Terri-Jane Yuzda

Corporate Social Responsibility Travels Abroad

Ethics Codes Prescribe Conduct in Engineering and Geomatics - And Not Just at Home

Safety and welfare are clearly defined in the APEGGA code, and the Consulting Engineers of Alberta has a complementary set of mechanisms.


Codes of ethics adopted by Canadian engineering and geomatic professional associations in the provinces and territories tend to relate to business dealings, but some elements in each relate to corporate social responsibility, or CSR. For instance, under Alberta statute APEGGA registers, sets practice standards and determines disciplinary action, when necessary, for its approximately 37,000 professional members, members-in-training, licensees and permit holders. Many of these members work in the oil and gas industry in Alberta as well as overseas.

The APEGGA Code of Ethics states it should be used to guide professional engineer, geologist and geophysicist conduct at all times. The first Rule of Conduct states that they "shall have proper regard in all their work for the safety and welfare of all persons and for the physical environment affected by their work." Under Section 43 of the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act, a contravention of this code may constitute unprofessional conduct or unskilled practice, which is subject to disciplinary action. The code applies wherever APEGGA professionals and permit holders are.

The Consulting Engineers of Alberta represents the business interests of consulting engineers and geoscientists firms in Alberta, and has approximately 75 member firms. Many of these CEA member firms work in the oil and gas industry in Alberta as well as overseas. The APEGGA Code of Ethics binds member companies.

In addition the CEA developed for the year 2000 a chief executive officer charter as a means of establishing solidarity between members for a strong industry voice, and as a reaffirmation of the CEA Code of Consulting Engineering Ethics. The charter was signed by the member companies' chief executive officers of the day, in a public ceremony at the CEA's annual general meeting. Any new members also sign the charter.

This charter exerts strong peer pressure to "do the right thing." Over the years, provincial and territorial consulting engineering associations have developed codes of consulting practice to set higher standards for their members in the fulfillment of their duties towards society, clients, other consulting engineers and employees.

The business interests of CEA members are also represented at the national level by the Association of Consulting Engineers of Canada, which includes both engineering and geomatics, as well as other sector disciplines. The ACEC Code of Consulting Practice instructs members to "fulfill their duties with honesty, justice and courtesy towards society." It also instructs that "members shall practice their profession with concern for the health, safety and social and economic well-being of society." Should the need arise the ACEC can choose to remove a company's membership as the disciplinary measure available.

The ACEC is in turn a member of the International Federation of Consulting Engineers. The federation is committed to promoting the values promulgated in the United Nations Global Compact. It operates as a separate entity and the ACEC has not articulated a position on the federation's stand on the Global Compact.

The Alberta Land Surveyors' Association is a self-governing professional association in Alberta legislated under the Land Surveyors Act. The ALSA regulates the practice of land surveying for the protection of the public and administration of the profession. The ALSA is legally concerned with the land boundaries and other geomatic issues within Alberta. The ALSA Code of Ethics stresses that the land surveyor shall "serve society" and maintain the "public interest." The code applies to all members of the ALSA wherever they are.

In other provincial jurisdictions there are similar self-governing professional land survey associations. The codes of ethics of these associations generally encourage integrity and dignity of the profession while, as with the ALSA code of ethics, the main focus is on business, training and inter-professional conduct issues.

The Association of Canada Lands Surveyors is a federally enacted professional association governed by the act respecting Canada Lands Surveyors. The ACLS has 540 members across Canada who have expertise in surveying, photogrammetry, geodesy, hydrography and land information systems.

Canada Lands Surveyor commissions are granted to those who meet specific standards of geomatics training and education and successfully pass a set of rigorous examinations. Many Canada Land Surveyors also hold a provincial commission, allowing them to practice in more than one jurisdiction. All of the land surveyors in the territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut are members of the ACLS.

Only licensed members of the ACLS may perform cadastral surveys on Canada Lands or private lands in one of the Canadian territories. Canada Lands include most of the offshore from coast to coast to coast. The ACLS Code of Ethics requires members to ensure that to the best of their ability their names are not used "in association with persons or enterprises of dubious or doubtful ethics." The code applies to all members of the ACLS and permit holders wherever they are.

All of these Canadian engineering and geomatic professional associations have disciplinary powers that could be invoked if their codes of ethics are not upheld.

Bruce Calderbank P.Eng., has carried out assignments in more than 25 countries while providing offshore geomatic and quality control consulting services to Canadian and other international oil companies. He is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, a commissioned Canada Lands Surveyor and an APEGGA member. The Canadian Institute of Resources Law has published a longer version of this article, with appendices and references.



Reach Bruce Calderbank at

Read his full paper, appendices and references at

Home | Past PEGGs | PEGG Search | Contact Us