Taking the “Green Management Oath”

Those of us in the “people, planet, profits” field recognize the wide variety of stakeholders whose lives are impacted by daily business operations. As such, our role as generators of wealth is taking on a new meaning with new responsibilities. In order to ensure the integrity of what we do, two Harvard business school professors have put forth the idea that managers should take a “Green Hippocratic Oath.” What would this oath consist of? How would taking such an oath influence the everyday business decisions for a whole new generation of managers?

Profs. Rakesh Khurana and Nitin Nohria suggest that business professionals begin to think of themselves as having similar responsibilities as doctors and lawyers in society.
They write, “Management, in other words, will have to become more like the learned professions of medicine and law. Professions such as these are, at least in theory, characterized by an orientation to serving society–and they have something the profession of management does not have–a normative code or oath that encourages leaders to consider the broader implications of their actions.”
Considering the challenges of climate change and global poverty, such an oath would orient business professionals towards utilizing their talents for the greatest environmental and social good. So, what would the oath say?
As one example, the Thunderbird School of Global Management adopted the following “Professional Oath of Honor” for their students in 2006. It reads:
“As a Thunderbird and a global citizen, I promise:
I will strive to act with honesty and integrity;
I will respect the rights and dignity of all people;
I will strive to create sustainable prosperity worldwide;
I will oppose all forms of corruption and exploitation; and
I will take responsibility for my actions.
As I hold true to these principles, it is my hope that I may enjoy an honorable reputation and peace of conscience. This pledge I make freely and upon my honor.”
Such an oath reminds us of the greater potential we have as skilled business professionals to bring lasting prosperity and health for all those involved in our enterprises. I wholly support the notion of a verbal and written affirmation to instill in us our higher responsibilities beyond making a profit.
What other similar oaths exist? I would love to hear of more examples…

Shannon Arvizu, Ph.D., is a clean tech educator and cutting-edge consultant for the auto industry. You can follow her test drives in the cars of the future at www.misselectric.com.

One response

  1. I think the Business Council on Climate Change has some good principles for all businesses to commit to:
    We acknowledge our responsibility to reduce our impact on climate change and adopt practices within our company’s operations to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to a climate-friendly San Francisco Bay Area economy.
    Potential Actions include:
    • Conduct an assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from operations.
    • Set a company-wide greenhouse gas emission reduction goal.
    • Develop and implement a greenhouse gas reduction plan as appropriate to each company.
    • Monitor and verify progress towards achieving reduction goal.
    • Become a certified Bay Area Green Business.
    We will be active leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area community to help combat climate change.
    Potential Actions include:
    • Provide transportation alternative incentives for employees (public transit / bicycle commuting / carpooling / car share / low emission vehicles).
    • Provide educational materials to employees on how to reduce residential greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Work with supply chain partners and, where appropriate, with clients and customers to reduce indirect impacts of products and services.
    ‚Ä¢ Incorporate and showcase “green building” strategies.
    • Institutionalize corporate policy to offset company travel emissions through carbon credits.
    We will advocate and dialogue with policymakers to develop the best business solution through, for example, supporting the Bay Area Council’s advocacy platform on climate change.
    Potential Actions include:
    • Collaborate with local and state governments to identify policies and incentives for businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Make public statements Рindividually and collectively Рon the importance of preparing for and minimizing climate change.
    • Actively engage sources of capital to invest in clean tech and climate-friendly businesses.
    • Sponsor events that raise awareness about climate change in the corporate and/or residential sectors.
    • Support appropriate legislation to address climate change.
    Through the Business Council on Climate Change, we will collaborate and share best practices with other participating San Francisco Bay Area companies to help solve the problem of climate change.
    Potential Actions include:
    • Partner with BC3 members to leverage our impact with public agencies, customers, residents and community organizations.
    • Provide input on regulatory proceedings at the state and local level (e.g.: California Public Utilities Commission and regional air district).
    • Support international initiatives such as the UN Global Compact.
    We will each report regularly on our activities and progress towards reducing our climate footprint.
    Potential Actions include:
    • Disclose actions and results in annual reports.
    • Participate in the BC3 Learning Forum.
    • Share best practices and lessons learned with other members of BC3 and the public.

Leave a Reply