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Global Business Oath

pg. 38: The YGL Business Oath Task Force has proposed a Global Business Oath, which is intended to be a modern day Hippocratic Oath for business that spells out a commitment to doing no harm through the practice of management. It commits managers and graduates of business schools throughout the world to a common code of ethics and to raise their awareness of ethical values such as integrity, honesty, reliability and responsibility. The project is developing a series of practices that help Oath takers to live the Oath on an ongoing, lifelong basis. 

Readers' Guide Comment on "Global Business Oath, which is intended to be a modern day Hippocratic Oath for business that spells out a commitment to doing no harm through the practice of management"

By 2011, this project became simply, The Oath Project. The Oath Project outlines seven promises for ethical business executives. They include promises to “not advance my personal interests at the expense of my enterprise or society;” “to refrain from corruption, unfair competition, or business practices harmful to society;” “to report the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly;” and “to oppose discrimination and exploitation.”

The Oath contains no reference to the goals or objectives of any multilateral agreement, only an indirect reference to sustainable development, and no reference to equity, democracy, labor, or any broadly accepted ethical guidelines. While the driver for the YGL re-write of the Hippocratic Oath was to help shift commitments toward development, there is no reference to any developmental principles, such as the Millennium Development Goals.


Related Ideas: Step Five; Aligning values with governance; Gaining acceptanceCivic culture not robust enough; Too prone to treat human dignity as outside legitimate purview; Sense of ownership

The Readers' Guide welcomes comments with alternative examples or counter examples, supplemental assessments of the extracted GRI text or commentary – critical or otherwise – of the above interpretation of GRI’s perspective.

Michael Denney

Posted: 10-11-2012 12:54

This is one of the most troubling parts of the GRI simply because of its inapplicability. What of the arms trade? What of the manufacture of harmful substances, such as alcohol and tobacco, that have societal ramifications (higher health care costs, drunk driving, etc)? These are billion-dollar industries. How are business leaders supposed to simultaneously meet the demand for something harmful and do no harm to society? I can't imagine a private sector so well self-regulated that it takes up social responsibility as one of its driving ideas. If there is money to be made, this "oath" will inevitably fall to the wayside.

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