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Sustainability in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 1st cannon of code of ethics
10

Sustainability in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 1st cannon of code of ethics

Sustainability in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 1st cannon of code of ethics

(OP)
I haven’t seen much discussion on this (if any), which mainly relates to civil engineering practice. Then again, maybe it's also something going on in other engineering disciplines too...

The ASCE 1st fundamental cannon of the code of ethics is written as follows:
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.

The NSPE 1st fundamental cannon of its code of ethics reads:
Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.

It would seem to me and many others, based on recorded discussions about ASCE including sustainability in the fundamental cannons in 1996, that there was a fair amount of discussion at the time, (e.g., https://www.asce.org/question-of-ethics-articles/n... ), but what is the current thinking on this?

If there are safety issues/decisions and sustainability issues/decisions on a particular project, under ASCE’s cannon, which would take precedence: safety or sustainability?

It seems that the NSPE code makes the case for safety coming first (i.e., safety, health, and welfare of the public being of paramount importance), with sustainability mentioned later in the code as another consideration.

I wonder if this difference in the codes has added any confusion to what engineers are supposing to be aiming for. And is it so much to ask that the NSPE and ASCE codes should strive to be more unified, especially on something as important as the 1st cannon?

I’d imagine each state’s administrative code would control in some ethical disputes, but I’m ignoring that for the time.

RE: Sustainability in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 1st cannon of code of ethics

Not a civil engineer, but the wording would indicate sustainablity take the back seat to safety, health and welfare (the use of the word 'strive' as it relates to sustainablilty).

One could argue that welfare of the public is directly related to sustainable designs

RE: Sustainability in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 1st cannon of code of ethics

3
Sustainability is an overly broad term with poor definition. I don't like to see such in a Canon of ethics.

RE: Sustainability in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 1st cannon of code of ethics

2
"shall strive to comply with the principles"

That's a long-winded way to say, "It's only a goal." and not a requirement nor a legal obligation. In the meanwhile you have a LEGAL obligation to, "Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public."

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Sustainability in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 1st cannon of code of ethics

(OP)
Thanks for your time and the thoughts. I agree with all.

In particular, truckandbus, I see what you mean about that part being secondary to public safety-I agree. It's very strange the wording they chose to use though... "shall," and "comply" tend to be pretty hard-hitting in the legal/contractual senses. And I guess the word "strive" could have some different interpretations too regarding the seriousness of the term. On the other hand, sustainability is certainly not well-defined as it is, as Ron mentions. Also, as he said, I'm not sure what business any of that has being in the first Canon.

The way that engineers (civil, mostly) apparently seem to simply go with it just surprises me a little bit, I suppose. It seems like it really muddies the water having both of those items together in the same canon.

RE: Sustainability in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 1st cannon of code of ethics

Quote (MRM)

The way that engineers (civil, mostly) apparently seem to simply go with it just surprises me a little bit

don't blame all of us "civils" for the actions of ASCE, I cancelled my ASCE membership several years ago as their agenda just didn't mesh all that well with me.

RE: Sustainability in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 1st cannon of code of ethics

"I'm not sure what business any of that has being in the first Canon."

It has to do with the realization that we can no longer tout "Manifest Destiny" and produce things that consume more than our fair share of resources or things that damage the environment more than necessary. In that sense, it is "wrong" to be wasteful of precious resources and the environment, and "right" vs. "wrong, is certainly the purview of an ethical code.

However, being Americans, we're all about capitalism, so we obviously don't want to spend too much money trying be ethical, hence, we only "strive" to achieve that.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Sustainability in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 1st cannon of code of ethics

Quote (IR)

That's a long-winded way to say, "It's only a goal." and not a requirement nor a legal obligation. In the meanwhile you have a LEGAL obligation to, "Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public."

the "code of ethics" published by various societies are not legal requirements, so everything within them are "goals". Good goals, but goals nevertheless.

Given the excessively broad definition as you can see in the link below, its easy to see why such a statement would be difficult to legally comply with as anything more than just a good goal


United Nations definition of sustainability:
https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustaina...

RE: Sustainability in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 1st cannon of code of ethics

Things we "strive" to do are policies and should not be stated in the same breath as the things we "shall" do. "Shall strive" is just an oxymoron.

RE: Sustainability in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 1st cannon of code of ethics

(OP)
IR, I agree with you about its importance, but wouldn't the formation of a new canon (added to the current ones) dedicated to sustainability be better than lumping it in with public safety? And if they wanted to combine it in with something else, why didn't they combine sustainability with any of the other existing canons? Perhaps #6 would be a better fit [Engineers shall act in such a manner as to uphold and enhance the honor, integrity, and dignity of the engineering profession....]. That seems closer to the various ideals of sustainability than public safety to me.

charliealphabravo-you said what I was trying to say way better than I said what I was trying to say!

cvg-I appreciate your comment about not blaming all civils for the actions of ASCE...I actually hadn't considered it that way until I read that.



RE: Sustainability in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 1st cannon of code of ethics

More to the point, it's about ethical treatment of our environment, and given the fragility our environment, I think they fell short of their aspirations because of the reality of economics and lack of political will.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Sustainability in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 1st cannon of code of ethics

2
I like how the NSPE code is written. The language regarding sustainable development falls under a heading of public interest objectives.

III.2.d. Engineers are encouraged to adhere to the principles of sustainable development in order to protect the environment for future generations.

Firmer language is simply not compatible with the the current role and authority of engineers in addressing an issue like sustainability.

RE: Sustainability in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 1st cannon of code of ethics

Sounds like a bunch gobbledygook to me. If ASCE is so worried about "safety, health, and welfare of the public" (and hopefully the profession in general).....they wouldn't be talking about this, they'd actually be doing something about the fact so much engineering work is being sent overseas and then stamped by a engineer here for pennies on the dollar.

If they want to "sustain" something.....that would be a good place to start.

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