12Engineering Ethics

I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.

Albert Einstein

12.1 Ethics in Industry1

In US industry, interest in the development and teaching of corporate ethics has experienced a sizeable increase. According to the Ethics Resource Center in Washington, DC, a 1979 study of Fortune 500 companies and the top 150 service firms in the United States revealed that 73 percent had written standards of ethics, half of which were 5 years old or less. A decade later, better than 9 out of every 10 companies from 2,000 surveyed reported having standards of ethical conduct. About 11 percent of these companies provide ombudsmen, an individual with whom employees can discuss ethical concerns and other issues.2 Only since the mid-1970s have articles on ethics been commonly found in popular engineering journals. Today, it is increasingly common to find articles on ethics in journals published by professional societies such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society of Chemical Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.3 This is significantly different from 1959 when the writer, who was then a novice first-level supervisor for a large aerospace company, urged the company to establish a policy pertaining to employees accepting vendor lunches. During this time, very few companies ...

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