Home Leader's Edge Lockheed Martin sets the standard for ethics in engineering

Lockheed Martin sets the standard for ethics in engineering

by The 100 Companies

Most companies have a code of ethics. Few go as far as Lockheed Martin to infuse ethics throughout their operations and culture. Senior Vice President for Ethics and Enterprise Assurance Leo S. Mackay, Jr. talks to E100 about the importance of ethics in engineering and its link to sustainability.

He also shares Lockheed Martin’s efforts to shape the next generation of engineers. “We want students to start thinking about the ethical implications of their decisions before they are faced with real-life situations that challenge their integrity and put their work, end-users or society at risk.”

For more, read the Leader’s Edge.

– Melissa Price, The Engineering 100

Ethics is generally taught in business or law school. Why is ethics important in the fields of engineering and technology?

Engineers produce products and services the world depends on, from GPS and other geolocation technology to telecommunication services. At Lockheed Martin, we’re developing generation-after-next technologies that help keep our world safe, and when servicemen and women use our technologies, it can literally be a matter of life and death.

Integrity is essential to what we, as Lockheed Martin, as engineers and as business leaders collectively, do and how we work. A commitment to ethics ensures we maintain trust with our partners and customers and avoid harm to the people who rely on our products and harm to our businesses, in terms of financial and legal issues.

Most companies have a Code of Ethics or mention ethics in their mission or values. Lockheed Martin infuses ethics throughout its operation and culture. How do you do this and what difference does it make in your business?

We have our own Code of Ethics and Business Conduct at Lockheed Martin, and our core values are “Do What’s Right, Respect Others, and Perform with Excellence.” We take these words seriously, but we know it requires more than words on paper to live out these ideals every day.

Our leaders actively model ethical behavior, communicate its importance in the workplace, and recognize those who demonstrate ethical leadership. This open conversation about ethics creates an environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up to prevent bad behavior and situations that might negatively affect our customers and the company as a whole. There is a level of accountability that strengthens our profitability, talent recruitment and reputation with our stakeholders.

Setting the Standard, our Code of Ethics and Business Conduct, is also widely and easily accessible to our 110,000 employees. The code is translated into 15 languages, and the online version is interactive.

Teams from 21 colleges and universities competed earlier this year for the third annual Ethics in Engineering Case Competition. The competition teaches critical thinking and ethical approaches around technology. The winning team from Brigham Young University successfully addressed issues surrounding artificial intelligence, including data bias, discrimination and responsibility. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

In a recent Industry Week article, you wrote about the next generation of engineers and the importance of teaching them critical thinking and ethical approaches. Tell us more about this and the program Lockheed Martin developed to reach engineering students.

Engineering students are often focused on the technical aspects of their career. They may not be introduced to the complex business decisions or full scope of problems they will face once on the job. We want engineering and business students to start thinking about the ethical implications of their decisions before they are faced with real-life situations that challenge their integrity and put their work, end-users, or society at risk.

Lockheed Martin’s Ethics in Engineering Case Competition allows undergraduate students to explore different ethical situations that they might encounter in the complex world of technology. The competition also teaches them the importance of voicing their values. This year, teams from 21 colleges and universities participated. They were asked to assume the role of a fictitious consulting firm hired to provide a plan of action to a business struggling with some difficult decisions. Their case revolved around artificial intelligence – a hot button topic in ethics today.

Speaking of hot topics, in addition to AI, what technical areas do you believe will face the most ethical scrutiny in the next five years?

Technology is rapidly changing the world we live in – from quantum computing and automation to driverless cars and drones. It is important how these technologies manifest themselves, but it is not just about the very heavy technical work. It is also about the way the work is done. People need to have confidence in the integrity of the developers and those who will service these technologies.

The most powerful example is AI. The Department of Defense recently published principles that will govern its use of AI in research and development. The principles outline five major areas: responsible, equitable, traceable, reliable and governable AI to ensure legal, ethical and policy commitments in the field of AI.

At Lockheed Martin, we support those principles and are working with DOD to promote those principles and ensure they are fully realized within our organization.

Your role at Lockheed Martin also includes a focus on sustainability. How do you see the relationship between ethics and sustainability?

At Lockheed Martin, we call it the Science of Citizenship. Our sustainability approach includes five core issues, and at the top of that list is business integrity. We require responsible leadership, integrity and ethical conduct in all aspects of our work. For us, ethics and sustainability go hand in hand and inform much of what we do on a daily basis. Additional elements of our approach aim to leverage our innovation and our integrity to protect the environment, strengthen communities and propel responsible growth.

At the heart of ethics – and sustainability – is doing things the right way, the responsible way. And we have worked to mainstream these ideals into all of our decision making, behaviors, and operations. We want to use our science and technology to address some of the most pressing environmental, social and governance issues facing society today, including climate resiliency, the reliability of data, and equity and opportunity in the workplace.

Leo S. Mackay, Jr. is the Senior Vice President of Ethics and Enterprise Assurance for Lockheed Martin.

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