A New Social Covenant

A new moral imperative: valued individuals, committed to one another, and respectful of future generations.


We looked to the future and asked "What now?"

We need a global conversation about a "New Social Covenant" between citizens, governments, and businesses.


This is a call for a worldwide discussion.

What values are needed to address the many difficult challenges the world is now facing?


The choices we make are determined by the values we hold.

Inequality, austerity, retrenchment, maldistribution, conflicts over resources, and extreme poverty all raise questions about our values.

About Us: The Covenanters


The 'New Social Covenant' document produced by the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Values has generated a significant amount of positive interest and feedback, both within and outside the World Economic Forum community. This has taken place at plenary sessions as well as private sessions at Davos, at the World Economic Forum regional meetings, at the extraordinary conference held at Georgetown University, USA, in September 2013 (private and public sessions), and at the GAC Summit in Abu Dhabi in November 2013. At the latter, Professor Klaus Schwab endorsed the Covenant in the closing plenary.

Professor Klaus Schwab endorsed the Covenant in the closing plenary.

We believe the strong interest in the New Social Covenant document arises for three main reasons. Firstly, the fact that it addresses the key systemic issues of our time; secondly, because it is focused on core universal values; and thirdly, because many leaders in all walks of life want to not only do the right thing for their business, organisation, or country but — critically — they want to do what is right, morally.

Many find the Covenant helpful because of its values-based focus on three core issues:

First, the dignity of the person; second, the importance of the common good that transcends individual interest; and third, the need for long-term stewardship of the planet.

The key issue now is how to turn all of this interest and enthusiasm into action. Firstly, we will continue to disseminate the Covenant and promote its contents through public and private sessions at Davos and other key World Economic Forum meetings. Secondly, we will work with the Forum and Georgetown University to produce curricula, modules and materials focused on the core values. Additionally, we want to harness the energy of as many members as possible of the World Economic Forum community to commit to putting the core values of the Covenant into practice within their own organisations and spheres of influence.

The World Economic Forum's own research has identified Values-based leadership as a critical factor. In 2009, a World Economic Forum survey of 130,000 business people found that 75% thought that the crisis was not just an economic crisis but was a values crisis. More recently, a lack of values in leadership was identified as one of the top ten key global issues in the 'Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014'.

Doing the right thing for your organisation and doing 'what is right' for other people and the planet have greater overlap than ever before.

Many leaders involved in the Forum are enthusiastic about strengthening values in their own area of work and are keen for guidance and learning on how to do this. Arguably, we have reached a point in human history where doing the right thing for your organisation and doing 'what is right' for other people and the planet have greater overlap than ever before.

Therefore, we propose to introduce the idea of 'Covenanters' — Individuals who are committed to exercise values leadership in their own organisation or sphere of influence.

What does being a Covenanter involve?

Covenanters are people who:

  1. Agree to do their best in their own walk of life--including their companies, organizations, or public institutions-to implement the three core values of the New Social Covenant (promoting the dignity of the individual, striving explicitly for the common good, and actively practicing values-based stewardship). Ways in which Covenanters could do this could include taking one or more of the following action steps:

  • Commit to discussing the New Social Covenant or its principles with their professional colleagues, asking them to sign on
  • Find one manageable but clear area of tension that the New Social Covenant identifies and set a goal to change their or their organisations' actions or behaviours to align with their new commitment
  • Introduce the New Social Covenant into one specific arena or product in their sphere of influence such as a business school curriculum, a professional association board/shareholders meeting, a major speech they are giving, interviews with media, etc.

  1. Agree to give feedback on their experience — what they have learned and what barriers they have faced; and
  2. Agree to have their name added to the roster of Covenanters on a specially designed New Social Covenant website.
Covenanters agree to do their best in their own walk of life — including their companies, organizations, governments, or public institutions — to implement the three core values of the New Social Covenant

It is important to note that we are not merely asking people to sign the New Social Covenant document. Far more important than another piece of paper is the commitment to try and implement the core values in their own work or sphere of influence and to learn from their (and others') experience(s). In this way, we have a living process — not a document on the shelf.

How would this work, and what are we asking from the World Economic Forum?

The aim in 2014 will be to have 500 Covenanters, rising to 2,000 by 2016. We ask that World Economic Forum help the Global Action Council on Values (which produced the New Social Covenant) to lift it up in various venues. We, in the GAC on Values, will also promote this in private sessions relating to the Covenant and in the public sessions on ethics, values, and value dilemmas in which we are individually involved.

The aim in 2014 will be to have 500 Covenanters, rising to 2,000 by 2016

We also would direct people to a newly designed website where they could sign up as Covenanters. This site is currently under construction and will have a link to the World Economic Forum website. The site will explain the role and commitment of Covenanters and needs to be interactive in order to allow Covenanters to share learning with each other. Members of the GAC on Values will also act as resources to answer questions/make suggestions during the coming year.

During the next year, we will seek to boost this to 500 by the following means:

  • Holding dinners with key individuals at World Economic Forum regional meetings (see separate 15 Toasts proposal from Tim Leberecht);
  • Actively recruiting Covenanters amongst Shapers and YGL's. We would do this by identifying individuals amongst these communities who would like to be Covenanters, themselves, and who are prepared to actively recruit others. We would also ask the Forum to promote the concept amongst these communities;
  • Working with the Role of Business Council and other key GAC councils to actively promote the idea amongst progressive business leaders;
  • Jim Wallis and Stewart Wallis will be actively promoting the idea to Faith and Civil Society leaders within the World Economic Forum community;
  • Holding the planned conference in Stellenbosch, South Africa (August 2014); and
  • With the Forum's assistance, actively promoting the Covenant to all members of the GACs.

At the Annual Meeting in Davos 2015, there could then be plenary and workshop sessions where Covenanters come together, both publicly and privately, to share their experiences, their learning, and the barriers they have faced. We anticipate that the involvement and interest in this process would then spread widely amongst the World Economic Forum community and the number of Covenanters might then grow exponentially.

Sign the covenant now and learn more about actions you can take.