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Natural Awakenings

Ethical Era: Generational Shift in Management Philosophy

Nearly 20 percent of Harvard’s 2009 master’s of business administration graduating class have signed “The MBA Oath,” acknowledging that the goal of a business manager is to “serve the greater good.” It’s their public vow that they will act responsibly, ethically and refrain from advancing their “own narrow ambitions” at the expense of others.

The New York Times reports that top business schools have witnessed an explosion of interest in ethics courses and in student activities about personal and corporate responsibility. The student-driven idea is to view business as more than a money-making enterprise. “Rather, they will think about how they earn their income, not just how much,” says Bruce Kogut, director of the Sanford C. Bernstein & Company Center for Leadership and Ethics, at Columbia. This new generation of activists promises to consider a corporation’s affect on its community and the public, its workers and the environment.

At Columbia Business School, all students must pledge to an honor code that states in part: “I will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.” The code, in place for three years, came about after discussions between students and faculty.

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