American Society of Civil Engineers

Corporate Ethics in the Construction and Engineering Industry

by D. Tow, (Westfield Design and Construction Pty. Ltd., Sydney, NSW, Australia.) and M. Loosemore, (corresponding author), (Professor, Faculty of the Built Environment, Univ. of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia E-mail:

Journal of Legal Affairs and Dispute Resolution in Engineering and Construction, Vol. 1, No. 3, August 2009, 122-129 pp., (doi:

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Document type: Scholarly Paper
Abstract: Ethical conduct is closely related to legal conduct although they do not always overlap, leaving ambiguity over appropriate actions in specific circumstances. This uncertainty can be reduced by designing organizations which encourage ethical behavior. This paper investigates the organizational factors that inhibit and encourage ethical behavior in the construction and engineering industry. A total of 27 factors are identified as playing a potentially important role in influencing ethical conduct in the industry. A survey of construction firms identifies three factors as particularly influential, namely, the absence of ethics training programs; the absence of reward systems for those who act ethically within the industry, and the low level of "visibility" that exists within the industry. These findings are important for an industry that has become negatively stigmatized with poor ethical conduct. The paper concludes with a series of organizational and contractual recommendations to help the industry achieve higher standards of ethical conduct.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Professional practice
Engineering firms