Ethics & Societal Impact


Engineering products and processes have a significant impact on individuals, communities and the environment. Engineering graduates need an understanding of the ethical, social and environmental impacts of their work to best serve society. There are many opportunities for engineers to apply their skills to solve the world’s most pressing challenges, but an understanding of social and environmental systems is critical.

U of T Engineering has several courses and co-curricular activities that provide you with an opportunity to learn about the social and environmental impacts of engineering products and processes, and the role of ethical frameworks in equitable and fair decision-making.

ISTEP is passionate about sociotechnical theory and engineering ethics. We’re excited to explore this dimension of engineering with you.

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Undergraduate Programming | Graduate Programming | Additional Programming


Deb Raji
When Deb Raji was in fourth year, her work with researchers at the MIT Media Lab showed a need for stronger evaluation practices of AI technology to mitigate gender and racial biases.

Courses like ESC 203 helped me realize that for designs to truly work, they can't be created in the abstract.When released into the world, these designs shape society and are, in turn, shaped by social and economic forcesall of which needs to be considered in our engineering approachThis has been critical in shaping my understanding of the real-world implementations of AI systems.
Deb Raji (EngSci 1T8 + PEY)

Programming for Engineering Undergraduates

First-year students working on a project.
First-year students tackle a sustainable design project through the Engineering Strategis & Practice course.

U of T Engineering Courses

There are several undergraduate courses that focus on engineering ethics and/or social and environmental impact:

Arts & Science Courses

Did you know that you can take related courses offered by the Faculty of Arts & Science from academic divisions and departments such as environmental studies, political science and sociology? You can find course descriptions in the Arts & Science Calendar.

Programming for Engineering Graduates

MEng Emphasis in Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Innovation & Technology in Engineering (ELITE): MEng students can take graduate-level courses that focus on engineering and society through the Emphasis in ELITE . The Emphasis is specifically designed for those engineers who wish to take on more of a leadership role in their work environments — whether by learning to better motivate teams, foster and manage innovation or by embracing global opportunities. 

Additional Opportunities for Development in Ethics and Societal Impact

Student Clubs and Teams

Students lead several groups and associations across U of T related to ethics and societal impact. Joining such groups can offer a wonderful way to meet like-minded students, participate in service-learning projects and learn from professionals working in the field. In some cases, student chapters of professional associations offer discounts on membership and conference fees to groups and events of interest. Here are some U of T Engineering clubs related to ethics and societal impact:

  • Engineers Without Borders
  • National Society of Black Engineers
  • Project Include
  • Sustainable Engineers Association
  • University of Toronto Society of Information and Cyber Security
  • Water Environment Association of Ontario – U of T Chapter
  • Women in Science and Engineering

Involvement in student club opportunities often counts toward the Co-curricular Record (CCR). For more information on how to get involved, visit the Engineering Society website or ULife online.

Hart House Global Commons

This unique initiative facilitates dialogue about the climate crisis between students through in-person and virtual meet ups. Students participate directly from Canada, Columbia, France, South Africa and the USA. Join for an opportunity to share stories and listen to how students around the world are experiencing and responding to climate change.