By: Delanie Ricketts
I don't believe all big business is bad business. While I identify with Occupy Wall Street protesters' grievances with corporate America, I have a different vision of what needs to change. I see business as our most valuable ally in the quest for social justice. And in a bad economy, I see job opportunities for myself in that world too.
I didn't always feel that way.
I knew I wanted to study poverty ever since I moved to Jakarta, Indonesia in 5th grade. As my family and I drove to our future home, my ten-year-old self was baffled by the endless string of shacks, pollution, and people living on less than a dollar a day. I thought to myself, "Is this where we'll be living?" But as expats, of course, we lived in a very nice, manicured condo. Nonetheless, right outside my window poverty stared me right in the face. Why was it that I could live a life of luxury while my neighbors could not?
After moving back to the United States, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I saw myself working for an NGO to right the injustice and inequity I experienced in Jakarta. Once I enrolled as a student at the University of California Berkeley, this dream became complicated.
As part of my liberal arts major, I decided to take a business class. It was in this class that I started thinking differently about big business. I discovered, with readily available capital and power worldwide, corporations can be extremely valuable actors in the effort to end poverty, despite a focus on profits.
Although many people, including some of my peers here at UC Berkeley, are skeptical of businesses that claim to be making a difference, I am optimistic.
My optimism is fed by the huge amount of people I see already working towards making businesses become more socially responsible. To me, Occupy Wall Street represents a whole movement of people dedicated to demanding that corporations become more socially just. As more and more businesses decide to meet these demands, I see more and more opportunities for myself to create a career advising companies how to change.
I don't see that as selling out, but being part of the solution.
Already in my business class this semester, I'm spending time analyzing social justice efforts in major companies. One of my assignments was to write recommendations to Apple for their future Supplier Responsibility report. Through my research, I learned a lot -- mainly that while Apple isn't perfect, it appears to be making serious efforts to be socially responsible, dispelling the myth, at least for me, that all big business is bad business. Corporate America doesn't have to be our enemy, especially if future CEO's and leaders of NGO's are already at the table together in business school classes like mine.
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