The joint ‘Statement of Ethical Principles’ published by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) and the Engineering Council sets out four fundamental principles for ethical behaviour and decision-making. These include accuracy and rigour (presenting and interpreting evidence honestly, always acting with care) alongside honesty and integrity (behaving in a trustworthy way, declaring conflicts of interest and rejecting improper influence), but also respect for life, law, the environment and public good. Following these principles means carrying out engineering not only with technical competence, but also in a way that maximises the public good and minimises adverse effects, both now and in the future.
Part of the assessment of competence for professional registration – as a Chartered Engineer (CEng), Incorporated Engineer (IEng), Engineering Technician (EngTech) or Information and Communications Technology Technician (ICTTech) – requires demonstration of the applicant’s commitment to an appropriate code of professional conduct, recognising obligations to society, the profession and the environment. As the UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence and Commitment (UK-SPEC) says, “This competence is about ensuring that the applicant is acting in a professional manner in their work and in their dealings with others”.
The ‘Statement of Ethical Principles’ is available and relevant to everyone working in engineering; this includes students, apprentices and non-engineers who manage or teach engineering professionals. As Professor David Bogle FIChemE FREng, Chair of the Engineering Ethics Reference Group (EERG), said: “Engineers act in the service of society, making decisions that affect everyone, from small-scale technical choices to major strategic decisions that can affect the lives of millions and even the future of our planet. We want to make sure that ethical practice is at the heart of all these .”
Work in the crucial area of promoting ethical working practices is continuing across the profession. EERG published its 'Engineering Ethics: Maintaining society’s trust in the engineering profession' report last year, including short, medium and long-term actions to ensure that ethical culture and practice become embedded in the engineering profession in the same way as health and safety. by the professional engineering community – the professional engineering institutions (PEIs), RAEng and the Engineering Council – and we expect to be reporting back in more detail over the next few months.
This work is part of a long-term programme of activity around engineering ethics, designed to support the engineering workforce to “think ethics before action”, put ethical practice at the heart of engineering decisions and ensure the public continues to have trust in the engineering profession.