In 1987, Humboldt State University (California) initiated the Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility. It states, “I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work.” Students define what being “responsible” means to themselves. Students at over a hundred colleges and universities have used the pledge at some level, at schools which range in size from Whitman, to Harvard, to University of Wisconsin. This now includes some schools around the world, graduate and professional schools, and high schools. Graduates who voluntarily signed the pledge have turn down jobs they did not feel morally comfortable with and have worked to make changes once on the job. For example, they have promoted recycling at their organization, removed racist language from a training manual, worked for gender parity in high school athletics, and helped to convince an employer to refuse a chemical weapons-related contract.

Bentley University in Boston now coordinates the campaign effort, which has taken different forms at different institutions. At Bentley, it is a community-wide event involving students, faculty, and staff. Typically, 50% of students sign and keep a wallet-size card stating the pledge, while students and supportive faculty wear green ribbons at commencement and the pledge is printed in the formal commencement program. Depending upon the school, it might take several years to reach this level of institutionalization. If one can just get a few groups/departments involved, and get some media attention on (and off) campus, it will get others interested and build for the future. The project has been covered in newspapers around the country (e.g., USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, and Boston Globe), as well as being covered in magazines, national radio networks, and local TV stations.

The pledge helps educate and motivate one to contribute to a better world. Think of the impact if even a significant minority of the one million college graduates each year signed and carried out the Pledge.

The Graduation Pledge has been a project of the Bentley University Alliance for Ethics and Social Responsibility (BAESR) since 2007. For further information, contact Anthony F. Buono, Professor of Management and Sociology and BAESR Coordinator, Bentley University, 175 Forest Street, Waltham, MA 02452, USA. E-mail:

Taiwan/Asia GPA contacts:

•Matt Nicodemus, Executive Director, GPA-Asia Regional Center, Taipei. E-mail:
•Terry Wu, Coordinator, GPA at Chinese Culture University, Taipei. E-mail:;
•Website (bilingual):