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Ethics

  • Ethics is integral to all decisions, designs, and services performed by civil engineers. Not only the public trust but also their lives, safety, and welfare depend on professional engineers' efficient, safe, and economical performance of their duties. ASCE's ethics programs, policies, and resources are designed to assist its members in understanding their ethical obligations and incorporating them into the day-to-day conduct of their professional and business-related affairs.

  • "A Question of Ethics" Articles

    The mid-1970s was a busy time for ASCE's Committee on Professional Conduct (CPC). Nearly a dozen ASCE members were disciplined by the Society for their involvement in the Baltimore County, Maryland, kickback scheme that led to Spiro Agnew's resignation from the vice presidency. A high-profile bribery scandal in another state resulted in CPC action against six ASCE members, while four additional members were swept up in a third state's investigation into bid-rigging. In all, more than 40 ASCE members were disciplined in a single three-year period for fraud, bribery, or similar financial improprieties. With so many reported cases of criminal activity, it might have been understandable if the volunteers staffing the CPC had found little or no time to address less egregious breaches of professional ethics. But in fact, the committee proved to be prolific in administering other complaints as well. The same threeyear period saw CPC action on several cases of academic misconduct, a handful of employment disputes, and one unusual case in which the CPC was asked to deliver ethical guidance on courtesy to an intemperate engineer.

    This month's column is based on a case study published in Engineering Ethics: Real World Case Studies (Reston, Virginia: ASCE, 2017), a thoughtful and engaging work highlighting the theoretical basis and the practical applications of engineering ethics. Gracious thanks are extended to the book's authors, Steven K. Starrett, Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE, F.EWRI, F.ASCE, Amy L. Lara, Ph.D., and Carlos Bertha, Ph.D., for permission to use one of their scenarios in this column.

    View All "A Question of Ethics" Articles

  • Code of ethics

    First adopted in 1914, the ASCE Code of Ethics is the model for professional conduct for ASCE members.  The Code of Ethics was most recently updated on July 29, 2017.

    Members with an ethics question may call the ASCE Ethics Hotline: 800-548-2723 x6151

    Download a printable copy of the Code of Ethics

  • CANON 1. Hold Safety Paramount

  • CANON 2. Service with Competence

  • CANON 3. Issue True Statements

  • CANON 4. Act as a Faithful Agent

  • CANON 5. Reputation By Merit

  • CANON 6. Uphold Professional Honor

  • CANON 7. Continue Professional Development

  • Canon 8. Treat all persons fairly

  • ETHICS VIOLATIONS

    Under ASCE bylaws, all ASCE members are required to comply with the Code of Ethics and to report any observed violations. The Committee on Professional Conduct (CPC) reviews and investigates complaints in accordance with its rules of procedure. If the CPC finds that an ethics violation has occurred and that disciplinary actions are appropriate, it will forward its recommendations to ASCE's Executive Committee or Board of Direction for a formal hearing on the matter.

    To file a complaint:

    American Society of Civil Engineers 
    1801 Alexander Bell Drive 
    Reston, VA 20191

    New Ethics Book New Ethics Book

    In Engineering Ethics: Real-World Case Studies , Starrett, Lara, and Bertha provide in-depth analysis with extended discussions and study questions of case studies that are based on real work situations. Important concepts such as rights and obligations; conflict of interest; professionalism and mentoring; confidentiality; whistleblowing; bribery, fraud, and corruption; and ethical communication with the public in a social media world are discussed in practical and approachable terms.

      Buy the Book

    ENGINEER'S CHARTER

    Corruption in the global construction industry is a huge economic burden estimated to approach $500 billion dollars annually.  It occurs in every country regardless of the form of government, the level of development, or geographic location.  ASCE is raising awareness of the real costs of corruption and action by engineers worldwide.  

    ADD YOUR SIGNATURE TO THE CHARTER  

  • Ethics Case Studies

    Given the vital importance of engineering works to society, it is essential for engineers to understand their responsibility to protect the public health, safety, and welfare even in circumstances when doing so may come at a great personal cost. This video series features interviews with engineers and other professionals regarding their experiences with some of the most significant engineering ethics cases of modern times

  • Order of the Engineer

    The Order of the Engineer was initiated in the United States to foster a spirit of pride and responsibility in the engineering profession. The goal is to bridge the gap between training and experience, and to present to the public a visible symbol identifying the engineer.

    Organize or Attend a Ceremony