People often ask me what attracted me to Rotary. Well, one of the things was their high ethical standards. The 1.2 million Rotarians throughout the World adhere to the motto ‘Service Above Self’, ‘A Code of Conduct’ and a ‘Four Way Test.’
The Four Way Test was written in 1932 by Herbert Taylor, a Member of the Rotary Club of Chicago. He drafted a test for Club Aluminium, a company (almost in receivership) which he had just taken over. Any business that failed the test was rejected, yet the company became very successful. The test was officially adopted by Rotary International in 1943, and in 1954, Herbert Taylor donated the copyright of the test to Rotary. The Four Way Test is an unbiased and nonsectarian ethical guide for Rotarians to use for their personal and professional relationships. The Test is not only a test of Business Ethics, but a test of Ethical behaviour and personal conduct.
Of the things we think, say or do, we ask:
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
Truth is often confused with fact. Mark DiGiovanni says in his Rotary International article ‘Fact is a reality that cannot be logically disputed or rejected. For centuries we believed the earth was flat. Facts proved otherwise, and that truth was debunked.’ Somerset Maugham suggested ‘the fact that a great many people believe something is no guarantee of its truth.’ So it is important that we all develop an understanding of truth that will help us navigate every situation with clarity and consistency.
Fairness means that we treat everyone with justice, equality, impartiality; thus, everyone is treated equally and given a fair go. In our modern world this can be difficult to achieve because it means showing no favoritism, self-interest, or indulging our own likes and dislikes.
Goodwill is defined as the value a business gains through its products and reputation. Goodwill is measured as the market value of a company over and above the value of its material assets. Reputation and Integrity go hand in hand with goodwill and Rotary has developed goodwill through its motto and its causes. Better friendships are built on trust, shared interests, respect, reciprocity and mutual enjoyment of each other’s company. Rotary has shown that through campaigns such as End Polio Now it’s goodwill and friendships save lives.
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned? This may require more effort and be less profitable in the short term. But in the long run, benefitting everyone concerned creates respect and loyalty that pays huge dividends.
An ethical system that calls for living the truth and measuring actions on the basis of benefits to others is demanding. Such a test can stir bitter conflict for those who try to balance integrity and ambition. Heated debates have been held world-wide on the test’s feasibility as a way of living. But, maybe the most important point of The Four-Way test is that it brings ethically minded people together. Lars-Olof Fredriksson, Past Rotary International President, said, “The tenets of truth, honesty, decency, and morality are now more complicated than before and create the often-used explanation ‘It all depends on the situation’. But the Four-Way Test gives a bright, clear answer in any situation.”
Indeed, the four-way test is something Rotarians carry in their minds and hearts. Many organisations do good things and provide service in their communities. However, Rotarians do it with a particular philosophy in mind: truth matters, fairness matters, good will and better friendship matter to Rotarians, and doing things beneficial to all concerned matters. The Four-Way Test (and preamble) offers a positive perspective in a world full of fake news, uncertainty, stress and scepticism. Try it - it does work!