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The Four Way Test

From the earliest days of the organization, Rotarians were concerned with promoting high ethical standards in their professional lives. One of the world's most widely printed and quoted statements of business ethics is The Four-Way Test, which was created in 1932 by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor when he was asked to take charge of a company that was facing bankruptcy. Taylor later served as Rotary International President.

This 24-word test for employees to follow in their business and professional lives became the guide for sales, production, advertising, and all company relations with dealers and customers. His staff put the 'test' into practice and the survival of the company is credited to the simple philosophy. Adopted by Rotary in 1943, The Four-Way Test has been translated into more than a hundred languages and published in thousands of ways. It asks the following four questions:
Of the things we think, say or do:
  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

The Four-Way Test has captured the imaginations of generations of Rotarians as a simple test to help ensure we are living up to the standard established by the Second Object of Rotary. The Objects of Rotary are the guiding principles of the Rotary movement, and how we as Rotarians try to live our lives. The second Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster:

  • High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying by each Rotarian of his occupation as an opportunity to serve society.

Sadly, in today's world, far too many societies are plagued with corruption, patronage, nepotism and frequent disregard for ethical behaviour. Rotarians are promoting the Four-Way Test as a way for individuals in those societies to practice ethics in their daily lives and make a difference.