Engineer consultant Jean Smith is troubled over whether she should follow her client’s instruction to produce an environmental statement which includes no significant environmental problem for a new road tunnel project. Given that the approval of this project can fairly boost the economy and relief heavy traffic pressure, Jean is concerned that such a statement cannot fully represent the adverse effects and significant environmental problem may occur as the project precedes.
Yes, she should follow her client’s instruction
As an employee, it is Jean’s responsibility to provide a satisfactory service for her client. The main obligation of Jean is to serve the interest of her client and such a conduct can be found in professional ethics (code of conduct) like NSPE code of conduct. On the other hand, this action reflect her loyalty towards client as engineer also need to be loyal to their companies.
By thinking intuitively then there is an acceptable option for meeting the client’s expectation. This can be achieved by either being selective about the impact which can be classified as significant or changing the way of collecting and analyzing data. As long as no false data is produced, it will not commit fraud. Such a tailoring of report is a common practice among her competitors. As an engineer, Jean’s aim is to build up her reputation within the field and develop necessary skill and experience in order to have a promising career. The competition is intensive, why should her pass on her opportunity?
From a separatism perspective which is illustrated by tripartite model, engineers should apply the technical inputs, but all value decisions should be made by management and political organs for wider social consequences or concerns. ‘I must emphasize, I had my say, and I never take any management right to take the input of an engineer and then make a decision based upon that input….I have worked a lot of companies and I truly believed that there was no point in me doing anything further than I had already attempted to do’, Said Boisjoly, the engineer, after the disastrous case of Challenger. Individual therefore does not have to make decision in this situation since companies are in a better and stronger position to make moral decision.
The likeness of having significant environmental problem is not yet known. However the beneficial impacts it has for on the society is foreseeable. The approval of the road tunnel will be hugely beneficial for business in the areas. For instance, a plan of a tunnel linking Sheffield to Manchester has unveiled recently which can significantly boost the city’s economy and create jobs for people. The increase in connectivity, spread of innovation, are expected to help contributing government’s long-term economic plan. No guts, no glory.
To think in the box of utilitarianism, which selects the option that brings the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Jean get paid for work and secure her career. The construction company make profit from the project. Jobs are created for the people. Public enjoy the convenience and economic boost brought by the new road tunnel. Government earn credit for city planning. All main interests of stakeholders are well served.
No, she should not follow her client’s instruction
In accordance with engineering principles, Jean Smith is expected to be a trusted and respected engineer. Firstly, all professional codes include the obligation to practice one’s profession with integrity and honesty. With integrity and honesty, engineer must behave in an honest, faithful and truthful manner.
Secondly, based on the accuracy and rigour principle, it is Jean’s responsibility to act intelligently and faithfully in her work. A professional engineer should identify risks fully and present corresponding evidence without prejudice. Therefore, Jean Smith should avoid misleading acts and misconduct in her work. Tailoring of environmental statement is clearly against this professional principle.
Thirdly, all engineers should bear social responsibility in their minds. The guidance from Royal Academy of engineering states that engineers should hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public. In this case, it is Jean’s responsibility to carry out her task so as to prevent avoidable danger to the public health and safety, and prevent avoidable adverse effects on the environment.
Furthermore, the responsible leadership principle indicates a privileged and trusted position of engineers in society, thus they must accurate and truthful in any report they produce in order to build up a positive exemplary role in the society. This can be combined with virtue theory in the case of Citicorp Centre. Engineer LeMessurier carried out an extra win-resistance test for the building to ensure the safety and a significant problem was found. Instead of hiding the issues, he informed all the parties and figured out a solution to improve the safety of the building. The way he acted can be regarded as an exemplary for Jean Smith. First, engineer should has courage to report the error even though not stating it would have been reprehensible. Second, engineers should also dedicate themselves to safety of the general public.
According to Kantian theory, the first formulation of its categorical imperative implies a universality principle. In this case, if tailoring of environmental statement becomes a universal law among all engineers, then simply no one would produce an accurate environmental statement in order to meet their client’s expectation. The outcome of this theory shows that this option is morally unacceptable.
If adverse impacts on environment are veiled in the statement and significant damaging occur, engineer is responsible for the immediate suffering of victims of environmental accidents. The damaging nature of constructing tunnel coupled with the negative impacts on environment fundamentally go against the freedom principle – individuals are free to pursue please as long as they do not cause harm to others by doing so. As an engineer, the decision to seek the financial and professional benefits by producing a desired statement to meet client’s expectation is morally wrong as it would be contributing to people’s suffering.
Group 29: Zhiyang Xie, Haokun Xue, Dingsheng Shi, Qianyun Zhu