By Ken Goodpaster

A year or two ago, I flew to Geneva, Switzerland to be part of an annual meeting that I had attended a number of times in the past. The meeting was held in a turn of the (20th) century hotel, built on a mountain overlooking Montreux, a resort town on the eastern shore of Lake Geneva. The name of the village on the mountain is Caux-sur-Montreux, or simply Caux; the group that gathered was known as the Caux Round Table.

To learn more about the mission and history of the Caux Round Table visit the web site Essentially, it is a group of 25-50 business leaders from around the world, including especially Japan, Europe and North America, who come together regularly to discuss the challenges of "principled business leadership" in a global economy. About seven years ago, this group embraced a set of ethical principles for guiding international business organizations regardless of country or culture of origin and regardless of the countries or cultures in which they did business.

"Can it be done?" one might ask. "Can ethical principles be articulated that cross broad cultural and regional boundaries?"  To which the simple reply is: "Look at the evidence!"  The Caux Principles have now been translated into over a dozen languages, reprinted in numerous business textbooks and articles, and adopted in business school curricula worldwide. (See below for the full text of the Caux Principles.)

The Caux Principles include both stakeholder-based convictions and convictions of a more general kind that promote transparency, trade cooperation, anti-corruption, environmental protection, and a world community. It is not surprising that these principles have captured the moral imaginations of so many around the world. For beneath their surface is much wisdom from the ethical traditions of both East and West. They reflect the paradigms of ethical reasoning by emphasizing the interests and rights of those affected by business activity, as well as the duties and virtues that are called for on the part of corporations that value the common good.

We need to remember, however, when international business is the subject of discussion, that the global challenge is analogous to the domestic challenge. Both call for companies to "institutionalize" their espoused principles in day-to-day operations.

Part of my message on the mountain overlooking Lake Geneva that summer was that the mere articulation of principles does not carry aspiration into action. What is called for beyond articulation is the identification of objective criteria -- what some refer to as benchmarks -- indicators that a company's acceptance of the Caux Principles is confirmed in practice. For each of the principles to have practical meaning beyond the elaboration offered in their statement, we need to ask how a company's commitment would manifest itself (both to management and to outside observers). In each case, benchmarks provide the answers to this question. For the principle regarding customers, for instance, a commitment to quality and fairness would be manifest in benchmarks such as:

-- positive consumer evaluations,

-- adherence to recognized codes of consumer protection, and

-- minimal negative legal or regulatory actions.

For the principle regarding employees, a commitment to their dignity, health and safety would be manifest in benchmarks such as:

-- third party recognition of employment practices,

-- minimal negative legal or regulatory actions, and

-- demonstrated commitment to employee training and development.

As credible benchmarks for the Caux Principles are developed, it becomes further necessary to spell out how these benchmarks will be measured so that comparisons between companies on each of the benchmarks (as well as comparisons between the behavior of any given company at two different times) can be fair and objective. Decisions must be made, for example, about what data to rely on for measuring 'third party recognition' of companies' practices, or 'minimal legal and regulatory actions.'

As I said to the members of the Caux Round Table, "all of this helps us to see the completion of a journey that began on this mountain less than a decade ago.  It is a journey not only for corporate leaders of industrialized economies, but also for those in emerging economies. We may soon be in a position to offer companies a process for tracking their own performance in relation to the Caux Principles.

The aspiration of Caux Round Table members to foster corporate conscience in a global economy gave rise to the articulation of the principles. The principles are now being enriched with benchmarks and measurement criteria that will enable both corporate leaders and ethically-minded investors to recognize their behavioral manifestations. (See illustrative diagram below).

My purpose in sharing these thoughts about the Caux Round Table principles is to encourage us to look at global business decision making, with an eye towards taking aspirations into action. Let us view ethical challenges not simply as isolated problems to be solved, but as opportunities to institutionalize principled business behavior.

The CAUX Principles
In a world which is experiencing profound transformation, the Caux Round Table of business leaders from Europe, Japan and the United States is committed to energizing the role of business and industry as a vital force for innovative global change.

The Round Table was founded in 1986 by Frederik Philips, former President of Philips Electronics, and Olivier Giscard d'Estaing, Vice-Chairman of INSEAD, as a means of reducing escalating trade tensions. It is concerned with the development of constructive economic and social relationships between the participants' countries, and with their urgent joint responsibilities toward the rest of the world.

At the urging of Ryuzaburo Kaku, Chairman of Canon Inc., the Round Table has focused attention on the importance of global corporate responsibility in reducing social and economic threats to world peace and stability. The Round Table recognizes that shared leadership is indispensable to a revitalized and more harmonious world. It emphasizes the development of continuing friendship, understanding and cooperation, based on a common respect for the highest moral values and on responsible action by individuals in their own spheres of influence.


The Caux Round Table believes that the world business community should play an important role in improving economic and social conditions. As a statement of aspirations, this document aims to express a world standard against which business behavior can be measured. We seek to begin a process that identifies shared values, reconciles differing values, and thereby develops a shared perspective on business behavior acceptable to and honored by all.

These principles are rooted in two basic ethical ideals: kyosei and human dignity. The Japanese concept of kyosei means living and working together for the common good enabling cooperation and mutual prosperity to coexist with healthy and fair competition. "Human dignity" refers to the sacredness or value of each person as an end, not simply as a mean to the fulfillment of others' purposes or even majority prescription.

The General Principles in Section 2 seek to clarify the spirit of kyosei and "human dignity," while the specific Stakeholder Principles in Section 3 are concerned with their practical application.

In its language and form, the document owes a substantial debt to The Minnesota Principles, a statement of business behavior developed by the Minnesota Center for Corporate Responsibility. The Center hosted and chaired the drafting committee, which included Japanese, European, and United States representatives.

Business behavior can affect relationships among nations and the prosperity and well-being of us all. Business is often the first contact between nations and, by the way in which it causes social and economic changes, has a significant impact on the level of fear or confidence felt by people worldwide. Members of the Caux Round Table place their first emphasis on putting one's own house in order, and on seeking to establish what is right rather than who is right.

Section 1. Preamble

The mobility of employment, capital, products and technology is making business increasingly global in its transactions and its effects.

Law and market forces are necessary but insufficient guides for conduct.

Responsibility for the policies and actions of business and respect for the dignity and interests of its stakeholders are fundamental.

Shared values, including a commitment to shared prosperity, are as important for a global community as for communities of smaller scale.

For these reasons, and because business can be a powerful agent of positive social change, we offer the following principles as a foundation for dialogue and action by business leaders in search of business responsibility. In so doing, we affirm the necessity for moral values in business decision making. Without them, stable business relationships and a sustainable world community are impossible.

Section 2. General Principles

Principle 1. The Responsibilities Of Businesses:
Beyond Shareholders toward Stakeholders

The value of a business to society is the wealth and employment it creates and the marketable products and services it provides to consumers at a reasonable price commensurate with quality. To create such value, a business must maintain its own economic health and viability, but survival is not a sufficient goal.

Businesses have a role to play in improving the lives of all their customers, employees, and shareholders by sharing with them the wealth they have created. Suppliers and competitors as well should expect businesses to honor their obligations in a spirit of honesty and fairness. As responsible citizens of the local, national, regional and global communities in which they operate, businesses share a part in shaping the future of those communities.

Principle 2. The Economic and Social Impact of Business:
Toward Innovation, Justice and World Community

Businesses established in foreign countries to develop, produce or sell should also contribute to the social advancement of those countries by creating productive employment and helping to raise the purchasing power of their citizens. Businesses also should contribute to human rights, education, welfare, and vitalization of the countries in which they operate.

Businesses should contribute to economic and social development not only in the countries in which they operate, but also in the world community at large, through effective and prudent use of resources, free and fair competition, and emphasis upon innovation in technology, production methods, marketing and communications.

Principle 3. Business Behavior:
Beyond the Letter of Law Toward a Spirit of Trust

While accepting the legitimacy of trade secrets, businesses should recognize that sincerity, candor, truthfulness, the keeping of promises, and transparency contribute not only to their own credibility and stability but also to the smoothness and efficiency of business transactions, particularly on the international level.

Principle 4. Respect for Rules

To avoid trade frictions and to promote freer trade, equal conditions for competition, and fair and equitable treatment for all participants, businesses should respect international and domestic rules. In addition, they should recognize that some behavior, although legal, may still have adverse consequences.

Principle 5. Support for Multilateral Trade

Businesses should support the multilateral trade systems of the GATT/World Trade Organization and similar international agreements. They should cooperate in efforts to promote the progressive and judicious liberalization of trade and to relax those domestic measures that unreasonably hinder global commerce, while giving due respect to national policy objectives.

Principle 6. Respect for the Environment

A business should protect and, where possible, improve the environment, promote sustainable development, and prevent the wasteful use of natural resources.

Principle 7. Avoidance of Illicit Operations

A business should not participate in or condone bribery, money laundering, or other corrupt practices: indeed, it should seek cooperation with others to eliminate them. It should not trade in arms or other materials used for terrorist activities, drug traffic or other organized crime.

Section 3. Stakeholder Principles


We believe in treating all customers with dignity, irrespective of whether they purchase our products and services directly from us or otherwise acquire them in the market. We therefore have a responsibility to:

provide our customers with the highest quality products and services consistent with their requirements;

treat our customers fairly in all aspects of our business transactions, including a high level of service and remedies for their dissatisfaction;

make every effort to ensure that the health and safety of our customers, as well as the quality of their environment, will be sustained or enhanced by our products and services;

assure respect for human dignity in products offered, marketing, and advertising; and respect the integrity of the culture of our customers.


We believe in the dignity of every employee and in taking employee interests seriously. We therefore have a responsibility to:

provide jobs and compensation that improve workers' living conditions;

provide working conditions that respect each employee's health and dignity;

be honest in communications with employees and open in sharing information, limited only by legal and competitive constraints;

listen to and, where possible, act on employee suggestions, ideas, requests and complaints;

engage in good faith negotiations when conflict arises;

avoid discriminatory practices and guarantee equal treatment and opportunity in areas such as gender, age, race, and religion;

promote in the business itself the employment of differently abled people in places of work where they can be genuinely useful;

protect employees from avoidable injury and illness in the workplace;

encourage and assist employees in developing relevant and transferable skills and knowledge; and

be sensitive to the serious unemployment problems frequently associated with business decisions, and work with governments, employee groups, other agencies and each other in addressing these dislocations.

Owners / Investors

We believe in honoring the trust our investors place in us. We therefore have a responsibility to:

apply professional and diligent management in order to secure a fair and competitive return on our owners' investment;

disclose relevant information to owners/investors subject to legal requirements and competitive constraints;

conserve, protect, and increase the owners/investors' assets; and

respect owners/investors' requests, suggestions, complaints, and formal resolutions.


Our relationship with suppliers and subcontractors must be based on mutual respect. We therefore have a responsibility to :

seek fairness and truthfulness in all our activities, including pricing, licensing, and rights to sell;

ensure that our business activities are free from coercion and unnecessary litigation;

foster long-term stability in the supplier relationship in return for value, quality, competitiveness and reliability;

share information with suppliers and integrate them into our planning processes;

pay suppliers on time and in accordance with agreed terms of trade; and

seek, encourage and prefer suppliers and subcontractors whose employment practices respect human dignity.


We believe that fair economic competition is one of the basic requirements for increasing the wealth of nations and ultimately for making possible the just distribution of goods and services. We therefore have a responsibility to:

foster open markets for trade and investment;

promote competitive behavior that is socially and environmentally beneficial and demonstrates mutual respect among competitors;

refrain from either seeking or participating in questionable payments or favors to secure competitive advantages;

respect both tangible and intellectual property rights; and

refuse to acquire commercial information by dishonest or unethical means, such as industrial espionage.


We believe that as global corporate citizens we can contribute to such forces of reform and human rights as are at work in the communities in which we operate. We therefore have a responsibility in those communities to:

respect human rights and democratic institutions, and promote them wherever practicable;

recognize government's legitimate obligation to the society at large and support public policies and practices that promote human development through harmonious relations between business and other segments of society;

collaborate with those forces in the community dedicated to raising standards of health, education, workplace safety and economic well-being;

promote and stimulate sustainable development and play a leading role in preserving and enhancing the physical environment and conserving the earth's resources;

support peace, security, diversity and social integration;

respect the integrity of local cultures; and

be a good corporate citizen through charitable donations, educational and cultural contributions, and employee participation in community and civic affairs.

The Principles for Business have been widely utilized not only by companies and business organizations but in schools around the world, and also have been included in numerous books and other publications. Some examples are:

Values Added: Making Ethical Decisions in the Financial Marketplace
John L. Casey
(University Press of America, Inc. 1997)

Ethical Theory and Business
Fifth Edition
Tom L. Beauchamp of Georgetown University, editor
Norman E. Bowie of the University of Minnesota (Prentice Hall), editor

The Principles for Business have been offered as a guide for companies to develop, re-examine, implement and monitor their own principles. The real value of any set of principles is in its use and implementation in day to day business activities. The Caux Round Table (CRT) seeks to compile evidence of worldwide best practices and stories of application of these and similar principles to practical issues. We welcome your sharing examples of best practices from your companies experience with or without reference to the company name.

We encourage others who have used the Caux Round Table Principles for Business to notify us if you would like to be included in this listing.

KENNETH E. GOODPASTER holds the David and Barbara Koch Chair in Business Ethics at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Michigan and holds an A.M. in Philosophy from that school, and an A.B. in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame. Professor Goodpaster taught graduate and undergraduate philosophy at Notre Dame before joining the faculty of the Harvard Business School in 1980, where he taught both M.B.A. candidates and business executives until 1990. His research in applied philosophy, focusing on the dynamic relationships among three levels of ethical analysis -- the person, the organization, and the capitalist system -- has led to course development, numerous journal publications, encyclopedia articles, and other books including Ethics in Management (Harvard Business School, 1984) and Managerial Decision Making and Ethical Values with Thomas R. Piper (Harvard Business School, 1989). Goodpaster is on the editorial boards of many professional journals in business ethics and consults with corporations and educational institutions throughout the world.