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Earlier this week I was at the annual PRSA conference in humid and beautiful Orlando, Florida. Before you think that I have switched tracks from journalism to PR, stop right there! I was on site to speak on an interestingly personal topic: Sustainability: Walking the Walk.

Sustainability: Walking the Walk with CSRWire & Ethical Markets

Joining me on the panel were CEO of CSRwire Joe Sibilia and Executive Director of Ethical Markets Rosalinda Sanquiche. Sibilia started off the panel by talking about Occupy Wall Street. Not because he wanted a room full of dissent but because for Sibilia, as he emphasized on a recent Fox Business show, OWS goes to the heart of corporate social responsibility: A responsible capitalist system that takes into account a business’ social, economic and environmental stakeholders.

From a room of roughly 45 attendees, almost everyone raised their hands. However, when he followed up by asking how many understood what the protestors are demanding, the hands fell to a single digits. So, before I go any further, here’s a two-part question for you:

And:

Here’s the thing: Because so many continued to disagree with the holier-than-thou voice of CSR, claiming it is another cost business doesn’t need, a burden, not a business priority, so on and so forth, Michael Porter gave us an easier concept to embrace: Creating Shared Value.

You Don’t Get CSR? How About “Shared Value”?

Many more understood the economical efficacy offered by shared value than the tardy, accusatory and undefined acronym of CSR. But CSR as well as creating shared value are concepts spearheaded by economists, business leaders, researchers and activists.

Now we are all being forced to recognize and acknowledge a movement created by the average Joe (no pun intended!) demanding business to be more responsible, equal and just.

They want to be able to work, to have a home, a family. They want the right to live comfortably.

In other words, corporate social responsibility.

Yes, it’s one and the same thing, except now it’s not the activists or the bloggers taking up the case but an undefined mass of people who come from different backgrounds, experiences and age but are commonly united on one front: Fairness.

Regardless of whether you physically join the Occupy Wall Street protestors, it is far more important that you understand their message and recognize that this is your one chance to make things right.

Yes, You the Average Employee Can Make a Difference

So, go ahead: Nudge your boss to offer job sharing opportunities to candidates.

As a job candidate, question the recruiter on the company’s mission, values, priorities. As a student, ask your faculty to discuss business cases in context of economic recessions, environmental degradation and social upheaval.

Ask the tough questions, the right questions. As Michigan’s Ross School of Business Professor Aneel Karnani recently said, “You get the kind of government you vote for.” We as professionals and students get the kind of corporation we choose to work for.

This is your chance to influence business as an employee, a manager, and as a prospective candidate. For the longest time we have been told to vote with our dollars. Now it is time to vote with our expertise and professional skills.

Question is, are you up for it?

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