An independent national audit of ethical behaviour in UK engineering has found that the profession has a good foundation of ethical practice and that engineers and technicians take ethics very seriously. However, there is also variation in the support for ethical practice across the industry that must be addressed in a coordinated fashion.
The Royal Academy of Engineering commissioned the business ethics consultancy, GoodCorporation, to carry out the audit in 2022 and has today published the independent findings in Ethics in the Engineering Profession, together with a collective response from the engineering profession.
The audit asked more than 2000 individuals, companies, and professional institutions about their experience of ethical practice and compared the experience of engineers and technicians with over 3000 responses from those in other careers and sectors.
The profession’s response
After consulting widely with the professional engineering institutions about the audit’s findings, the Academy has published a response on behalf of the profession that accepts the key findings and welcomes the valuable insights it offers.
Although the report describes the digital, IT and computing sectors as distinct, the general principle of the expected ethical behaviours of engineers and technicians working in these sectors should be consistent with those of the wider engineering community.
Ethical company cultures require wholesale review of company values, and top-to-bottom adoption. The company section of the audit shows that many companies are well advanced in their thinking and preparedness for the risks that they feel are most relevant, but more can be done to ensure this thinking has the desired effect on culture.
The profession commits to working with its constituent bodies and other partners in engineering to do the following:
Dr Rhys Morgan, Director of Education and Diversity at the Academy, said “The public must have confidence that engineering is practised ethically in the UK, and I am pleased that the results of this audit support other research that suggests engineering is a highly trusted profession. Engineers work in the service of society and are therefore bound by a moral code of ethical behaviour to act in a way that upholds the high standards expected by the public.
“The findings of this audit not only provide insight into UK engineering ethical culture but also useful pointers on how future benchmarking exercises might be improved. Everyone working as an engineer or technician, whether a member of a professional engineering institution or not, is a member of the engineering community. We need to find new and better ways to reach and engage with that wider community of engineers more effectively.
“As a self-regulated profession responsible for much of the technology, infrastructure, products and services that support 21st century society, we cannot be complacent and we must strive to be the most ethical profession we can be.”
The audit was one of the actions proposed in the 2022 report Engineering Ethics: maintaining society’s trust in the engineering profession that the Academy and the Engineering Council agreed to take forward with the support of the professional engineering institutions.