Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 136, Issue 1, pp 23–42 | Cite as

Pledging Integrity: Oaths as Forms of Business Ethics Management

  • Boudewijn de BruinEmail author


The global financial crisis has led to a surprising interest in professional oaths in business. Examples are the MBA Oath (Harvard Business School), the Economist’s Oath (George DeMartino) and the Dutch Banker’s Oath, which senior executives in the financial services industry in the Netherlands have been obliged to swear since 2010. This paper is among the first to consider oaths from the perspective of business ethics. A framework is presented for analysing oaths in terms of their form, their content and the specific contribution they make to business ethics management: oaths may foster professionalism, facilitate moral deliberation and enhance compliance. This framework is used to analyse and evaluate the MBA Oath, the Economist’s Oath and the Banker’s Oath as well as various other similar initiatives.


Professional ethics Oaths MBA Oath Banker’s Oath DeMartino 



This paper was inspired by discussions with the participants of a conference on Oaths and Codes in Economics and Business that took place at the University of Groningen in May 2012. Special thanks are due to the keynote speakers, John Boatright and George DeMartino. Selected papers of this conference were published in a special issue of Review of Social Economy (de Bruin and Dolfsma 2013). I have learned a lot from discussions with Wouter van Aggelen, Wilfred Dolfsma and Henk-Jan Nanninga, as well as with the participants of the Duty of Care in Finance project at Balliol College (Oxford). I have also greatly benefited from the constructive comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this paper received from anonymous referees and from Muel Kaptein, the responsible section editor.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Economics and BusinessUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Faculty of PhilosophyUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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