Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 23, Issue 6, pp 1775–1790 | Cite as

Engineering Students’ Views of Corporate Social Responsibility: A Case Study from Petroleum Engineering

  • Jessica M. SmithEmail author
  • Carrie J. McClelland
  • Nicole M. Smith
Original Paper


The mining and energy industries present unique challenges to engineers, who must navigate sometimes competing responsibilities and codes of conduct, such as personal senses of right and wrong, professional ethics codes, and their employers’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the current dominant framework used by industry to conceptualize firms’ responsibilities to their stakeholders, yet has it plays a relatively minor role in engineering ethics education. In this article, we report on an interdisciplinary pedagogical intervention in a petroleum engineering seminar that sought to better prepare engineering undergraduate students to critically appraise the strengths and limitations of CSR as an approach to reconciling the interests of industry and communities. We find that as a result of the curricular interventions, engineering students were able to expand their knowledge of the social, rather than simply environmental and economic dimensions of CSR. They remained hesitant, however, in identifying the links between those social aspects of CSR and their actual engineering work. The study suggests that CSR may be a fruitful arena from which to illustrate the profoundly sociotechnical dimensions of the engineering challenges relevant to students’ future careers.


Engineering ethics Corporate social responsibility Petroleum engineering Pedagogical strategies Student learning 



This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1540298. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Research with Human Subjects

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica M. Smith
    • 1
    Email author
  • Carrie J. McClelland
    • 1
  • Nicole M. Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Colorado School of MinesGoldenUSA

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