When we say, “professional practice”, what do we actually mean? This refers to the conduct and work of someone from a given line of profession. Appropriate professional practice focuses on achieving a safe and comfortable indoor or outdoor environment while minimizing negative environmental impacts.
Often, professionalism has not been conceptualized appropriately and ends up being associated with unethical conduct. All professions are governed by professional bodies that accredit both educational institutions and qualified professionals. Qualification may be organized by various designations such as; ‘certified’, ‘fellow’, ’chartered member’, ‘member of…’, and many more.
All professions have specific set out practices well stipulated in a code of conduct. In the built environment, there are some generally agreed upon principles (only to mention but a few) that may be common to most professionals:
- Act with integrity;
- An ethical approach to service provision;
- Undertake work for which there is appropriate competence;
- Provide high working standards;
- Have appropriate insurance;
- Ensure clarity of appointment terms;
- Promote trust in the profession;
- Do not bring the profession to disrepute;
- Do not discriminate against parties on any grounds.
Appropriate conduct and professionalism should be inseparable. It may be uncomfortable and even against the immediate interests but if professionals don’t do what’s right then they can also get into trouble.
This brings us to the discussion on ‘Ethics’. Well, just a recap on the definition of this commonly used word; this is a branch of moral philosophy involving the guiding principles and recommended behaviors and conduct. It’s essentially what guides our conscience on what’s good and what’s not, what’s just and what’s not, and so on.
An individual that is not guided by ethical conduct or ignorantly acts to this fact is a total failure as well as a disgrace to the profession. Again, we cannot be oblivious to the fact that ethical failure has a leadership implication in it. Leadership must promote requisite ethical professional practices since the moral conduct of a person becomes subsumed in the blatant disregard of professional ethics.
This discussion can’t be complete without highlighting the key principles of ethical practice:-
- Integrity: Consideration of the interests of the public;
- Accountability: Provide relevant and appropriate information to enhance effective necessary action;
- Honesty: Avoid deceptive conduct that may affect others directly or indirectly;
- Reliability: Provide services and skills within the areas of competence.
- Fairness: Avoid treating others unfairly directly or indirectly with the aim of obtaining benefits;
- Objectivity: Discern potential areas of conflict of interest and share this information with the parties to be adversely affected by such action.
- Fair reward: Avoid any kind of action that will deprive others of fair reward for their good work;