Stronger Ethics Codes

Your team in "Walking a Fine Line" has done a good job in maintaining the focus of our industry on the challenges of legal and ethical decisions (ENR 11/7 p. 26). One must be reminded that the line drawn by the laws of our country only sets minimum standards of professional behavior and are not the line against which ethical behavior and decisions should be measured.

Though the construction industry has an image problem when it comes to a desirable career path, it has a reality problem when it comes to ethics. In a recent FMI/CMAA study, it was shown that, of those surveyed (A/E/Cs):

  • 81% had either an informal ethics program (41%) or no program (40%);
  • 93% strongly agreed or agreed there should be more ethics training available;
  • 85% agreed or strongly agreed there should be an industry standard code of ethics;
  • 95% strongly agreed or agreed that industry associations should take a leadership role to help ensure ethical codes are available.
  • Ethics is taught in construction science and management programs around the country, yet companies do not take the lead in including it in their company training or decision-making. Ethics is a simple concept: Treat others as you would want to be treated.

    Associations must take the lead in developing a code of conduct, and construction must take the lead in making ethics part of its culture. Industry should address topics such as fair contracts, payment and equitable risk-sharing.

    I hope ENR will continue to address the need for ethics and that the construction industry will develop a code of ethics so that the companies which want to do the right thing will have a guide in ethical business practices. Rest assured, the owners will take note.

    Call for Action

    I just read the Viewpoint article on ethics, "Turning ‘What If?’ into ‘Let’s Do It!’" (ENR 11/7 p. 63). This is the best article about improving the state of society that can be done by engineers that I have read in a very long time. Mr. Fox is correct. However, the umbrella for this effort needs to be much broader. ACEC, NSPE, AIA and other organizations need to join the American Society of Civil Engineers in this effort.

    The public is very tired about some professions that spend a great deal of time and effort in supporting legislation through lobbyists and PAC funds to protect themselves. This idea could go a long way in restoring the idea in the public eye that engineers are truly professional.