last week whilst looking up some information on ethics, I came across the fact that there is an MBA Oath.  This fascinated me so I dug deeper and found a very interesting article in the Financial Times.

In 2008 when the credit crunch hit and Lehman Brothers, the investment bank collapsed, unethical bankers were held up as responsible.  Most people believe that these bankers are just the sort of people who have MBAs so …. does this mean that MBA students are unethical?

Enter Harvard Business School which stands strongly behind their MBA…as a response to these accusations, they came up with the MBA Oath.   Graduates who take this oath pledge to serve the greater good and act with the utmost integrity.  This idea took hold and similar schemes started popping up in business schools all around the world.  You can read the Oath in full at

In 2009, the first year of the oath at Harvard, more than 500 graduates signed the document.  By 2010, the number dropped to about 300 and this year it fell again to just 220.  Why is this?

According to the writer of the article, Della Bradshaw, part of the reason could be that in the US the individual “I” tends to take precedence over the collective “we”.  It is very difficult for an individual to make a real ethical difference in a company where the corporate culture goes against this – where the good of the organisation, its directors or shareholders take precedence over ’serving the greater good’.

There is hope.  The focus of the Oath now looks to focus on talking to corporations and trying to inculcate them with the ethos of the oath.   The writer, however, poses another issue – if business schools are running programmes for the greater good, is it ethical that the high cost of an MBA is likely to preclude the participation of those working for charities or NGO’s?

But back to the beginning.  The Oath developed as a result of the crash of Lehman Brothers – are ethical standards then only promoted in times of scandals, when people get caught out?  At the moment 6,272 people from more than 250 business schools around the world have taken the pledge.  Let’s hope it makes a difference.  You can read the full article here:

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  1. […] Original post: Are MBA students unethical? « Vic Careers […]


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