Davos Manifesto (1973)

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Klaus Schwab, Davos 2008

The Davos Manifesto describes an elaborated code of ethics or a norm of behavior or code of conduct . This was drawn up in 1973 in Davos as part of a meeting of managers and entrepreneurs from Europe . The stakeholder model is the basis of the Davos Manifesto.

The symposium was brought into being by the founder of the European Management Forum (since 1987 World Economic Forum ) Klaus Martin Schwab . With his meeting he aimed at the social responsibility of corporate management and thus at his specialty of corporate and management ethics.


Norms of behavior

In the course of the symposium in Davos, three basic standards were formulated:

  • When making management decisions, management must take into account the interests of all reference groups in the company.
  • Opposing interests have to be balanced.
  • The existence of a company must be secured through reasonable profits , whereby these however cannot be seen as the ultimate goal of the company. Rather, profits are only the means that enable the company management to meet its obligations towards the company's reference groups.

Catalog of principles

The 3rd European Management Symposium, in cooperation with invited executives, created a catalog of principles that is binding for all and should read as follows:

  • "A. The professional task of corporate management is to serve customers, employees, financiers and society and to balance their conflicting interests.
  • B.1. Corporate management must serve customers. It has to satisfy the needs of customers as best as possible. Fair competition is to be aimed for between the companies , which ensures the greatest value for money, quality and variety of products. Company management must try to translate new ideas and technological advances into marketable products and services .
  • 2. The company management must serve the employees. Because leadership is only accepted by employees in a free society if their interests are also taken into account. The company's management must aim to secure jobs, increase real income and contribute to the humanization of work .
  • 3. The company management must serve the donors. It has to guarantee them a return on the capital invested that is higher than the interest rate on government bonds . This higher interest rate is necessary because a premium must be included for the higher risk. The company management is the trustee of the donors.
  • 4. Corporate governance must serve society. The company management must ensure an environment worth living in for future generations. Management must use the knowledge and resources entrusted to it for the good of society. It must open up new knowledge to scientific management; and it must promote technical progress. It must ensure that the company uses its tax power to enable the community to fulfill its task. Management should put its knowledge and experience at the service of society.
  • C. The service of corporate management towards customers, employees, donors and society is only possible if the company's existence is secured in the long term. Sufficient corporate profits are required for this. The corporate profit is therefore a necessary means, but not an ultimate goal of corporate management. "

Stakeholder model

The stakeholder model was the focus of the Davos Manifesto. The basis was the consideration of all those affected by the company:

“Business ethics follows the stakeholder model. This is based on the coalition theory of the company and states that within a company there is always a coalition of the most diverse interest groups. This coalition provides the services and contributions of the company and provides for claims to it. [...] The company's management the task now has the moderator function to take over. It must try to largely satisfy the different demands. The demands can be of the most varied nature, for example long-term job security, tax revenue, etc. It should be the aim of management to resolve the conflicts of interest and values ​​with those concerned directly. The central element of the stakeholder model is that profit maximization is no longer the focus of management due to the multi-dimensional target function of all interest groups. "


European Management Forum (1971–1987)

The "Davos Manifesto" is one of the first codes of conduct in Europe for corporate management. It is based on the founder and president of the soon-to-be global non-profit foundation "European Management Forum" Klaus Martin Schwab. Born in Ravensburg , he gave a lecture on corporate policy at the University of Geneva and dealt with economic management systems. In the course of the meeting of important European executives, Schwab succeeded in addressing and discussing social responsibility in senior management positions and documenting it in a general manifesto.

Schwab saw in his project the opportunity to strengthen economic cooperation on an international level and to promote cooperation between employers and employees in relevant companies . In addition, Schwab emphasized the goal of assuming more social responsibility for society and thus implied corporate ethical management principles.

The 1970s - the basis for Davos

A change in society in the second third of the 20th century played a major role in the development of economic and business ethical strategies. Because this period was a stress test for the European bourgeoisie and thus represented a challenge for their economists :

“In some European countries, the 1970s were a decade of terrorist violence and, at the same time, a decade of surprising democratization with the end of the dictatorships in southern Europe. But in both Western and Eastern Europe the state was challenged by the economic difficulties, by protest movements, by the new distrust of the elites and the planning from above [...]. The political pressures from the state increased everywhere [. ..] through a withdrawal of political liberalization and sharper political repression and restrictions on human rights up to the declaration of martial law in Poland [...]. "

Acceptance problems grew in the course of the student and ecological movements, which u. a. embodied by the anti-liberal movement of 1968 . There was growing distrust of big businessmen and the 'elites' of the state, who in many parts of Europe at that time did not embody either political or economic stability and sovereignty. The third management symposium in 1973 had two fundamental topics of conversation on its agenda : on the one hand, the collapse of the Bretton Woods financial system , and on the other, the Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur war in the Middle East . The participants of the Davos Manifesto faced a great challenge, as they can gain great influence in Europe with the start of the business ethics debate.

The document, soon to be internationally known as the "Davos Manifesto", arose more from a defensive stance and aimed at a discourse of relief and appeasement. The codes of conduct drawn up in Davos served to build trust and reputation and could serve as a medium for an ethically oriented society.

The third meeting in Davos was rather mixed. Around 450 participants, mostly from Germany , Great Britain , Switzerland and Belgium , came to an agreement that the Davos Manifesto should be published. Personalities such as Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and the founder of the Club of Rome Aurelio Peccei were invited guests this year. Schwab used his network and also tried to make acquaintances such as the German Herbert Henzler , the management consultant James McKinsey , or the computer pioneer Heinz Nixdorf . In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung of March 9, 1973, there was talk of a 'certain confrontation' between business representatives and a know-it-all Brussels bureaucracy, as this year almost a quarter of all invitations went to speakers from the Belgian capital.

Overall, Davos did not turn things around with its third meeting. The misery was alleviated, but not ended. Schwab and his foundation could not be blamed in this regard, as the European Management Forum was only founded three years earlier.

Further development

With his foundation, Schwab managed to organize a meeting every year in the canton of Graubünden . According to the Davos Manifesto of 1973, the university professor founded so-called roundtables (discussion forums) in the surrounding countries in order to found a global community. His aim was to address current economic and ethical issues internationally and to increase participation in the European Management Forum. As a result of the crisis winter of 1973/74 , the number of participants increased due to the difficult political and economic situation. The forum increasingly moved into the focus of the European press and in the years to come a well-attended event for state elites and those in charge of the economy.

Schwab's non-profit organization is not tied to any political, partisan or national interests and with the slogan to improve the state of the world quickly moved into the global focus of states and governments. In 1987 Schwab renamed his foundation the World Economic Forum . Since then, the area of ​​action has spanned the entire globe, and the topics of discussion range from economic to health and environmental policy.

The foundation, based in Cologny (Switzerland), kept its promises and calls for a meeting in Davos every spring. The 47th annual meeting took place in 2017. The Davos Manifesto is still considered an effective basis for corporate ethics and sustainability management .


  • Meyer's New Lexicon in 8 volumes . Mannheim, Vienna, Zurich 1980, volume 5, page 289 ISBN 3-411-01755-4
  • Meyer's New Lexicon in 8 volumes . Mannheim, Vienna, Zurich 1980, volume 2, page 208 ISBN 3-411-01752-X
  • Faust, Thomas: Organizational Culture and Ethics: Perspectives for Public Administrations , Tenea, Berlin 2003, p. 219, ISBN 3-86504-032-2 .
  • Kolb, Meinulf: Personnel Management: Basics and Practice of Human Resources Management. Springer Verlag, Wiesbaden 2010, 2nd edition, p. 53f. ISBN 978-3-8349-1853-6
  • Albach, Horst: Business Ethics and Global Markets . In: Zeitschrift für Betriebswirtschaft (ZfB). 3rd volume / 67. Vol., No. 1, 2006, p. 34.
  • Noll, Bernd: Economic and business ethics in the market economy. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 978-3-17-021839-0
  • Kaelble, Hartmut: Cold War and the Welfare State: Europe 1945–1989. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-406-61327-2

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Bernd Noll: Economic and business ethics in the market economy. 2002 pp 89-90.
  2. http://www.unternehmerinfo.de/Lexikon/D/Davoser_Manifest.htm Website of the entrepreneur information for business, law and taxes. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
  3. Hartmut Kaelble: Cold War and the Welfare State: Europe from 1945-1989. 2011 page 226.
  4. Thomas Faust : Organizational Culture and Ethics: Perspectives for Public Administrations. 2003 p.219.
  5. Hartmut Berghoff: Modern company history: A topic and theory-oriented introduction. De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2016, ISBN 3110428180 .
  6. a b Jürgen Dunsch: Host of the mighty: Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Forum in Davos. FinanzBook Verlag, 2016, ISBN 3898799859 .