Enhancing Engineering Ethics: Role Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility

Science and Engineering Ethics 27 (3):1-21 (2021)
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Engineering ethics calls the attention of engineers to professional codes of ethical responsibility and personal values, but the practice of ethics in corporate settings can be more complex than either of these. Corporations too have cultures that often include corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices and policies, but few discussions of engineering ethics make any explicit reference to CSR. This article proposes critical attention to CSR and role ethics as an opportunity to help prepare engineers to think through the ethics of their professional practice. After a brief overview of the evolution of social responsibility within engineering ethics in the United States, this article shares empirical research with practicing engineers in the mining and energy industries to explore how their formal ethics training did and did not prepare them to grapple with the ethical dimensions of their professional practice. It then illustrates the ways in which these dilemmas and the strategies employed for navigating them are framed within CSR policies and practices and resonate more strongly with role ethics rather than ethical theory as currently taught in most US engineering programs. The article concludes that engineering ethics teaching and learning would benefit from explicitly incorporating critical discussions of role ethics and CSR.



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Author Profiles

Qin Zhu
Virginia Tech
Jessica Smith
Georgetown University

References found in this work

Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases.Charles Edwin Harris, Michael S. Pritchard & Michael Jerome Rabins - 2018 - Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. Edited by Michael S. Pritchard, Ray W. James, Elaine E. Englehardt & Michael J. Rabins.
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Ethics, Technology, and Engineering: an Introduction.Ibo van de Poel - 2011 - Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell. Edited by Lambèr M. M. Royakkers.

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