The Magazine of Corporate Responsibility

World Economic Forum: Will Many Take The Global Business Oath?

by Michael Connor

Picture World Economic Forum/Remy Steinegger

Picture World Economic Forum/ Remy Steinegger

As the World Economic Forum (WEF) opens on Wednesday, in the tiny Swiss ski village of Davos, some 2,500 CEOs and senior executives, heads of state, politicians, policy makers and journalists will gather to listen to speeches, attend panel sessions, drink at cocktail parties and dinners, and network like crazy in an effort to justify the time and expense of spending a week in highly comfortable accommodations in the Alps.

It will be interesting to see how many of them wind up taking The Global Business Oath.

Yes, there is one – and you, too, can pledge.

The Global Business Oath is the product of the WEF’s Forum of Young Global Leaders – some 200-300 “extraordinary individuals, drawn from every region of the world” who, the WEF says, “together, form a powerful international community that can dramatically impact the global future.”

At last year’s meetings in Davos, the WEF reports, the young global leaders launched an initiative “based on the idea of an oath for business leaders that would serve as a guide when facing difficult trade-offs and paradoxes.”

Over the past year they drafted a set of principles – the Global Business Oath - and they’ve been testing the content and implementation ever since. And now it’s ready for pledging.

While some might consider the proposal by the young global leaders a bit naïve, the bigger question is how many older, more experienced, business leaders will be signing on.  Will Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF, attempt to get JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to take the Oath?  How about Deutsche Bank’s Josef Akermann?

More than 200 leaders have already pledged to lead their organizations according to these principles, according to the WEF, and over the course of 2010 “the YGL Oath Task Force will be looking to expand the reach and impact of the oath.”

A quick check of those who have already signed on indicates the list is dominated by representatives of non-profit groups or academics, though a handful of mid-level executives from big firms – such as Nestle, KKR, Ogilvy - have taken the pledge.  Mexico’s Banco Compartamos had 39 of its executives, including the CEO, take the oath.  Representatives of U.S. companies are noticeably absent.

Here’s the complete text of the Oath:

As a business leader I recognize that

  • The enterprise I lead must serve the greater good by bringing together people and resources to create value that no single individual can create alone,
  • My decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the wellbeing of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and tomorrow,
  • As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face choices that are not easy for me and others.

So I promise that

  1. I will manage my enterprise diligently and in good faith and will not let personal considerations and compensation supersede the long-term interest of my enterprise and society at large,
  2. I will understand and uphold, both in letter and spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise,
  3. I will respect and protect the human rights and dignity of all people who are affected by my enterprise and will oppose all forms of discrimination and exploitation,
  4. I will respect and protect the right of future generations to enjoy a clean and resourceful planet,
  5. I will not engage in nor tolerate bribery or any other form of corruption,
  6. I will represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly to each of the constituencies that are affected by it,
  7. I will actively engage in efforts to finding solutions to critical social and environmental issues that are central to my enterprise, and
  8. I will invest in my own professional development as well as the development of other managers under my supervision.

In exercising my professional duties according to these principles I recognize that my behavior must set an example of integrity and responsible conduct.

This pledge I make freely and upon my honor.

You can access The Global Business Oath on the web and , if you care to, take the pledge yourself.

Whether or not you sign on, we’d be interested in your comments, which you can post below.

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