Ethics, Engineering and Social Sustainability


The objective of this paper is to outline the principles and practices of ethics in engineering and to review the social sustainability of engineering projects. Theory of ethics illuminates the moral principles of obligations, duties, rights, and ethical concepts such as utilitarianism, and conventionalism. Engineering ethics concerns with the micro-ethics of moral conduct in daily affairs of engineering, and the macro-ethics of collective interests of the engineering profession in the society. Integrity, cruciality and mystique are among the characteristics of professional engineers. Codes of ethics of engineering societies outline the principles of professional conduct for the guidance of members and clients, to serve the public interest, and to enhance the integrity and image of the profession. Social sustainability assessment of engineering projects is an evolutionary phase of social impact assessment integral in the traditional environmental impact assessment. Social, economic, technical and environment are integrated domains of the sustainability of engineering projects. The Mahaweli project is a large-scale utilitarian investment in infrastructure including the social infrastructure. A distinction can be drawn between the socio-economics of Niger Delta Engineering systems, and the Mahaweli project.

Key words: Ethics, engineers, public interest.


Ethics, and social sustainability of Engineering Projects


Ananda D Moonasingha

B.Sc(Hons), M.Eng, M.Sc(Eng), BA(Hons)




The aim of this paper is to outline the principles and practice of ethics in engineering and to review the social sustainability of engineering projects. The theoretical and contemporary contexts of engineering ethics have been illustrated by citations from the literature. Public interest is a key theme in engineering ethics. The scope of codes of ethics of engineering to advocate social sustainability of engineering projects has been examined. The scope and nature of the social sustainability of engineering projects of different scale, complexity and domain is addressed with examples. Social sustainability of engineering projects is important to substantiate the planning objectives, cost-benefit analysis and the allocation of funds. The key factors and indicators of social sustainability are outlined and study framework models are depicted.

Concepts of Ethics


There are many different concepts of ethics. Primarily ethics is about good behaviour. The words ethics and ethical are used to mean morally correct, and unethical means immoral or unscrupulous.1 The study of the general nature of ethics and ethical claims is referred to as metaethics. In this context ethics is a philosophical inquiry into the nature and grounds of moral judgements, moral standards and normative rules of conduct (Nelson and Peterson).2 Engineering ethics is the discipline or study of the moral issues arising in and surrounding engineering. Engineering ethics is intimately tied to philosophical ethics, and can be viewed as a branch of applied philosophical ethics.1 Applied ethics is concerned with uncovering cogent moral reasons for behaviours and actions, as opposed to accepting uncritically whatever beliefs or actions might happen to strike one’s fancy as being correct at a given moment.1  Codes of ethics of engineering societies contain engineering ethics as well as principles addressing issues of business practice, professional etiquette, and special interests of the professions (Oldenquist and Slowter2, and Flores3). Engineering ethics has been defined as ‘service of the public interest with integrity and honour’ (Wisley).2


Ethical Theories


Goal-based or consequential theories purport that the means of producing good consequences and avoiding bad ones are ethically important considerations.1  The leading consequentialist theory is the utilitarianism originated by the 18-19th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Right action is the one resulting in the greatest utility or greatest benefit to all concerned. In utilitarianism, the result of action is what matters, not the quality of the action itself.3 Duty-based theories suggest there are moral duties, and certain types of acts to avoid even though doing so may not always produce most good. Rights-based theories represent peoples’ rights, which the community ought to respect. There are at least two versions of rights-based theories. Locke’s view of individualistic rights holds entitlement to keep others from trespassing and meddling in one’s life. In contrast the other rights-based theories hold that rights are determined by the interrelationships among people in a moral community.1 As defined in ethics, moral community is a group of people consisting of moral agents who can act in a reciprocal manner, to whom we owe moral consideration.3 The theory of ethical conventionalism refers to that conventional ethics of a moral community is legitimate in determining what is right or wrong, regardless of whether other group or community agrees or not. The concept of ethical conventionalism illustrates the maxim, when in Rome, do as Romans do.1


Moral values are relative to conventions, which dominate at any given place and time, and the level of moral autonomy of individuals. The moral autonomy is described as the state of individual’s ability to make reasoned, responsible moral views or decisions displaying conscience and creativity in response to human values.1


There are four counts of moral predicament. These are:


  • moral negligence – failure to consider something important,
  • moral recklessness – failure to give adequate consideration to something important,
  • moral blindness – failure to see an issue in the process of deliberation, and
  • cultivation and exhibition of moral competence. This is a challenge more than a predicament. It involves developing adequate preparation, sensitivity, awareness, knowledge and conceptual abilities to deal with ethical issues (Cohen).4


Professionalism and Engineering Ethics


Roscoe Pound and the American Society of Civil Engineers have defined professionalism as ‘the pursuit of a learned art in the spirit of public service’ (Wisely2, and Nelson and Peterson).2 Engineering professionalism embodies not only the technical mastery of certain skills and a body of knowledge, but also a firm commitment to use that knowledge and skills economically and sustainably for the progressive well being of the society – referred to as a commitment to the public interest (Nelson & Peterson).2 The public interest is a professional judgement reached on the tenets of national and local development policies and planning guidelines, considering the techno-economic circumstances, safety, health and welfare of public. Engineering is a team activity. Team efforts subjugate the individual personality to the group median (Goland).2


The manifestation of professionalism and ethical consciousness on the part of engineers occurs through their interaction with the clients, employers, colleagues and associates of other institutions, stakeholders and others regarded as the public (Wisely).2 Professional ethics is a response to the interests of clients, individual professionals, and the profession as a whole (Muetzelfeldt)4 Professional ethics is embedded in our personal style and content of our professional work, concerned with the planning and project management from inception to the life-cycle operation and maintenance of a project. The activities of an engineering project entail selection of technology, appraisal of positivistic data and information, and value-laden judgements (Manheim2).3 


Professional engineering ethics can be divided into two categories of micro-ethics and macro-ethics. Micro-ethics is concerned with the moral aspects of relations and conduct of issues in the everyday matters. The macro-ethics refers to large-scale moral issues concerning the members of the profession as a collective in their relations with and responsibility to the society. Social responsibility includes, setting engineering standards in the society and debate influencing the infrastructure development policy (Ladd3).1 The professional social responsibility points in two directions: inwardly at self-policing to prevent abuses by colleagues, and outwardly to the making of public policy (Layton).2


Engineers are obliged to bring integrity and competence to whatever work they undertake. But they should not be counted upon to consider paramount the welfare of the human race (Florman).1 Conscientious moral commitment embraces a range of moral values and responsibilities, that are relevant to a given situation, and the willingness to develop the skill and expend the effort needed to reach the best balance possible among those considerations. Showing moral concern involves grasping the context of one’s work, and a commitment to obtain and properly assess all available information pertinent to meeting one’s moral obligations, in proportion to the size, cost and consequential risks.1


Professional conscience implies the moral right to exercise responsible professional judgement. The right of professional conscience involves both technical and moral evaluation. Moral authority to act without interference from others; and the obligation of others to do more than merely not interfere; are regarded as negative and positive rights.1


The engineer’s social responsibility of engineering projects embraces the following.1


  • Obligation to safety and health and respect for right of informed consent.
  • Assess impacts, mitigate adverse impacts and monitor them.
  • Moral competence.
  • Accountability.
  • Display due attributes of professionalism.

The professionalism of an engineer is manifested according to his or her predominant role. An engineer is sometimes regarded as a saviour or a servant.1 The ‘saviour’ is a technocrat who accomplishes sustainable development and achieves social wellbeing by astute planning, execution and management of infrastructure systems. ‘Technocratic servant’ solves problems assigned by the management under the constraints set by the management. ‘Social servant’ satisfies the desires of the society in cooperation with the management. ‘Social consultant’ advices the management, of the society’s needs and enables the management to make decisions for development. ‘Proactive player’, plays by the economic game rules that happen to be in effect at a given time.


Responsibility and Accountability

In engineering ethics, responsibility embodies both the moral and professional sense of obligation. Often the responsible implies accountable.1 Responsibility can be delegated. Those who take responsibility by authority, agreement, delegation or empowerment must have the capacity, ability and resources to fulfil the responsibility (Cohen).4 


Accountability means one can be held to account for one’s actions, to explain, justify and present cogent reasons for one’s conduct when required by a proceeding.1 In contrast, accountability systems delineate job responsibilities on individual basis, specifying performance indicators and criteria. They declare how the job is performed, what is to be accounted for and what counts in appraising performance (Cohen).4


Management Ethics


The concepts of management ethics can be summarised in the following citations. Ethics are embedded in practices of business people, managers and employers, and in the discourses that inform that practice. In terms pf practice, ethics can be considered in relation to individual actions and conduct, where people make choices rather than merely follow rules (Ibarra, 2002) and where those choices are realized through organizational norms policies and expectations. Such ethics are played out in practical settings and are manifest in the way that everyday activities are socially constructed as ethical or unethical (Parker, 1998) or as not related to ethics at all. Ethics are best considered in terms of the way that organizations present themselves to their members and stakeholders as sites for ethical difficulties, dilemmas, and deliberations (Roberts, 2003).4 Ethical judgements should be rational and require factual accuracy (Oldenquist and Slowter).2 It can be seen from the discourse that, there are ethics of making choices of alternatives, and on some situations there is only one ethical imperative. The following passage accentuates the cynicism in practice ethics.


·        Rather than being rational and calculable a conception of ethics that does not conform to any rule, norm or model, sees the choices that we make as being such that the ‘instant of decision is madness’ because moral choice must always interrupt the cognitive and rational deliberation which precedes it (Derrida, 1992).4


All engineers are part of management in some way, even if they have neither the title nor the perquisites. They must be fully informed of management goals, values, plans and projects. Some employment situations are a culture of bullying (Ullmann).2 What is right in the corporation is what the guy above you wants from you (Jackall, cited by Krieken).4 Management policy has relegated the engineering function to a state of conditioned response – to the degree which engineers feel free to dissent, innovate and advocate public interest through open channels of communication to top management, in a genuine attempt to improve the overall corporate performance, without the fear of retaliation (Nader).2 The harmony or discord of values, flexibility and stability in the working environment influences the ethical performance.


Corporate Social Responsibility


A corporation is a legal entity separate from the persons that form it. Corporations are by and large profit oriented business organisations. There are some differences in the business ethics of consultant engineers and that of industrial and contractor organizations.1 UK public sector organisations, namely the local authorities pursue performance goals based on statutory Best Value performance. The concept of corporation’s legal personality stands in the way of attributing genuine responsibility to real human beings capable of modifying their thoughts and actions in response to ethical concerns (Bakan, 2004 – cited by Van Krieken).4 Corporate ethics are communicated through explicit rhetoric that is not consistently sustained by everyday organizational practices. It is unlikely that corporate ethics and practice ethics will normally be aligned (Muetzelfeldt).4


Corporate social responsibility goals include the following.


·        Pay attention to sustainability triple bottom line: economic, social and environment.

·        Demonstrate integrity and transparency.

·        Involve with community to enhance social welfare and support.

·        Engage with and respect the stakeholders (Banerjee).4


Organizational Characteristics


The organizational life displays features of both patrimonial form and bureaucratic impersonal objectives and considerations (Jackall 1988, cited by Krieken).4  The conduct of bureaucrats is governed by the norms and impersonal purposes of organization, not by personal considerations such as feelings towards colleagues or clients, or obligation to their rulers. Patrimonial official’s loyalty to his office is not an impersonal commitment to impersonal tasks; it is rather an obligation of fealty. The selection of personal is based on personal trust and the capacity of management, not qualifications (Weber, 1978 – cited by Krieken).4 In the 1990s the public sector organizations were restructured by privatising or contracting out its functions. Following this reform the public sector reorganized their business procedures by entering into negotiated partnerships with consultants, contractors and other service providers (Muetzelfeldt4).5 Much of organizational realities have a subjective origin (Weick).6


Codes of Ethics, and Social Sustainability


A professional code of ethics is a statement of principles by which the practitioner may calibrate his or her personal attitude and conduct (Wisely).2  The obligation of social responsibility is embraced in the codes of ethics of professional engineering societies. For example the first canon of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) states, “Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of their professional duties”.7 However, the statement in this canon does not manifest the scope for social sustainability of engineering projects. Indeed, the principles of codes of ethics are brief and evaluatively loaded. The concept of sustainability in the codes of engineering ethics, for example the rule 4 in the code of ethics of Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), UK refers to the sustainability of environment.8  In the same context the code of ethics of the Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka, Clause 8, refers to the environmental sustainability.9  However, the ASCE definition of sustainability embraces some factors of social sustainability, such as natural resources, energy, food, shelter, transportation, and waste management, essential for social sustainability. The social sustainability as shown in the following section, entails issues such as jobs, work, income, and self-actualization.


The codes of engineering ethics serve many objectives and functions. Some of these can be outlined as follows (Ladd).3


  • Inspiration and guidance to members.
  • Alert and remind the professionals of the moral aspects of their work they may have overlooked.
  • Offer advice in case of moral dilemma and other conflicts.
  • Defend the integrity of the profession and protect the professional standards.
  • Inform the prospective clients and employers the standard of service expected of the members of the profession.
  • Encourage members to update knowledge and skills and participate in professional society activities.
  • Enhance the profession’s public image.

The obvious social opportunities in engineering projects are the jobs, training and enhancement of skills. Multiplier effects of the economy and utility of the project are other social benefits. As frequently emphasised, the sustainability elements technical, economic, environmental and social are inextricably interlinked. Besides, social sustainability of development projects depends to some extent on other major forces like politics and global economics.


The conflict between loyalty to the employer and client, and the public interest can be resolved with the perspective that the professional vision of the interests of public, employer and client should virtually be the same. Engineer at times needs to adopt an adversary role in order to serve the public interest and protect the public finance (Pletta).2 Engineers need to understand what society demands and what is achievable, and recognize that these may change over time.10 The prudent approach to dealing with ethical dilemmas is communication through open channels of the organisation. As Clegg and others assert, there is no satisfactory solution to every ethical problem.4  A majority of engineers in the world are not members of professional engineering societies, and the codes of engineering ethics are irrelevant to them.


Social Sustainability


The considerations of sustainable development are primarily on the environmental and natural resource issues. The social impact assessment is an integral element in the environmental impact assessment. The emerging models of social impact assessment embrace some or many of human values and needs as listed in the Table 1 to appraise social sustainability.11,12,13


There is no general definition fitting social sustainability of every engineering project, considering the diversity and scope of social sustainability of engineering projects of varying type, size, scale, and functional purpose. Many authors and project planners make their own definitions reflecting the scope, objectives and aspirations of their visions and projects.12,14 The following definitions are cogent perspectives of social sustainability (cited by Colantonio).12


  • Signifies, nature-society relationships, mediated by work as well as relationships in the society. Social sustainability is given, if work within a society and the related institutional arrangements satisfy an extended set of human needs; and are shaped in a way that nature and its reproductive capacities are preserved over a long period of time and the normative claims of social justice, human dignity and participation are fulfilled (Littig & Grieβler ).
  • Social sustainability aims to determine the minimal social requirements for long-term development (sometimes called critical social capital) and to identify the challenges to the very functioning of society in the long-term (Biart).                              


Personal and social development


The traditional ‘hard’ social sustainability factors such as employment and poverty alleviation are increasingly being complemented or replaced by ‘soft’ and less measurable concepts such as happiness, well being and sense of place.12 Iindividuals only work for society if it provides certain benefits. Transaction, contracts, cooperation, appreciation and rewards are more important than substitute communal values (Bos).4 Social norms have a character of binding some people together, and turn those people against others (Krieken).4 Antidiscrimination Acts and policies such as equal opportunities are instruments of promoting social sustainability.1



Fig 1. Integrated Sustainability Model


There are two models of sustainable development. One is the three-pillar approach: environment, social, and techno-economic assessment. An alternative is the five capitals of human, environmental, social, financial, manufacture and infrastructure. In the latter model, sustainable development is one that utilises human, environmental and financial capital to enhance human, social, environmental, financial and/or manufactured (constructed) capital.15


Many engineering projects do not have the scope to produce large-scale ‘hard’ social benefits, and do not enable a rigorous analysis of social sustainability. However, they should be planned and designed to demonstrate social sustainability aspirations within their functional scope. For example, social sustainability factors of a council building project in Northern Ireland include, public transport access, centralised services access, disability access, council performance, community participation and ownership. The social sustainability of Maidenhead, Windsor Jubilee River flood alleviation project of river Thames includes flood alleviation, aesthetic and amenity values of environmental improvement.15 The London Olympic project is a large-scale engineering project that generates social benefits of employment, training and skills during its construction. Ethnic minority, gender, and disability issues have been considered in employment. On health and safety the Olympic delivery authority has ensured the best practice is embedded throughout its supply chain.16


Niger Delta Region


An engineering project system that has been disrupted by poor social sustainability is the petroleum industry in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. In order to address the problems of social sustainability along with the associated economic, infrastructure and environmental problems, the Nigerian government has established the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to prepare and implement the NDDC Master Plan. The agency NDDC is funded by both the government and the multinational oil industry companies operating in the Niger Delta region. The region is characterised by all the indicators of poverty and squalor that include low-income, high disease and mortality rate of children, poor transport and energy infrastructure, health care and education facilities. To fulfil the palpable corporate social responsibility the oil companies are promoting development programmes in the region.11,17


The NDDC Master Plan (2007) document acknowledges that previous plans to ameliorate socio-economic sustainability have ended with little to show for the time and resources spent. Not withstanding the failures of the past the present plan purports that participation of the stakeholders at all levels of the society is a key feature of the plan. A social sustainability study carried out by Bubou and others has found that more than 50 percent of respondents of the study stated that the equity does not prevail and social sustainability was appalling in the region.11 The supplementary information on the region’s economy available from other Internet sources indicates that the market driven (national and global) oil economy is supplanting and suppressing the local agricultural economy. The oil revenue does not trickledown to compensate for the decline of the local economy of the Niger delta region and to remedy the dearth of infrastructure.18


          Fig. 2 (a) 19



  Fig. 2 (b)    Map of Nigeria numerically showing states typically considered part of the Niger Delta region:

          1. Abia, 2. Akwa Ibom, 3. Bayelsa, 4. Cross  River, 5. Delta, 6. Edo, 7.Imo, 8. Ondo, 9. Rivers

Fig. 2 a & b. Map of Niger Delta Region18


The studies of large-scale projects of the nature of Niger Delta region, and Vancouver Social Development Plan deploy computer software to process and analyse the social sustainability data collected from the surveys. Social sustainability assessment is distinctly based on value-laden opinions. The conceptual models of two studies are shown in (Figs. 3 a & b).11,12



Fig. 3a. Social Sustainability Assessment Model Framework:

Adopted in the Niger Delta Study.11















Sense of







 Principles, objectives or criteria

Indicators or best practice for appraisal


 Fig. 3b. Social Sustainability Assessment Model Framework:

Vancouver Social Development Plan.12


Mahaweli Multipurpose Development Project


The Mahaweli Project in Sri Lanka is a large-scale engineering project that engenders significant social sustainability issues in its own goals. The distinction between the Niger Delta region and Mahweli Project is; the former is oil industry development, which employs a relatively small number of locals, where as the irrigation systems of the Mahaweli project are supposed to facilitate livelihood for more than 125,000 settler families and their descendants.20,21 The social benefits of Mahaweli dam projects include the employment during construction period, and the generation of hydroelectricity, which has contributed to the rural electrification. No social sustainability assessment has been carried out for the Mahaweli irrigation systems, which extend over some 400,000 hectares (4,000 Sq. Km) of land area (Fig. 4). Environmental impact assessments were carried out for the Mahaweli Project, which included social impacts of the displacement of families from the dam projects (USAID).22 Some 11,000 families were displaced from the reservoir catchments.21 Majority of these people were resettled in the downstream new irrigation systems, and others opted to resettle in the nearby new towns developed (Bulankulama).22 There is literature describing the initial social impacts such as health issues of settlers in the irrigation systems.21,22 The ethnic issue in the selection of settler families is another social factor that has been raised.23 Considering the social and political dynamics of Sri Lanka, it may be contemplated that in future the equity of land resources in irrigation settlements for all the populations will be more transparent than it is portrayed in the Mahaweli irrigation systems. Conflict with wildlife is a common issue in rural development projects. The extinction of valuable forest resources important for social sustainability in the irrigation systems needs remedial emphasis. The agricultural land in the irrigation settlements is a finite resource, which is inadequate to provide a livelihood for all the members of the descendant settler families. The agricultural economy has to diversify to generate more opportunities for the future generations. Democracy, autonomy and the provision of basic needs of education and health care are better in Sri Lanka than in many other developing countries. A large proportion of the irrigation systems in Sri Lanka are managed by the multidisciplinary organisation, the Mahaweli Economic Agency. The community participation, a key component of social sustainability exists through instruments like farmer organisations and empowerment. These are not strongly developed for the achievement of desirable level of potential of the irrigation systems. Contrary to government expectations, the colossal investment in the Mahaweli development programme had not paid off in terms of socio-economic development of the settlers.24 The orientation of social sustainability desired in irrigation settlements is participation and development of agricultural, economic and technical programmes for diverse production, business development, construction resources for proper maintenance of infrastructure, better operation and use of resources especially water, and generation of wealth; which is referred to as the sustainability of techno-economic, social, and environment. Pilot projects and studies are conducted in scientific and technical fields, which do not appear to induce a desirable impact on the performance of irrigation projects.

Fig 4. Map of Mahaweli Development Project, Circa. 1985. Sri Lanka.25




The words ethics and ethical are used to mean morally correct; and unethical means immoral. The study of theory and practice of and philosophical inquiry into issues related to moral conduct are also referred to as ethics and metaethics. Engineering ethics is moral decision making and moral conduct in dealing with affairs in the profession and business of engineering. Engineering ethics is a fusion of personal and professional morals.


Ethical theories are a philosophical approach to the moral reasoning of a right action. The fundamental ethical theories rationalise the moral principles such as goals, obligations, duties, rights, and social conventions. The notion that the practices of organizations, where professional activities are socially constructed through the managerial subjectivity; which are unlikely to be aligned with the corporate ethics communicated through explicit rhetoric that is not consistently sustained by everyday organizational practice; are ethical and are ethics of the organization is equivocal. Engineers should be wary of moral fallibility and develop moral competence to enhance professional success.


Engineering projects range to a great extent in scale, complexity and domain, hence the scope and degree of the assessment of their social sustainability is a function related to these variability characteristics of each project. Social sustainability is inextricably interlinked to the techno-economic, and environmental sustainability. Social impact assessment is an integral part of environmental impact assessment. The emerging models of social sustainability assessment encompass much wider range of human and social needs and values. Consultation and community participation during the life cycle of a project are a means of facilitating social sustainability of engineering projects. Social sustainability assessment relies on data of value-laden opinion of the populations, and the data are scanty. Corporate social responsibility implies social and environmental obligations towards the society.


Codes of ethics of engineering hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public. Welfare is an evaluatively loaded word. Jobs, training and utility of the projects are primary social benefits contributing to the social sustainability of engineering projects. Conversely the social sustainability implies the social capital required for sustainability of an engineering project to operate at its optimum efficiency. The engineer’s scope to contribute for social sustainability is to some extent dependent on his or her role as a social administrator. The reference to sustainability in the codes of ethics is with respect to the environmental and natural resources issues.




1. Martin M. W. & Schinzinger R. Ethics in Engineering. McGraw-Hill, (1983).

2. Schaub J. H. & Pavlovic K. (ed.) Engineering Professionalism and Ethics. Wiley, 1983.

3. Vesilind P. A. & Gunn. A. S. Engineering, Ethics, and the Environment. Cambridge University Press, 1998.

4. Clegg S. R. & Rhodes C. (ed.) Management Ethics. Contemporary contexts. Routledge, 2006.

5. Proceedings of the ICE - Municipal Engineer. Volume 145, Issue 3, September 2001

6. Morris P. W. G. (2002) Science, objective knowledge and the theory of project management. Proceedings of Institution of Civil Engineers, Civil Engineering, Vol.150, Issue 2, May, 82-90.

7. American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)  Accessed  04/2010

8. Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)  Accessed  04/2010

9. Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka.  Accessed   /04/2010

10. Engineering Council, UK. Guidance on sustainability, for the engineering profession.  Accessed /04/2010

11. Bubou G. M., Brent A. C. and Tredoux C.

Towards assessing the social sustainability performance of the petroleum industry in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

Accessed   /04/2010

12. Colantonio A. Measuring social sustainability: Best practice from urban renewal in the EU. November 2008.  Accessed  /04/2010

13. Gosnell H. Beyond dollars and acre feet: Assessing the social sustainability …

Accessed  /04/2010

14. City of Vancouver. Policy report – social development.

Accessed  /04/2010

15. Engineering for sustainable development: Guiding principles. The Royal Academy of Engineering.

Accessed  /04/2010

16. Select Committee on Business and Enterprise. House of Commons.

Accessed  /04/2010

17. Niger Delta Development Commission. The regional development master plan.  Accessed  /04/2010

18. Conflict in the Niger Delta.  Accessed  /04/2010

19.  The Niger Delta.

Accessed  /04/2010

20. Hewavisenthi A. C. De S. Mahaweli water resources project. Water International, Vol. 17, Issue 1, March 1992.

21. Werellagama D. R. I. B., Jeyavijithan V. et al. Lessons learned from communities displaced by the Mahaweli multipurpose development project – Sri Lanka.  Accessed  /04/2010

22. Moonasingha A. D. The environmental impacts of Mahaweli river engineering and reservoir construction project. Proceedings of the annual conference of Institution of Water and Environmental Management held in Birmingham, 1991.

23. Scudder T. The future of large dams:   Accessed  /04/2010

24. Perera G.D., and Sennema., Towards sustainable development in Mahaweli settlements through farmer participation.

See Accessed    /04/2010

25. Amaratunge. S. and Shiratake. Y. An economic analysis of the marketing system of agricultural production in the Mahaweli ‘H’ zone in Sri Lanka.  Accessed  /04/2010


 Gulf of Mexico Oil Disaster


The 2010 oil well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico elicits thoughts on the ethics of global corporations of oil industry. The traditional ethical concepts outlined earlier do not unequivocally validate the modern capitalism, consumerism, and global trade associated with large global engineering corporations. Utilitarianism which advocates the ideology of maximum benefits for the maximum number of people, often can be seen as the ethical basis of infrastructure development and maintenance, which is however brought into question with regard to inconsistency in distribution of costs and benefits. The economic basis of oil exploration is profit making by large corporations subject to supply and demand of finite energy resources on earth. The technology and financial risks of oil exploration will stretch as far as the operations are commercially viable. What protects the communities and society at large from adverse impacts of indomitable quest of oil exploration such as deep sea oil exploration by and large is legal machinery of safety and health legislation, environmental protection, pollution control, and the planning consent procedures. The oil industry is driven by financial benefits and risks, legal constraints of safety, health and public welfare, that encompass environmental and pollution control; and will utilise the technology necessary to protect their businesses and liabilities from foreseeable hazards and risks. The engineers are guided by the legislation and ethical commands of the codes of ethics of the engineering bodies to consider paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public. Corporate businesses are obliged to honour the values and obligations of corporate social responsibility towards the society and environment. Engineers have a duty to take adequate measures to protect the environment from adverse impacts of their work. Engineers have a moral duty to consider the sustainable development principles of the environmental, social, and techno-economic domains.


The Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster is an event that is foreseeable, and can be managed by cautious risk-and-cost-benefit analysis and implementing strategic safety features. The costs of the disaster include fatal and serious injuries on-site, short-medium-and long-term adverse impacts on the marine and coastal environment involving fishing industry, tourism, and other businesses and livelihoods.  The company profits and reputation are at stake in the event of a disaster. The ‘developer’ has legal liabilities to make good and pay compensation for the damage caused to the environment and society. Reciprocally the benefits of oil industry include, company profits, employment and earnings, multiplier effects of various subsidiary industries and businesses engaged in the oil industry, and the benefits of supply of oil to the global consumers, which is substantial to the way of life and the global economy. The important point of cost-and risk-benefits of off-shore oil industry is that by and large the beneficiaries and those who at imminent risk from the pollution hazards of off-shore oil industry are different communities. The communities sustained by the oil industry benefits are in general not the same as the communities who are at risk from the environmental impacts of industrial hazards. The response to the Gulf of Mexico disaster suggests that legal system in America has even though to a limited extent ensured compensation of the adversely affected communities by the environmental pollution and the knock on effects. The deep-sea oil exploration is socially sustainable with added costs of minimising the risks of oil well blowouts and the related adverse impacts.

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