The importance of honesty in engineering, and some case studies.

How do you take advantage of business opportunities whilst making sure you are as honest as possible with your customers?

Image of the word 'honesty' in white on a red background As an engineer you are likely to be working for the benefit of a number of different groups of people, and in many cases you will have a duty to keep these people informed of relevant facts. The public trusts professionals to provide information that is as complete and accurate as possible. 

However, it is not always obvious what information you will need to disclose, and to whom, particularly when you have conflicting obligations to different groups. You may need to make a judgement about what you are required to do in order to satisfy the principle of professional honesty.

Honesty is particularly important for engineers when:

  • Bidding for projects;
  • Disclosing conflicts of interest;
  • Deciding whether to draw attention to unethical behaviour;
  • Answering requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act;
  • Disclosing sensitive personal issues;
  • Talking about your qualifications, experience, positions of responsibility, etc.

Honesty is not simply a matter of not lying: you may at times need to disclose information which has not been requested directly, and which in some cases people may not want to hear.The

The first case study looks at honesty in the context of bidding for a contract using technology potentially provided by a third party.

The second case study looks at bribery in the context of procurement of equipment from overseas suppliers. 

The third case study looks at the use of data by a large supermarket chain to target their marketing to customers.

You can also see which IET Rules of Conduct are relevant to honesty.