Maintaining the long-term quality of the environment has become a common area of interest in the society hence the subject of sustainability. Sustainability can be defined as the ability to meet the present needs without having to compromise the ability of our posterity to meet their needs. The society and its people have a moral obligation to create a sustainable environment. This has, therefore, led to the need for sustainability ethics that enables professionals to understand their moral obligations regarding the environment’s quality for the better of the future generations. Sustainability professionals should recognize that they don not only serve their businesses or institutions but also as stewards that engage in their professions to impact the society positively (Becker, 2012). The main ethical principles of sustainability professionals should uphold are;
Sustainability professionals should be aware, understand and accept the outcomes of their actions and when consulted for advice, they should inform the possible consequences or aftermath of their proposed action. They should be impartial, diligent, and objective in their profession; promote and strive for high-quality standards and best practice in sustainability. Generally, these professionals ought to have strong considerations regarding the social, environmental and economic effects of what they determine and recommend.
For instance, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could be used to show how professionals need to take accountability and responsibility. It was in 2010 when a BP pipe leaked deep below in the sea water letting out over three million barrels of oil into the sea. This was an environmental disaster that claimed the lives of eleven people, destroyed aquatic life and posed the threat to affecting highly recreational beaches along the coastlines(Landau, 2011). BP should have taken the responsibility to prevent this mess or least reduce its negative impact on the environment and of course it stepped up to mitigate the negative effects of the oil spill. This illustrates how important responsibility or accountability is an important element in the codes of ethical principles of sustainability professional.
ii) Honesty and fairness (integrity)
Sustainability professionals should ensure that their judgment is not determined or affected by a conflict of interest to cause bias and when the conflict does exist, it should be disclosed to relevant people. They should, therefore, uphold their professional standards, be honest and fair in all areas they interact in the course of their profession, and they should ensure that the report those professionals who lack competent and character, or those that deceive or engage in fraudulent activities, to the relevant people. Then again, when one is fair, is when they are able to treat another person the way they would want the other person to treat them.
The case of a recycling factory in Mombasa, Kenya that threatens the lives of the people nearby due to lead poisoning depicts the need for honesty and fairness. The authorities in the area have given the whole issue a blind eye hence the battery factory and recycling plants continue to operate while people around the setting continue to suffer from lead poisoning. The authorities have conflicted their interests with those of the society by allowing a deadly operation to go on so that they can gain at the expense of poor Kenyans in the area. These people need to be told honestly about the issue and in fact the factory closed without any form of bias. This is a failure of professionals in the environmental protection authorities and the local administration to uphold integrity (Yusuf, 2014).
As professionals, it is expected that they have the required skill and knowledge to enable them to provide services competently in the profession. To be competent means that the professional has attained and maintained an adequate degree of knowledge and skill that could be applied in extending various services to the customers. Competence would also involve the wisdom to realize the limits of the knowledge and skills, situations to consult with another professional, and when it is proper to give a referral to another professional.
The recent case in Fukushima, Japan, could help show how sustainability professionals ought to possess the principle of competence; due skill and knowledge in what they do. In 2011, Fukushima experienced a nuclear disaster that was characterized by melting of nuclear material and failure of equipment thus leading to the release of a poisonous radioactive substance that killed thousands of lives. Of course, the disaster was instigated by natural causes i.e. earthquakes, but there was a significant failure by relevant professionals to mitigate the problem. The fact that equipment failed to hold to the nuclear material during the natural shakes depicts a lack of knowledge and skill by professionals to have contingency plans and lack of techniques to counter effects of radioactive materials released(“Fukushima nuclear disaster | South China Morning Post,” n.d.).
Responsibility, competence, and integrity, therefore, stand out as the most important elements of the code of ethics of professional working towards a sustainable environment. If they could heed to these moral behaviors, it would be a better current society and the best future.
Freedman, M., &Jaggi, B. (2010). Sustainability, environmental performance and disclosures. Bingley: Emerald.
Oil Spill Gulf of Mexico 2010 | Smithsonian Ocean Portal. (n.d.).
What Happened? | Fukushima On The Globe. (2016).