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

To what extent should your own moral views affect your professional judgement as an engineer?

Image of the word 'Integrity' on a motorway sign Integrity is a difficult concept to define. It has to do with acting ethically, even when there is no personal advantage to doing so. A person of integrity will resist pressure to compromise their ethical standards and beliefs, whether that pressure comes from employers, clients, or anywhere else. When you are employed by an organisation, to an extent you take on that organisation’s values. But that doesn't mean you should stop questioning the ethics of your actions. Are there certain things that you would never do, even if refusing meant losing your job?

Having personal integrity involves being clear about your own values, and having professional integrity means engaging with the values of your profession. You might also think that having integrity means you should ‘stand for something’, trying to change practices and attitudes that you think are less than ethical. For some, having integrity involves trying to influence for the better the practices of your employer, your profession, or even society at large.

The first case study looks at integrity in the context of the defence industry.

The second case study looks at integrity in the context of selling on new technologies to third parties.

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

The fourth case study looks at integrity and competence in the context of a company engaged to carry out the mechanical and electrical design for a hospital’s intensive care unit.

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