Sustainable development, engineering and multinational corporations: Ethical and public policy implications

Joseph R. Herkert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


This paper explores the concept of sustainable development and its ethical and public policy ímplications for engineering and multinational corporations. Sustainable development involves achieving objectives in three realms: ecological (sustainable scale), economic (efficient allocation) and social (just distribution). While movement toward a sustainable society is dependent upon satisfying all three objectives, questions of just distribution and other questions of equity are often left off the table or downplayed when engineers and corporate leaders consider sustainable development issues. Indeed, almost all the effort of engineers and engineering organizations on the issue of sustainable development has been focused on striking a balance between economic development and environmental protection. Similarly, corporate approaches rely on technological fixes to the challenges posed by sustainable development. While there have been some efforts aimed at incorporating environmental and social equity concepts into engineering codes of ethics, social concerns have been secondary to environmental issues. The incongruity between the ideal of sustainable development and the way in which it is typically characterized by the engineering and business communities has significant implications for engineering and public policy, engineering ethics, and the potential roles of engineers and multinational corporations as facilitators of a transition to a sustainable society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-346
Number of pages14
JournalScience and engineering ethics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998


  • Codes of ethics
  • Engineering and public policy
  • Engineering ethics
  • Multinational corporations
  • Sustainable development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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