January is Vocational Service month on Rotary’s calendar.  Please take a few minutes to read about this important Avenue of Service in these excerpts from an article written by the Past Chair of the District 7070 Vocational Service Committee, Ian Lancaster, about Vocational Service,  its history and its importance in Rotary club life. Be sure to check out examples of projects for your club to support and make everyone award of Rotary's important Avenue of Service ....


 Does Your Rotary Club have a Vocational Service Committee?  Does Your Rotary Club perform Vocational Service projects that are relevant in your community ?   If not, now is a good time to start. Please read on. You just may find something that your Rotary Club can do in the Vocational Service field, that will benefit our community. 

January is Vocational Service Month on the Rotary calendar. Vocational Service is at the heart of Rotary, which was founded on the classification system of membership. Business and professional life are the bedrock of Rotary, and Vocational Service is a major force in promoting honour, integrity, and trustworthiness in business.

A Short History Lesson 

Originally only one representative from each business or profession was invited to join a club. Paul Harris felt that if several members of the same profession were to join, they would either sit together and “talk shop” or compete against each other for other members’ business. The idea of “trade-boosting” was gradually eliminated and by 1912, Rotarians were no longer required to exchange business with one another.

The Forgotten Avenue of Service
Of Rotary’s five Avenues of Service* – Club, Vocational, Community, Youth and International – Vocational is difficult to define, so it is sometimes called the “Forgotten Avenue of Service”. One reason is Club, Community, International and Youth Service activities usually involve groups of Rotarians. They enjoy the fellowship of Club Service, the satisfaction of serving the needs of their communities, and the hope that their International Service promotes world peace and understanding. But Vocational Service – the second Avenue of Service -- is generally conducted by individual members.

Service Above Self
Rotary’s early leaders often cited the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – as the guiding principle of Rotary’s Vocational Service. By the time the National Association of Rotary Clubs held its first convention in 1910, the networking emphasis had begun to shift. The majority of clubs told the new Civic Committee that Rotary should move from being a booster club to improving their communities. The concept of “he profits most who serves his fellows best” became “he profits most who serves best”. This idea morphed into “Service, not Self” and finally, it became the Rotary slogan we know today -- “Service Above Self”.

In 1940, Rotary International defined the Object of Vocational Service “to encourage and foster: high ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; the dignifying by each Rotarian of his occupation as an opportunity to serve society.” Today’s Rotarians still pride themselves on being able to use their professional stature and knowledge to make things happen worldwide, wherever there is a need for change.

The Rotary Code of Ethics
Back in 1912, when Glenn Mead succeeded Paul Harris as President of Rotary International, he recommended a code of business ethics be formulated to contribute to the advancement of business morality. At that time, there were no consumer protection laws or truth-in-advertising statutes. Fraudulent and deceptive business practices were the norm. The unwritten law was caveat emptor, “Let the buyer beware.” Since the adoption of the Rotary Code of Ethics in 1915, at least 145 national industrial codes of conduct practice have been adopted as a direct result of the influence of Rotarians.

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 4-Way Test, which was created in 1932 by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor (who later served as RI president) when he was asked to take charge of a company that was facing bankruptcy. This 24-word test for employees to follow in their business and professional lives became the guide for sales, production, advertising, and all relations with dealers and customers, and the survival of the company is credited to this simple philosophy. The 4-Way Test has been translated into more than a hundred languages and published in thousands of ways.

Rotary’s current code of ethical conduct – The Four-Way Test – is a four-part ethical guideline that helped Herb Taylor rescue a beleaguered business. The code’s four points are simple and direct .....

“Of all the things we think, say or do:
1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?”

The Four-Way Test was officially adopted by Rotary in 1943 and has been translated into the languages of over 100 countries. It appears on highway billboards, in schoolrooms and on the walls of businesses, in labour contracts, courtrooms and halls of government. It’s even on the moon, in the form of a Four-Way Test pin planted on the surface by astronaut Buzz Aldrin!

Look for a 4 Way Test project you can do here.

The Heart of Rotary
Vocational Service remains at the heart of Rotary. In 1987-88, RI President Charles C. Keller reinvigorated the Avenue by appointing the first Vocational Service Committee in 50 years. The committee redefined how clubs could more effectively participate in Vocational Service and drafted the new Declaration of Rotarians in Businesses and Professions.


The Rotary Code of Ethics was redrafted under the challenge of Rotary International President “Chuck” Charles C. Keller in 1987-88 to become the Declaration of Rotarians in Businesses and Professions. This Declaration defined as a set of values that were appropriate for the personal conduct of Rotarians in businesses or professions. It was adopted by the 1989 Council on Legislation, and was effected on July 1, 1989

As a Rotarian engaged in a business or profession I am expected to:

  • Consider my vocation to be another opportunity to serve
  • Be faithful to the letter and the spirit of the ethical codes of my vocation, to the laws of my country, and to the standards of my community
  • Do all in my power to dignify my vocation and to promote the highest ethical standards in my chosen vocation
  • Be fair to my employer, employees, associates, competitors, customers, the public, and all those with whom I have a business or professional relationship
  • Recognize the honour and respect due to all occupations which are useful to society
  • Offer my vocational talents; to provide opportunities to young people, to work for the relief of the special needs of others, and to improve the quality of life in my community
  • Adhere to honesty in my advertising and in all representations to the public concerning my business and profession
  • Neither seek from or grant to a fellow Rotarian a privilege or advantage not normally accorded to others in a business or professional relationship

Today, with over 1.2 million members in more than 35,000 clubs in nearly 200 countries, Rotary provides humanitarian service, promotes high ethical standards in all vocations, and helps build international understanding, goodwill and peace.

The author would like to thank David C. Forward: A Century of Service (2003) as part of the material for this article.

Do You Know the Rotary Code of Conduct?


Rotary does change with the times, and at the end of 2011 the Rotary International Board of Directors determined to rename the declaration the Rotary Code of Conduct with revised wordings. This was to recognize that Rotary Club memberships now include community leaders, retired persons, and others not currently in businesses or professions. In October 2014, Rotary International Board of Directors made a new decision to adopt the following simplified Code of Conduct for the use of Rotarians :

As a Rotarian, I will:

1. Act with integrity and high ethical standards in my personal and professional life

2. Deal fairly with others and treat them and their occupations with respect

3. Use my professional skills through Rotary to mentor young people, help those with special needs, and improve people’s quality of life in my community and in the world

4. Avoid behavior that reflects adversely on Rotary or other Rotarians

The Philosophy of Rotary

To relate the Object of Rotary to corporate social responsibility practices, the Board 2011 of Rotary International adopted the following statement:

From its origins, Rotary has built a philosophy based upon integrity in businesses and professions. Rotary clubs and individual Rotarians are committed to Vocational Service and high ethical standards in all of their interactions. These are summed up in the Object of Rotary, our core values (Service, Fellowship, Diversity, Integrity, Leadership), The Four-Way Test, and the Rotary Code of Conduct, carried out through our worldwide network of Rotary clubs and Rotarians.

The roots of Rotary have stood the test of time. Regardless of the ways in which Vocational Service is expressed, it is the banner by which Rotarians “recognize the worthiness of all useful occupations” and demonstrate a commitment to “high ethical standards in all businesses and professions.” That’s why the second Avenue of Service is fundamental to each and every Rotary Club. This is also the major and significant characteristics of Rotary that differs from all other service, philanthropic, and humanitarian organizations around the world.



During Vocational Service Month, Rotary clubs highlight the importance of the business and professional life of each Rotarian.

Here are just some of the special activities that your Rotary Club can look at to promote the vocational avenue of service.

  • Distribute Four way Test
  • Distribute Vocational Awards to outstanding individuals, Arrange Vocational Visits
  • Awareness seminar on career guidance, Organize / Arrange in Plant Training
  • Start Vocational Education / Skill Guidance Centre. Start Part Time Consultancy centre
  • Helping Physically Challenged people to gets jobs - contact Mark Wafer and Rotary At Work

Here is just one successful Rotary Vocational Service Project that all District 7070 Rotary Clubs can participate in, that can be an Inspiration to everyone in your community and way beyond.

The 4 Way Test  banners and plaques into the hands of your politicians locally, regionally, provincially and even nationally:

Here are just some ideas  to get this "grass roots" Rotary initiative  started:

City or Town Hall: - work with the city and town officials and get a 4 Way Test banner hanging in the Council chambers or just outside the council chambers. It will be the first reminder that the citizens and the councilors see, before, they make decisions that will affect their constituents. AND send a framed 4 Way test plaque to each city or town councilor and ask then to display it prominently in their office for all to see. 

Here is one successful example:

In Oshawa, Ontario, on June 24, 2022, at the entrance to the Oshawa City Hall Council Chambers, with Mayor Dan Carter, members of Oshawa City Council, Rotary District Governor Ron Dick, Rotary Club Presidents Peter Hernandez & David Penny, and members of the Rotary Clubs of Oshawa and Oshawa-Parkwood, the new 4 Way Test Plaque is now on display at the entrance to the City of Oshawa Council Chambers. To Mayor Carter and City Council, Rotary said thank you. Rotary International’s Guiding Principles have been developed over the years to provide Rotarians with a strong, common purpose and direction. They serve as a foundation for our relationships with each other and the action we take in the world. One of these guiding principles is The Rotary 4 Way test. The 2 Rotary Clubs in Oshawa encourage everyone (Mayor Carter, Councilors, staff, and the public alike) to read the 4 Way test Plaque as they enter Council Chambers. It is a reminder to our Civic Leaders and the Public At Large of these guiding principles as they go about conducting City business in the Council Chambers  and every day, in their personal lives.

Regional Headquarters: For those of you in our District that are part of a Regional Government, do exactly the same thing. Work with the Regional officials and get a 4 Way Test banner hanging in the Regional Council chambers or just outside the council chambers. It will be the first reminder that the citizens and the councilors see, before, they make decisions that will affect their constituents. AND send a framed 4 Way Test plaque to the Regional Chair and to each Regional councilor and ask them to display it in their office for all to see.

Queen's Park: This idea can be sent to other Rotary District too. As citizens of the Province of Ontario, let's do exactly the same thing. Work with your MPP and get a 4 Way Test banner hanging in their Provincial office and in the local constituency office. Just think of the impact on the citizens as they enter their offices and see the 4 Way Test .  Perhaps there are members of our Rotary District that can influence the Government to display a 4 Way Test Banner just outside the Ontario legislature . It will be the first reminder that the citizens and MPP's see, before, they make decisions that will affect our Province. AND be sure to send two framed 4 Way Test plaques to each MPP and ask them to display it in their Queen's Park office and one to display in their local constituency office.

Parliament Buildings in Ottawa: This idea can be collaborated with all of the other Rotary Districts in Canada. - a project for our Rotary Zone and the District Governors in Canada to promote. Just think of the impact we would have . As citizens of Canada, let's do exactly the same thing. Work with your Member of Parliament in Ottawa, and get a framed 4 Way Test plaque proudly displayed in their Ottawa office and in the local constituency office. Just think of the impact on the citizens as they enter their offices and see the 4 Way Test .  Perhaps there are members of our Rotary District that can influence the Canadian Government to display a 4 Way Test Banner just outside the chambers of the Parliament and of the Senate . It will be the first reminder that the citizens and MP's see, before, they make decisions that will affect our entire country. Be sure to send two framed 4 Way Test plaques to each Member of Parliament and ask them to proudly display it in their Ottawa and local constituency offices.

Perhaps, your Rotary Club can work together on this Ethics Awareness project with your neighbouring Rotary Clubs, especially in areas where you share common representatives, locally, regionally, provincially, and federally. 

These projects are exactly what Vocational service is all about. And your Rotary Club is the perfect point of inspiration to make this work. 

What if we could accomplish this goal by the end of June, 2023, this Rotary year?

What an outstanding accomplishment this would be and just think of the positive image that be generated , by our politicians and by Rotary, here in District 7070.


Through vocational service we:

• Serve others by using our unique skills to address community needs

• Empower others through training and skill development

• Inspire others to act with integrity by following Rotary’s guiding principles

Vocational Service Includes:

- Connecting our professions and professional networks with our club activities;

- Using our expertise to address community problems and help others discover new vocational opportunities and interests;

- Promoting Rotary’s commitment to integrity in our professional and personal lives;

- Recognizing and advancing the worthiness of all professions.

More Vocational Service Project Ideas:

• Host a business networking event with non-Rotary professionals in your community.

• Offer career counseling for unemployed or underemployed adults.

• Mentor young people to achieve their career goals.

• Apply your professional skills to a club or district service project.

• Lend your expertise through your district’s resource network, by joining a Rotary Action Group, or by joining or starting a professionally-oriented Fellowship.

• Work with your district Rotary Friendship Exchange chair to organize a vocationally-oriented exchange to explore how your profession is practiced in another country and introduce international friends to how yours is practiced in your country.

• Work with your district Rotary Foundation Committee to organize a Vocational Training Team to travel abroad to teach local professionals about a particular field or to learn more about your own.

Advancing Ethics At Work:

As leaders in our businesses and professions, we can advance high ethical standards by setting a positive example among colleagues and in our communities. Here are a few ideas to integrate ethics into daily work life:

• Discuss and emphasize honesty, accountability, fairness, integrity, and respect when hiring, training and supervising employees;

• Praise and encourage exemplary behavior;

• Demonstrate personal commitment in relations with customers, vendors, associates, and partners by treating each interaction with care and consideration;

• Promote socially and environmentally responsible practices in your businesses and organizations.