination, avoiding pollution and whatever else may be the catchwords of the contemporary crop of reformers. In fact they are -- or would be if they or anyone else took them seriously -- preaching pure and unadulterated socialism. Businessmen who talk this way are unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades."