Ethics, Law and Conduct FAQs

The resources and information available on and through this webpage are general in nature. They do not contain legal or professional advice and do not constitute official policy of Engineers and Geoscientists BC. Readers are advised to contact Engineers and Geoscientists BC and/or seek professional advice in relation to specific issues relating to the regulation and practice of professional engineering or geoscience in British Columbia.

    Ethical Standards of Conduct

    • 1.1 Why does the association have a Code of Ethics that applies to all of its members and licensees?

      There are two essential aspects of being an accredited professional engineer or professional geoscientist through membership or license with a professional association such as Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia.

      The first is the ability to assure the public that by virtue of your professional qualification you possess a level of expertise, knowledge and experience appropriate to activities and undertakings that potentially carry significant risks to public health and safety and to the physical and natural environment. The second is the ability to assure the public that you are governed not only by legal and regulatory requirements and standards, but also by an additional higher standard of ethics and integrity — set out in the association’s Code of Ethics — that places on you the paramount duty to uphold the values of truth, honesty and trustworthiness and to safeguard human life and welfare and to protect the environment.

      The Code of Ethics is a condition of acceptance into and continued membership or license with the Association. It sets a high standard of conduct that is binding on and applies consistently to all members and licensees of Engineers and Geoscientists BC.

    • 1.2 What is the difference between legal and/or regulatory requirements and ethical standards. Why are professional engineers and professional geoscientists subject to ethical standards as well as laws and regulations?

      Generally speaking, laws and regulations establish the thresholds and formal boundaries that set the minimum requirements or standards necessary, acceptable and permissible to balance and protect competing interests in society.

      Complying or operating in conformity with laws and regulations is the first step in ethical practice, but merely asking “what is necessary to comply with the law or regulation” is not the same as asking the ethics question is “what is right?”

      Ethical standards of conduct go beyond what is necessary to comply with the law, and they are in effect whether or not a specific law or regulation exists. They are based on values such as honesty, integrity, respect, responsibility, trustworthiness and concern for others in all actions and decisions.

      Ethical standards and the values on which they are based are guides to the proper course of action in all types of situations, including where there is no specific or applicable law or regulation, or where a choice is required between competing, but equally legal, alternatives that have different implications or consequences for those affected by them.

      As a member or licensee with Engineers and Geoscientists BC, your conduct must meet the higher ethical standards outlined in the Code of Ethics over and above what is required by law. This is because the exclusive license or membership granted to you to identify yourself as a professional engineer or professional geoscientists and to practice in fields reserved to qualified, accredited professionals is based on trust that you have the requisite knowledge and experience to perform the work and that you will conduct yourself according to the values of truth, honesty, and trustworthiness, placing the safety, health and welfare of the public and the protection of the environment before all else.

    • 1.3 Why are the standards in the Code of Ethics higher than those required by law?

      Generally speaking, laws and regulations establish the thresholds and formal boundaries that set the minimum requirements or standards necessary, acceptable and permissible to balance and protect competing interests in society.

      Complying or operating in conformity with laws and regulations is the first step in ethical practice, but merely asking “what is necessary to comply with the law or regulation” is not the same as asking the ethics question “what is right?”

      Ethical standards go beyond what is required to comply with the law to address what is necessary to ensure honesty, integrity, respect, responsibility, trustworthiness and concern for others in all actions and decisions.  As a member or licensee with Engineers and Geoscientists BC, your conduct must meet the higher ethical standards outlined in the Code of Ethics over and above what is required by law.

    • 1.4 Why am I expected to uphold ethical standards in the profession beyond my own work responsibility?

      As a member or licensee with Engineers and Geoscientists BC, you are governed by the Code of Ethics that requires you to act at all times with fairness, courtesy and good faith to your associates, employers, employees and clients and with fidelity to the public needs.

      The Code also places on you the duty to uphold the values of truth, honesty and trustworthiness and to safeguard human life and welfare and protect the environment. As a consequence, you have professional responsibilities under the Code that extend beyond the immediate scope of your own conduct and work, particularly and especially with respect to matters that affect or potentially affect public health and safety and protection of the environment.


    Does the Code of Ethics apply to me?

    • 2.1 I am working as an employee or under contract with an organization.

      As a member or licensee with Engineers and Geoscientists BC, you are governed by the Code of Ethics. It is binding on you personally, whatever the type of employment or work you are engaged in.

      When you qualified as a professional engineer or geoscientist, you made a personal commitment to observe the high standard of conduct and to fulfill and uphold the duties and responsibilities set out in the Code of Ethics. This ongoing commitment is condition of acceptance into and continued membership in the profession just as is the requisite technical knowledge, experience and expertise.

    • 2.2 I work for a company that has its own corporate code of ethics and/or conduct.

      As a member or licensee with Engineers and Geoscientists BC, the Code of Ethics applies to you personally, whatever type of employment or work you are engaged in. This means that in your employment with the company you are subject to the Code of Ethics as well as the corporate code of ethics/conduct.

      Most company codes of ethics/conduct are based on similar principles with similar values to those expressed in the general provision of the association’s Code of Ethics: honesty, truth, and trustworthiness, as well as fairness, courtesy, and good faith. However, the association’s Code of Ethics establishes specific duties and responsibilities and standards of professional conduct for its members and licensees that are usually higher than those applicable on a broader basis, such as those set out in a company’s code applicable to all employees.

      The fact that there is a company code of ethics/conduct does not change or limit your responsibility to act at all times in accordance with the higher standards expressed in the Code of Ethics. Even if you comply with your employer’s code, you must still consult and act in accordance with the association’s Code of Ethics and professional standards of conduct.

    • 2.3 In my current situation, I am not working strictly or exclusively in an engineering/geoscience capacity or context, and/or only part or none of my work is engineering/geoscience related or involves my engineering/geoscience expertise.

      As a member or licensee with Engineers and Geoscientists BC, you are governed by the Code of Ethics. It is binding on you personally, whatever the type of employment or work you are engaged in.

      When you qualified as a professional engineer or geoscientist, you made a personal commitment to observe the high standard of conduct and to fulfill and uphold the duties and responsibilities set out in the association’s Code of Ethics. This is an ongoing commitment that continues for the duration of your professional membership or license, regardless of whether or not you are actually doing engineering or geoscience work.

    • 2.4 I am working in a primarily managerial capacity.

      As a member or licensee with Engineers and Geoscientists BC, you are governed by the Code of Ethics. It is binding on you personally, whatever the type of employment or work you are engaged in. 

      When you qualified as a professional engineer or geoscientist, you made a personal commitment to observe the high standard of conduct and to fulfill and uphold the duties and responsibilities set out in the association’s Code of Ethics. This is an ongoing commitment that continues for the duration of your professional membership or license.

    • 2.5 I am no longer employed as a professional engineer/geoscientist, but maintain my membership with Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia.

      As a member or licensee with Engineers and Geoscientists BC, you are governed by the Code of Ethics. It is binding on you personally, whatever the type of employment or work you are engaged in.

      When you qualified as a professional engineer or geoscientist, you made a personal commitment to observe the high standard of conduct and to fulfill and uphold the duties and responsibilities set out in the association’s Code of Ethics. This is an ongoing commitment that continues for as long as you maintain your professional engineer or professional geoscientist membership or license.


    Applying the Code of Ethics

    • 3.1 What types of situations does the Code apply to?

      In general, ethics related considerations and or issues arise every time that you make a choice or decision that has implication or consequences that potentially affects others. 

      The Code of Ethics is your primary resource. In addition to the statement of general principles that govern the conduct of member and licensees in all situations, the Code of Ethics sets out specific duties that are owed in dealings and relationships with others, such as clients, colleagues, and employers, and in relation to particular situations such as conflicts of interest or where public safety is a concern. The Guidelines to the Code of Ethics gives additional guidance on how the Code is applied. 

      Other resources relating to the Code of Ethics, professional conduct and ethics in practice are located on the Ethics, Law and Conduct page.

    • 3.2 What resources are available to assist me with understanding how the Code of Ethics applies to my work and integrating ethics into my work?

      The Code of Ethics is your primary resource. In addition to the statement of general principles that govern member and licensees conduct, the Code of Ethics sets out specific duties that are owed in dealings and relationships with others, such as clients, colleagues, and employers, and in relation to particular situations such as conflicts of interest or where public safety is a concern. The Guidelines to the Code of Ethics gives additional guidance on how the Code is applied.

      Other resources relating to the Code, professional conduct and ethics in practice are located on the Ethics, Law and Conduct page.

    • 3.3 When do ethics related considerations and/or issues arise? When do I need to take ethics related considerations or issues into account and how do I identify them?

      In general, ethics related considerations and/or issues arise every time that an action, choice or decision has implications or consequences for others. Ethics is primarily about proactively seeking to do what is right, not just what is required: it involves making good decisions and acting responsibly with due consideration of the implications and consequences of such decisions and actions.

      The association’s Code of Ethics is your primary resource for dealing with such situations. In addition to the statement of general principles that govern the conduct of member and licensees, the Code of Ethics sets out specific duties that are owed in dealings and relationships with others, such as clients, colleagues, and employers, and in relation to particular situations such as conflicts of interest or where public safety is a concern. The Guidelines to the Code of Ethics gives additional guidance on how the Code is applied. 

      Other resources relating to the Code of Ethics, professional conduct and ethics in practice are located on the Ethics, Law and Conduct page.

    • 3.4 When the work I am doing complies with the legal requirements, do I need to be concerned about the Code of Ethics?

      Complying or operating in conformity with laws and regulations is the first step in ethical practice, but merely asking “what is necessary to comply with the law or regulation” is not the same as asking the ethics question “what is right?”

      Ethical standards go beyond what is required to comply with the law to address what is necessary to ensure honesty, integrity, respect, responsibility, trustworthiness and concern for others in all of our actions and decisions. As a professional, and member or licensee with Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia, your conduct must meet these higher ethical standards established in the association’s Code of Ethics, over and above what is required by law.


    Communicating Ethical Duties and Responsibilities

    • 4.1 What do I do if my client, employer or business associate is not aware of the Code of Ethics?

      It is important that those you work for and with are aware that you are an accredited professional. The ‘professional’ accreditation with Engineers and Geoscientists BC is an important one. It signifies a level of knowledge, education and experience that qualifies you to perform specialized work. It also attests to your responsibility and duty to perform your work lawfully and according to the high standards of ethical conduct and integrity set out in the association’s Code of Ethics. This includes the paramount requirement to place the safety, health and welfare of the public and the protection of the environment before all else.

    • 4.2 How do I deal with requests or expectations that I act in a way that I feel compromises my ability to work in accordance with the Code of Ethics?

      As a professional engineer or professional geoscientist and a member or licensee with Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia, you must perform your work lawfully and according to the high standards of ethical conduct and integrity set out in the Code of Ethics. This means that you cannot be expected or required to act illegally or in breach of the Code of Ethics by a client, employer, business associate or other person. In keeping with this, it is your responsibility to refrain from acting in breach of the Code of Ethics and where necessary, to explain the reason to the appropriate parties. This includes the legal authority of the Code of Ethics under the Engineers and Geoscientists Act, and the potential consequences if the breach were to occur.

      It is important that your clients, employer, business associates and others you work with or for are aware that you are an accredited professional. The ‘professional’ accreditation with Engineers and Geoscientists BC is an important one. It signifies a level of knowledge, education and experience that qualifies you to perform specialised work. It also attests to your responsibility and duty to perform your work lawfully and according to the high standards of ethical conduct and integrity set out in the association’s Code of Ethics. This includes the paramount requirement to place the safety, health and welfare of the public and the protection of the environment before all else.

      If you have a specific question or matter you would like to discuss further, please contact Efrem Swartz, Director of Legislation Ethics & Compliance with Engineers and Geoscientists BC, at 604.412.4852 or [email protected].


    Handling Conflicts

    • 5.1 How do I resolve what appear to be conflicts between my different duties and/or responsibilities under the Code of Ethics?

      Ethical conflicts are best resolved by using decision making strategies that assist you in:

      • Defining the ethical issue(s),
      • Identifying the interests or duties that appear to conflict,
      • Clarifying the implications of differing choices,
      • Assessing competing claims or interests, evaluating the consequences of each option, and
      • Determining which duties or interest take precedence. 

      In general, when ethical principles appear to conflict and there is no clear-cut right response, you must choose which principle takes priority. In many cases, having to place one ethical principle above another does not mean failing to observe and respect other ethical principles, particularly in the process that you follow to make your choice.

      In the case of the Code of Ethics, certain duties and responsibilities under the Code are paramount: that is, they override any of the other ones. This is the case with your duty to safeguard public safety, health and welfare, and to protect the environment. These duties must take precedence over others, such as those arising in connection with dealings and relationships with others, like clients, employers and colleagues, and those arising from your own interests.

      Even in such cases, it is possible to act with fairness, honesty, courtesy, and good faith. For example, in a situation where you have safety concerns relating to client or employer operations, notifying them of your concerns, and your duty to act if issues are not resolved respects your relationship to that client or employer without compromising your duty to act to ensure safety.

      The association’s Code of Ethics is your primary resource for matters relating to your ethical duties and obligations. In addition to the statement of general principles that govern the conduct of members and licensees, the Code of Ethics sets out specific duties that are owed in dealings and relationships with others, such as clients, colleagues, and employers, and in relation to particular situations such as conflicts of interest or where public safety is a concern. The Guidelines to the Code of Ethics gives additional guidance on how the Code is applied.

      Other resources relating to the Code of Ethics, professional conduct, and ethics in practice, are located on the Ethics, Law and Conduct page.

    • 5.2 I work for a company that has a corporate code of ethics/conduct. What should I do if there is a difference or apparent conflict between the two codes?

      As a member or licensee with Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia, you are governed by the association’s Code of Ethics. It is binding on you personally, whatever the type of employment or work you are engaged. The Code of Ethics establishes general and specific duties and responsibilities for its members and licensees that are usually higher than those applicable on a broader basis, such as those set out in a company’s code applicable to all employees.

      Since most company codes of ethics/conduct are based on similar principles with similar values to those expressed in the general provision of the Code of Ethics: honesty, truth, and trustworthiness, as well as fairness, courtesy, and good faith. In general, members and licensees will encounter few if any conflicts.

      However, where there is a difference or apparent conflict in the conduct that is required of you, your responsibility is to act according to the higher standards expressed in the Code of Ethics outlined by Engineers and Geoscientists BC. In accordance with your duty to act with fairness, courtesy and good faith toward your employer, you must provide the company with notice and explanation of the reasons for your action.

      If the difference involves any of the protection of public safety, health and welfare and the environment, and health and safety in the workplace, you may have further responsibilities. See: “What should I do if I am in a situation that involves a potential breach of the Code of Ethics?”


    Code of Ethics Resources and Assistance

    • 6.1 When do I need to consult the Code of Ethics?

      In general, ethics related considerations and/or issues arise every time that an action, choice or decision has implications or consequences for others.

      Since the Code of Ethics applies to you personally and regardless of the type of employment or work you are engaged in, it is your responsibility and duty to consult it as frequently as needed to ensure that your actions, choices and decisions are consistent with its general principles and specific duties and responsibilities. 

      The association’s Code of Ethics, Guidelines to the Code and other resources relating to ethics and professional conduct are located on the Ethics, Law and Conduct page.

    • 6.2 When should I contact Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia about issues or questions relating to the Code of Ethics?

      Since the Code of Ethics applies to you personally and regardless of the type of employment or work you are engaged in, it is your responsibility and duty to ensure that your actions, choices and decisions are consistent with its general principles and specific duties and responsibilities. If you have issues or questions about the Code of Ethics that are not addressed or answered in the resources on the Ethics, Law and Conduct page, you should contact Engineers and Geoscientists BC.

      If the issue or question relates to potential illegality, potential risks to the safety, health and welfare of the public, and/or the protection of the environment, your legal and ethical obligations necessitate that you take such action as is necessary to fulfill your duties under the Code of Ethics and to deter others from engaging in hazardous, unethical or illegal activity. This may involve bringing the matter to the attention of Engineers and Geoscientists BC or other appropriate agencies in accordance with the duty to report any hazardous, illegal, or unethical professional decisions or practices by engineers, geoscientists, or others. This duty to report may conflict with your duty to your client or employer, but your duty to public welfare, health and safety, and the protection of the environment must take precedence.


    Potential or Actual Breaches of the Code of Ethics

    • 7.1 What should I do if I become aware of a potential or actual breach of the Code of Ethics?

      As a member or licensee with Engineers and Geoscientists BC, you must perform your work lawfully and according to the high standards of ethical conduct and integrity set out in the Code of Ethics. In keeping with this, it is your responsibility to communicate your awareness of a potential or actual breach of the Code of Ethics to those responsible, as well as the risks and consequences of such a breach.

      Generally, this communication would be to the individual(s) directly involved. This is in keeping with the duty of fairness, courtesy, and good faith towards colleagues, clients, and others. However, in some circumstances it may be necessary to use your professional discretion to communicate your concerns to another responsible party such as a supervisor, manager, employer, or client, depending on your work situation. It is important in such circumstances, to ensure that you maintain confidentiality. 

      In cases that involve potential or actual illegality or place at risk the safety, health and welfare of the public and the protection of the environment, your legal and ethical obligations may necessitate that you bring the matter to the attention of senior decision makers and/or, if that route is unavailable or unsuccessful, Engineers and Geoscientists BC or other appropriate regulatory authorities in accordance with the duty to report any hazardous, illegal or unethical professional decisions or practices by engineers, geoscientists, or others. While this duty to report may conflict with your duty to your client or employer, your duty to public welfare, health and safety, and the protection of the environment must take precedence. 

    • 7.2 What should I do if I am in a situation that involves a potential breach of the Code of Ethics? For example, including being instructed or requested to do something that would lead to a breach of the Code, or to refrain from doing something that is necessary to comply with the Code?

      As a member or licensee with Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia, you must perform your work lawfully and according to the high standards of ethical conduct and integrity set out in the Code of Ethics. An employer or client cannot direct or instruct a professional engineer or professional geoscientist to act illegally or in breach of this Code. In keeping with this, it is your responsibility to refrain from doing anything in breach of the Code of Ethics, and where necessary to explain the reason to the appropriate parties. This includes the legal authority of the Code of Ethics under the Engineers and Geoscientists Act, as well as the potential consequences if the breach were to occur.

      Generally, this communication would be to the individual(s) directly involved, such as your client, employer, or colleague(s). This is in keeping with your duties to act with fairness, courtesy, and good faith towards colleagues, clients, and others, and to give honest and fair professional comment. 

      In cases that involve potential illegality or place at risk the safety, health and welfare of the public and the protection of the environment, whether or not you are directly involved, your legal and ethical obligations necessitate that you take such action as is necessary to fulfill your duties under the Code of Ethics and to deter others from engaging in hazardous, unethical, or illegal activity. This may involve bringing the matter to the attention of senior decision makers and/or, if that route is unavailable or unsuccessful, Engineers and Geoscientists BC or other appropriate regulatory authorities in accordance with the duty to report any hazardous, illegal, or unethical professional decisions or practices by engineers, geoscientists, or others. While this duty to report may conflict with your duty to your client or employer, your duty to public welfare, health and safety, and the protection of the environment must take precedence.  

      If you have a specific question or matter you would like to discuss further, please contact Efrem Swartz, Director of Legislation Ethics & Compliance with Engineers and Geoscientists BC, at 604.412.4852 or [email protected].