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      ASCE Revamps Civil Engineers’ Code of Ethics

      November 6, 2020

      RESTON, Va. - The American Society of Civil Engineers Board of Direction approved the suggested changes to the Society's official Code of Ethics -the primary document that guides and protects important decisions made by civil engineers around the world-making the first wholesale update of the Code since 1974. Changes have gone into effect immediately.

      "It has been a while since we had a comprehensive review of our Code of Ethics, so it was time that we did one," said ASCE 2020 President K.N. Gunalan, Ph.D., P.E. "The new code language is simple, inclusive and hopefully comprehensive in terms of our understanding of the engineering practice. More importantly, it lists an engineer's obligation by specific priority so that there is no confusion or conflict."

      First adopted in 1914, the Code has not been updated since 1974, and has never had a major update until this year. The task committee began its work to revise the Code in October 2018, updating the board several times and incorporating feedback from ASCE members along the way.

      The new Code of Ethics preamble states, "Members of the American Society of Civil Engineers conduct themselves with integrity and professionalism, and above all else protect and advance the health, safety and welfare of the public through the practice of civil engineering."

      The stakeholder priorities follow, beginning with 'society' on through 'the natural and built environment, the profession, clients and employers and peers,' allowing civil engineers to clearly articulate their ethical responsibility to each. The stakeholder model also means that topics such as the canon- added in 2017, which required fair and equal treatment for all- are integrated throughout the Code, instead of being isolated in one section of the document.

      A key factor motivating review of the Code in 2018 was the notion that technological changes since 1974 were putting the previous version at risk of being outdated. The new Code therefore focuses on behavioral intent, rather than creating a list of prescriptive rules, in hopes of allowing the ethical principles to weather any future industry changes.

      Other important features of the new Code of Ethics include:

      • Heightened obligation for reporting for bribery, fraud, and corruption.
      • Emphasis on health and safety "in the workplace" for the first time ever.
      • Strengthened language on an engineer's ethical responsibility to "adhere to the principles of sustainable development."
      • Removed outdated language on product endorsements and other advertising speech.

      To download the printable copy or previous version of the Code of Ethics, go to


      Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers represents more than 150,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America's oldest national engineering society. ASCE works to raise awareness of the need to maintain and modernize the nation's infrastructure using sustainable and resilient practices, advocates for increasing and optimizing investment in infrastructure, and improve engineering knowledge and competency. For more information,   or and follow us on Twitter, @ASCETweets and @ASCEGovRel.