Guidance on ethics

Date published

All members of the Institution of Structural Engineers should subscribe to the Statement of Ethical Principles.

Guidance on ethics


All members of The Institution of Structural Engineers, in common and in concert with members of the other professional engineering institutions, should subscribe to the Statement of Ethical Principles for the Engineering Profession, published by the Engineering Council. In addition, members must abide by the Institution's Code of Conduct, which is more prescriptive in its requirements.

The Engineering Council’s Statement of Ethical Principles reads as follows:

There are four fundamental principles that should guide engineers and technicians in achieving the high ideals of professional life. These express the beliefs and values of the profession and are amplified below.

1. Honesty and integrity

Engineering professionals have a duty to uphold the highest standards of professional conduct including openness, fairness, honesty and integrity. They should:

  • act in a reliable and trustworthy manner

  • be alert to the ways in which their work and behaviour might affect others and respect the privacy, rights and reputations of other parties and individuals

  • respect confidentiality

  • declare conflicts of interest

  • avoid deception and take steps to prevent or report corrupt
    practices or professional misconduct

  • reject bribery and improper influence


2. Respect for life, law, the environment and public good

Engineering professionals have a duty to obey all applicable laws and regulations and give due weight to facts, published standards and guidance and the wider public interest. They should

  • hold paramount the health and safety of others and draw attention to hazards

  • ensure their work is lawful and justified

  • recognise the importance of physical and cyber security and data protection

  • respect and protect personal information and intellectual property

  • protect, and where possible improve, the quality of built and natural environments

  • maximise the public good and minimise both actual and potential adverse effects for their own and succeeding generations

  • take due account of the limited availability of natural resources

  • uphold the reputation and standing of the profession


3. Accuracy and rigour

Engineering professionals have a duty to acquire and use wisely the understanding, knowledge and skills needed to perform their role. They should:

  • always act with care

  • perform services only in areas in which they are currently competent or under competent supervision

  • keep their knowledge and skills up to date

  • assist the development of engineering knowledge and skills in

  • present and review theory, evidence and interpretation honestly, accurately, objectively and without bias, while respecting reasoned alternative views

  • identify, evaluate, quantify, mitigate and manage risks

  • not knowingly mislead or allow others to be misled


4. Leadership and communication

Engineering professionals have a duty to abide by and promote high standards of leadership and communication. They should:

  • be aware of the issues that engineering and technology raise for society, and listen to the aspirations and concerns of others

  • promote equality, diversity and inclusion

  • promote public awareness and understanding of the impact and benefits of engineering achievements

  • be objective and truthful in any statement made in their professional capacity

  • challenge statements or policies that cause them professional concern


Universal application

These ethical principles are constant regardless of local conditions or circumstances. The more specific Code of Conduct also applies to members of the Institution at all times.

Jurisdiction of the Institution

The Code of Conduct gives the Institution jurisdiction over members of organisations but not the organisations themselves. However, those at the top, who influence strategy and the philosophy of an organisation, may be Institution members. It is hoped that members in positions of power and influence would use their position to encourage adherence to the Code of Conduct across their company or organisation.

Ethics vs Law

There is sometimes confusion between ethics and the law. 

The concise Oxford English Dictionary defines ethics as “The moral principles governing or influencing conduct”.

It defines law as “A system of rules recognised by a country or community as regulating the actions of its members and enforced by the imposition of penalties”.

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