n the early 2000′s, in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals, a group of young global leaders convened by the World Economic Forum proposed the establishment of a professional code of conduct that would articulate management’s commitment to the public interest. But the subject proved too controversial for its time, in both the corporate and academic sectors.
In 2005, the faculty and trustees of the Thunderbird School of Global Management nevertheless agreed to adopt a “Professional Oath of Honor,” which had emerged from a student-led initiative. The Thunderbird oath, which included a commitment to act with honesty and integrity, respect basic human rights, combat corruption and create real, sustainable value, was incorporated in the admissions process, the curriculum and the graduation ceremonies. It remained, however, an isolated curiosity among mostly skeptical business schools.
Unfortunately, it would take a collapse of the global financial system for the idea to gain wider traction. In the latter part of 2008, as the world began to re-examine the causes leading up to the financial crisis, the finger of blame turned, in part, to business schools who were accused of perpetuating a narrow view of value creation and managerial responsibility. And influential thought leaders such as World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab and Harvard professors Rakesh Khurana and Nitin Nohria visibly argued for the need to establish a “Hippocratic oath” for business.
In 2009, a group of students at Harvard asked MBA graduates to sign a voluntary pledge “to serve the greater good” and to “create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide.” Over half of the graduating class signed a so-called “MBA Oath”, which has since spread to dozens of business schools worldwide.
At the 2010 annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the community of Young Global Leaders unveiled a Global Business Oath for business leaders to serve as a guide when facing difficult trade-offs.
In 2011, The Oath Project expanded from a group of experts providing thought leadership to an organization positioned to inspire action. Building off its first year with Aspen and thanks to the support and direction of its many founding partners, the Oath Project is now a stand alone tax exempt 501 (c) 3 taking an active role in the professionalization of management movement.
In order to offer a single, well-researched, and rigorously tested oath for management, the Oath Project conducted comprehensive rounds of stakeholder input. The oath that you see on these pages represents the many contributions of our partners and includes vital suggestions from several previous versions. It has been accepted as “the gold standard” by our many partners—including the MBA Oath and the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders.