New guide to sustainable engineering launched

A new publication highlighting the principles of sustainable development for engineers has been published.

The publication replaces 'Engineers and the Environment' published by the Engineering Council in 1993, and aims to provide coherent direction for engineers, while providing a public declaration of the profession’s commitment to sustainability through engineering. 

Brian Iddon MP, member of the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee, hosted the launch at the House of Commons of the Engineering Council UK’s (ECUK). Over 100 members of the engineering profession attended the launch.

The ECUK guidelines describe the role of the engineer as leader in sustainability and list six principles to guide and motivate them to bring about sustainable development through their work. Each of the interdependent principles is of equal importance, with economic and social aspects included as well as those related to the environment. According to the ECUK they are highly relevant for today’s professionals and the current challenges they face, while also taking account of the needs of future generations.

Professor Kel Fidler, chairman of ECUK said: “Professional engineers have a significant role to play in sustainability and should be the providers of options and solutions to maximise social value and minimise environmental impact. These principles will guide engineers in meeting their professional obligations to promote sustainability, and ensure that it is integrated into all their engineering activity.”

'Guidance on Sustainability for the Engineering Profession' has been produced in response to indications from Professional Engineering Institutions (PEIs) that they would welcome such guidelines, and is designed to complement information on aspects of sustainability already published by some PEIs.

“I am very excited to be involved in the launch of this important guidance,” said Professor David Bogle, who chaired the working group that produced the guidelines. “It is the product of bringing together representatives from across the profession, who between them possess considerable experience in a wide range of engineering disciplines, as well as sustainability expertise. A number of PEIs were also instrumental in its development, either directly as part of the group or through the provision of materials.”

Brian Iddon said: “Engineering can play a major part in solving global problems such as climate change, food and water supply, energy security and economic stability. These six principles will help the public to understand how important engineering is in securing our future.”

The document expresses how engineers can contribute to building a sustainable society, present and future. Engineers, it says, have a responsibility to maximise the value of their activity towards building a sustainable world. In one section engineers are told to:

•  Recognise that though their activity may be local and immediate, the potential impacts of their work may be global and long lasting

•  Have an understanding of other relevant social and cultural structures outside their own normal community of practice

•  Understand the important potential role for engineers in the sustainable development of communities

•  Recognise the impacts of an engineering project on communities, global or local, and consider the views of the community

• Understand the important potential role for engineers

According to the document: “Engineers carry out their role in a broad context that encompasses social, ethical, environmental and economic challenges. These six principles will guide an engineer to achieve sustainable development through engineering. They will help engineers meet their professional obligations to seek to achieve sustainability, and ensure that this goal is integrated into all their engineering activity. The principles are fully compatible with the UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence (UK-SPEC) and the UK Government’s Sustainable Development Strategy.”

In keeping with the ethos of sustainability ECUK has avoided printing a large quantity of the guidance document, but an electronic version can be downloaded from

The ECUK has also produced a wallet size pack of cards for engineers, listing the six principles. These can be obtained from

Photo: (L to R) Dr Brian Iddon MP; Professor Kel Fidler, ECUK’s Chairman; Professor David Bogle, Chairman of ECUK’s Sustainability Working Group and Professor Michael Kelly, Chief Scientific Adviser, Dept for Communities and Local Government, at the House of Commons launch of ECUK’s ‘Guidance on Sustainability for the Engineering Profession’

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