Engineers to be equipped with the right tools for sustainability

Civil engineers are set to benefit from a new toolkit which will help them identify and tackle ethical issues and establish a culture of sustainability in their organisations.

According to the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), there is already a strong tradition of ethics in civil engineering with many seeking to resolve dilemmas and conflicting decisions in this field, such as balancing the components of sustainability against economic growth, or the public interest.

They are supported by ICE’s code of professional conduct which defines the ethical standard to which they should abide, however it is thought further help is needed.

Six engineers – apprentices of ICE President, Professor Barry Clarke – have now developed a resource to further aid engineers – particularly those new to the profession.

The apprentices say that in the decades to come ethical decision making will become a “fundamental driver” in the industry and “inherent in everything engineers do”.

The apprentice’s toolkit – the result of year-ong ethics programme involving discussion forums, surveys of ICE members and feedback from several case studies – includes an ethical decision making flow chart to help engineers identify an ethically correct course of action.

It also includes a framework for setting up an ethical decision making culture in an organisation and case studies.

ICE president Professor Barry Clarke said: “By the very nature of our work in the built environment, we are at the front line of making decisions which shape the world. Behaving ethically isn’t a new concept in civil engineering and ICE has long understood the need to advocate ethical behaviour.

“But as we face up to environmental issues such as climate change, increased globalisation and societal expectations, ethical challenges will inevitably increase and it is vital that our members are well supported.”

According to the apprentices, the language surrounding sustainability and ethics needs to be made clearer as much of it is currently open to interpretation.

They commented: “Earlier this year, we started work on a project to stimulate the ethics debate and get the words ‘engineering’ and ‘ethics’ used together more often.

“It soon became clear to us that the word ethics means different things to different people, and that we all face ethical challenges personally, professionally and as businesses, often without realising it.”

Maxine Perella

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