The time seems ripe for the establishment of a global code of conduct for business that will cover the most critical areas of value creation and potential social harm associated with management as a profession. If such a code is going to succeed, though, it will have to be rooted and grown in business schools throughout the globe. It is there that new young managers first develop their value systems, and it is there where we can instill a more responsible approach to management — one that emphasizes sustainable value creation over short-term greed.
Other professional disciplines have long adopted codes of professional conduct defining how they serve the greater good and how they avoid potential harm. Management may be younger than medicine or law, but it is mature enough to have produced collegiate schools of business in universities around the world, well established academic disciplines and journals, professional associations and a degree, the MBA, that is widely accepted as a professional qualification by many business corporations. But, the impact is even greater than the presence of the formal MBA. According to the Aspen Institute, one out of four graduate degrees and one out of five undergraduate degrees is in business with new specializations and executive education programs adding to the overall numbers even more. It is imperative that we come together as a professional community to raise the standards for business as usual—before, during, and after our professional training.
The Oath Project is actively working to inspire change within both the academic and professional landscapes—but we should not underestimate the power of the personal commitment. The unique benefit of the oath is two fold: it gives the individual a way to personally commit to the values of responsible business and provides a larger professional community to support and enhance that commitment.
More than sixty academic institutions have instituted the oath as a way for their communities to pledge to hold themselves and their peers to more ethical, sustainable, and smart business. The approach varies from school to school with some schools fully integrating the oath into the fiber of their degree program, others using it as a kickoff or capstone experience, others using it as a basis for discussion, curriculum change, and tool for recruitment. Some schools partner with their honor council, Net Impact chapter, or student government while others work hand in hand with the faculty senate, dean, or President’s office. Sometimes it starts as a grassroots approach or as a part of the school’s strategic initiatives—but the schools that have the most success have a clear understanding of the full spectrum of their academic community and work with the key stakeholders to formulate an implementation plan that compliments the perspectives, ideals, and values that make their communities unique.
We look forward to helping you bring the movement to your campus and to highlighting your story as an example for others schools to emulate once you do.
**A note for faculty, deans, and other educators:
As educators, we need to come to terms with the fact that management is indeed a true profession. A profession that, like the most honorable of professions, exists to improve the lives of our fellow human beings through the creative application of technical knowledge and personal skill to complex social problems. As management educators, we are responsible for advancing, transmitting and perpetuating not just the technical knowledge, but also the values and service attitudes that should be driving this profession.
It is time that we reject the fallacy that being a steward of the greater good is incompatible with creating competitive returns for shareholders. Or that the values of professionalism and social responsibility are inconsistent with innovation and entrepreneurship. And it is time for the business community and business schools worldwide to step up and work collaboratively to develop and adopt a professional code of conduct that will help restore the management profession the respect and recognition it deserves. To learn more on how you can get involved, be a part of our pilot program with Giving Voice to Values, or join our faculty network. Please contact us here.
Thank you for your support! With your help we are changing the face of business one future manager at a time.