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Statement of Ethical Principles

Statement of Ethical Principles

In 2005 the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Engineering Council jointly created a statement of ethical principles to guide engineering practice and behaviour. A revised statement was jointly produced in 2017.

The statement is the result of wide consultation, both within the engineering profession and with other professionals specialising in applied ethics. It contains four fundamental principles and is designed to form the core of the codes of conduct published by the professional engineering institutions. All registered engineers and technicians have committed to working in an ethical and socially responsible manner in accordance with their institution's code of conduct.

The Engineering Council and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) believe that all persons engaged in engineering at any level, from the youngest apprentice and student, should be educated and encouraged to think and work in accordance with these ethical principles. The statement is therefore offered to employers and to education, training and qualification providers to adopt or include in their curricula as they see fit. The aim is for engineering to be seen and recognised by the public as a trusted and ethical profession.

The Statement of Ethical Principles is underpinned by four fundamental principles:

1. Honesty and integrity

Engineering professionals have a duty to uphold the highest standards of professional conduct including openness, fairness, honesty and integrity.
They should:

  • act in a reliable and trustworthy manner
  • be alert to the ways in which their work and behaviour might affect others and respect the privacy, rights and reputations of other parties and individuals
  • respect confidentiality
  • declare conflicts of interest
  • avoid deception and take steps to prevent or report corrupt practices or professional misconduct
  • reject bribery and improper influence

2. Respect for life, law, the environment and public good

Engineering professionals have a duty to obey all applicable laws and regulations and give due weight to facts, published standards and guidance and the wider public interest.
They should:

  • hold paramount the health and safety of others and draw attention to hazards
  • ensure their work is lawful and justified
  • recognise the importance of physical and cyber security and data protection
  • respect and protect personal information and intellectual property
  • protect, and where possible improve, the quality of built and natural environments
  • maximise the public good and minimise both actual and potential adverse effects for their own and succeeding generations
  • take due account of the limited availability of natural resources
  • uphold the reputation and standing of the profession

3. Accuracy and rigour

Engineering professionals have a duty to acquire and use wisely the understanding, knowledge and skills needed to perform their role.
They should:

  • always act with care
  • perform services only in areas in which they are currently competent or under competent supervision
  • keep their knowledge and skills up to date
  • assist the development of engineering knowledge and skills in others
  • present and review theory, evidence and interpretation honestly, accurately, objectively and without bias, while respecting reasoned alternative views
  • identify, evaluate, quantify, mitigate and manage risks not knowingly mislead or allow others to be misled

 

4. Leadership and communication

Engineering professionals have a duty to abide by and promote high standards of leadership and communication.
They should:

  • be aware of the issues that engineering and technology raise for society, and listen to the aspirations and concerns of others
  • promote equality, diversity and inclusion
  • promote public awareness and understanding of the impact and benefits of engineering achievements
  • be objective and truthful in any statement made in their professional capacity
  • challenge statements or policies that cause them professional concern

The guidance document and a handy wallet card listing the four principles of ethics can be downloaded from the links below. This guidance should be read alongside ethics related information from your institution, such as codes, policy statements and technical guidance.

Engineering Ethics Reference Group and 'Engineering Ethics' report

Building on the joint Statement of Ethical Principles, a joint Engineering Ethics Reference Group (EERG) was established in 2019 by the Engineering Council and the RAEng, under the Chairmanship of Professor David Bogle, CEng FREng and previously a trustee of the Engineering Council. Membership of EERG

Operating at a strategic level, the group’s overarching objective is to provide advice and a steer to the profession about embedding a culture of ethical behaviour in the profession.

Comprising members from both host organisations and from outside the immediate engineering community, the group reports to the Engineering Council’s Board and the RAEng’s Education and Skills Committee. During Spring 2020, both fora endorsed the group’s baseline Status Report as a reference point for development of strategic priorities and activities, likely to be available in late 2020.

EERG published its report, 'Engineering Ethics: Maintaining society’s trust in the engineering profession' in February 2022. The report was launched at an online event chaired by Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, RAEng Chief Executive, with panellists Professor David Bogle CEng FIChemE FREng, Chi Onwurah MP, Engineering Council Chairman Professor Chris Atkin CEng FRAeS FREng, Dr Ollie Folayan CEng FIChemE, co-founder of AFBE-UK and Maitheya Riva, early career representative from IOM3. The event is now available to watch on demand.

Ethics audit
One of the actions in the report is 'Understanding ethical culture in the engineering profession, benchmarking against, and learning from other professions and setting targets for future improvements'. If you work in engineering in the UK, we want to hear your views on ethical engineering practice - the survey is open until 31 May.

Case studies for teaching ethics at undergraduate level
Produced by the Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC) for the RAEng, 12 initial case studies have been created as one of the actions from the 'Engineering Ethics' report, "Create ethics toolkits and case studies to support educational programmes and CPD". 
1 Business growth models in engineering industries within an economic system
2 Facial recognition for access and monitoring  
3 Choosing a career in climate change geoengineering
4 Glass safety in a heritage building conversion
5 Developing an Internet Constellation   
6 Industrial pollution from an ageing pipeline and its impact on local communities
7 Power-to-Food technologies
8 Developing a school chatbot for student support services
9 Water wars: managing competing water rights
10 Smart homes for older people with disabilities
11 Choosing to install a smart meter
12 Solar panels in a desert oil field

These case studies, and other resources on engineering ethics, are available on the RAEng website.

Download the Statement of Ethical Principles

… (Read more)

Download the Statement of Ethical Principles wallet card

A handy wallet card listing the four principles of ethics, designed to be used alongside ethics related information from your institution, such as codes, policy statements and technical guidance.

… (Read more)

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