At any Walgreens drugstore in the United States, you’re likely to see The Four-Way Test hanging on the wall in the manager’s office and in the pharmacy. These plaques are tangible evidence of a philosophy that has guided the company’s corporate culture for decades, championed by Rotarian Charles R. Walgreen Jr., the son of its founder.

A member of the Rotary Club of Chicago, Walgreen, who died in February, 2012 at age 100, informally used the test as early as 1947 while serving as president of the drugstore chain. Dick Schneider, who started working there that year, recalls getting a copy of the test and being told by Walgreen that “we use it as a compass around here.” In speeches, Walgreen often referred to it as “a prescription for living, a new version of the golden rule.” The company formally adopted the test in 1955.

Walgreen first heard of The Four-Way Test from fellow club member Herbert J. Taylor. Taylor came up with the four simple precepts in 1932, when Club Aluminum Company, where he was president, was facing almost certain bankruptcy. In the depths of the Depression, no one was buying much aluminum. But Taylor thought that if he could convince his employees to do the right thing in every situation, they might at least win sales from their competitors. “So one morning,” he would often recount, “I leaned over my desk, rested my head in my hands. In a few moments, I reached for a white paper card and wrote down what had come to me – in 24 words.”

Five years later, Club Aluminum was back in the black. Taylor always credited The Four-Way Test with its resurgence. Rotary International adopted the test in 1943, and Taylor became RI president in 1954. At one point, our organization assumed the copyright on his test. Now in the public domain, it has been adopted by scores of companies in the 75 years since he thought up its four principles, which remain relevant today.“

The Four-Way Test was ahead of its time as a model of business ethics,” notes Paul Bube, a professor of religion at Lyon College in Batesville, Ark., USA. Several years ago, Bube spoke at the Rotary Club of Salina, Kan., about business ethics and The Four-Way Test. “Taylor developed it during a time when scandalous business practices contributed to the Great Depression,” he says.

“The kind of corporate scandals we are seeing today are reminiscent of the scandals Taylor witnessed. I believe The Four-Way Test is a vision which, if followed, can be a powerful force for good in the world.”

1. Is it the TRUTH

2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?


4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?