Brian Barry stresses equal rights within a sustainability context that pushes out the temporal horizons to future generations in a way that the EPA definition does not.
The intent of this slide is to again emphasize that once we start talking about environmental and social justice, we need to move away from considerations of aggregate value.
“Seinhuis” or “house of being” (this is taken from a building on the campus at the University of Twente) reflects that “we are all in this together.” Another quote from Jamieson: “what we need are new values that reflect the interconnectedness of life on a dense, high technology planet.” Engineers are not the only ones responsible for sustainability, but they stand in a strong position to influence others to value sustainability more highly than at present. In other words, engineers have a responsibility for making sustainability more valued among the public. Putting sustainability in the paramountcy clause in the Code highlights the role of the engineer as a public intellectual, for which particular personal virtues are required.
in the Code, which was that these virtues are oriented toward the designed object. In the last few slides, I'm trying to make the case that if an engineer has a lead but still distributed responsibility for sustainability taken as a justice concept, s/he has to emulate those social virtues which would allow for her/his voice to be publicly credible. So that could be said to expand the role already given in the Code to honesty—eg avoiding deceptive acts that would represent the engineered object as other than it actually is—to a larger social context Don Sherer proposes honesty and courage, he sees the latter in particular as related to being willing to tackle the problem of poverty as a pre-requisite for energy sustainability. Jamieson also talks about courage, and adds humility. I have included trust and openness as important associative virtues of honesty.
Propose a change to the Codes …Thanks to all for listening, and time for questions.
Sustaining engineering: Codes of Ethics for the 21st Century
Codes of Ethics for the 21st
Diane Michelfelder -- Philosophy
Sharon A. Jones -- Engineering
6 Fundamental Canons & Rules of Practice (NSPE)
Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall:
1. Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.
2. Perform services only in areas of their competence.
3. Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.
4. Act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees.
5. Avoid deceptive acts.
6. Conduct themselves honorably, responsibly, ethically, and lawfully so as to enhance the
honor, reputation, and usefulness of the profession.
2. Engineers shall at all times strive to serve the public interest.
a)Engineers are encouraged to participate in civic affairs; career guidance for youths; and
work for the advancement of the safety, health, and well-being of their community.
b)Engineers shall not complete, sign, or seal plans and/or specifications that are not in
conformity with applicable engineering standards. If the client or employer insists on such
unprofessional conduct, they shall notify the proper authorities and withdraw from
further service on the project.
c)Engineers are encouraged to extend public knowledge and appreciation of engineering
and its achievements.
d)Engineers are encouraged to adhere to the principles of sustainable development
9 Professional Obligations (NSPE)
4 Fundamental Principles (ASCE)
Engineers uphold and advance the integrity, honor and dignity of the engineering
a. using their knowledge and skill for the enhancement of human welfare and the
b. being honest and impartial and serving with fidelity the public, their employers and
c. striving to increase the competence and prestige of the engineering profession; and
d. supporting the professional and technical societies of their disciplines.
a. Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and
shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the
performance of their professional duties.
b. Engineers shall perform services only in areas of their competence.
c. Engineers shall issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.
d. Engineers shall act in professional matters for each employer or client as faithful
agents or trustees, and shall avoid conflicts of interest.
e. Engineers shall build their professional reputation on the merit of their services and
shall not compete unfairly with others.
f. Engineers shall act in such a manner as to uphold and enhance the honor, integrity,
and dignity of the engineering profession and shall act with zero-tolerance for bribery,
fraud, and corruption.
g. Engineers shall continue their professional development throughout their careers, and
shall provide opportunities for the professional development of those engineers under
7 Fundamental Canons (ASCE)
• No consensus on the meaning of sustainability
• Sustainability is redundant with the Code
• Sustainability is outside of the “paramountcy clause”
and thus devalued
The debate centers around three issues …
We suggest that…
from a justice framework,
the addition of a commitment to
sustainability within the engineering codes of
ethics is necessary and is neither redundant
nor of lesser value.
• Define sustainability in terms of engineered systems
• Frame sustainability as a justice
• Propose that to be “sustained”, sustainability goes beyond
mere inclusion in professional obligations; instead it requires
integrating personal with professional virtues
Sustainable development is ‘development which
meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to
meet their own needs’
1987, United Nations Brundtland Report
Engineers are encouraged to adhere to the principles of
sustainable development not sustainability.
Sustainability [engineering] is the design of
human and industrial systems to ensure
humankind’s use of natural resources and
cycles do not lead to diminished quality of life
due either to losses in future economic
opportunities or to adverse impacts on social
conditions, human health, and the
environment. (Mihelcic et. al., 2003)
• Economic opportunities
• Social conditions
• Human & environmental health
Present Best Solution
Select Best Solution
Analyze Possible Solutions
Develop Alternative Solutions
Establish Criteria & Constraints
The Engineering Design
Techniques to include costs and
environmental/health impacts are often
• Cost – CBA
• Environmental health impact -- LCA
• Human health impact -- risk assessment
Social & Economic
One approach to avoid disproportional
impacts is to examine how various
subpopulations are affected
Environmental Justice Guidance
National Environmental Policy
Determining the Affected Environment
Record of Decision
What does it mean to think of
sustainability as a justice concept?
EPA definition of environmental
design that avoids
disproportional impacts and
allows all affected groups equal
access to decision-making.
What does it mean to think of
sustainability as a justice concept?
“Place and time do not
provide a morally relevant
basis on which to
differentiate the weight to
be given to the interests of
How to best distribute social goods within
a Rawlsian framework?
• One possibility would be to use the principle of utility -- to
maximize (aggregate) anticipated value
• Another possibility would be to use the maximin principle --
to maximize the least worse outcome
• Rawls believes that when determining principles of justice
in an ideal society, those making the determination would
use maximin over maximizing anticipated value as a
principle of rational choice.
Now that we have a better handle on
definitions, is sustainability redundant with
• In considering how engineering projects affect the public’s
health, safety, and welfare, aggregate impacts are often the
ones taken into account.
• In some sense, integrating sustainability into engineering
projects represents an additional constraint, but if
sustainability is a normative concept then it represents,
however defined, a moral vision as well.
Sustaining sustainability within the Code
... requires the integration of professional
with personal virtues:
“For social change to occur, it is important that
there be people of integrity and character who
can act on the basis of principles and ideas”
--Dale Jamieson, “Ethics, Public Policy, and
Social change in the context of
thinking sustainability as a justice
concept rests on social virtues
Honesty Adding sustainability to the
paramountcy clause would
expand the place of honesty
within professional codes of
Your feedback is most welcome
Engineers shall hold paramount the safety,
health and welfare of the public and the
[just] sustainable design of human and
industrial systems in the performance of their