Tuesday, August 4, 2009

MBAs join the CSR movement.

The top business schools in the US have taken a lot of criticism lately for failing to put enough (or indeed any) emphasis on ethics, social values and corporate reponsibility in their study programs. Imagine graduating with a master's degree in business administration and being lumped in the same category as Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, or the executives who ran Enron. The low opinion many people have of MBAs, especially in the wake of the financial crisis was on the minds of a group of 25 students who received their master's degrees from Harvard Business School earlier this year. They've mounted a campaign to have graduating students take what they call the "MBA Oath," modeled after the medical profession's Hippocratic oath. The oath is about their commitments to the good of the community, and how it's not just about individual profit or about their own self-advancement.

They define their Mission as:
Our near-term goal is to get at least 100 graduating Harvard Business School students to sign the oath. We hope this will
a) make a difference in the lives of the students who take the oath
b) challenge other classmates to work with a higher professional standard, whether they sign the oath or not and
c) create a public conversation in the press about professionalizing and improving management.

Our long-term goal is to transform the field of management into a true profession, one in which MBAs are respected for their integrity, professionalism, and leadership. We hope to see hundreds of thousands of MBAs take the MBA oath, or something like it, as a step towards realizing this vision.


As a manager, my purpose is to serve the greater good by bringing people and resources together to create value that no single individual can create alone. Therefore I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term. I recognize my decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and in the future. As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face choices that are not easy for me and others.

Therefore I promise:
* I will act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner.
* I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we operate.
* I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.
* I will understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise.
* I will take responsibility for my actions, and I will represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.
* I will develop both myself and other managers under my supervision so that the profession continues to grow and contribute to the well-being of society.
* I will strive to create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide.
* I will be accountable to my peers and they will be accountable to me for living by this oath.

This oath I make freely, and upon my honor.

MBAs from over 280 different programs have signed the oath, and of the 200 most recent signers of the oath, 93% are from schools other than Harvard. In fact, schools with the largest contingents of signers include Kellogg, NYU Stern, Oxford Said, Singapore Management University, Columbia Business School, Fuqua, MIT Sloan, Dominican University, and Wharton.

Enthusiasm for the oath is increasingly international, from coverage by the Shanghai Daily to support from similar initiatives in Argentina. Over half the pioneer MBA class at Singapore Management University has taken the oath, as has 70% of NYU’s Executive MBA class.

For more information, see http://www.mbaoath.org

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