Engineers working on Crossrail

Engineers Without Borders UK launches strategy for ethical transformation

Image credit: Arup, BECHTEL

Engineers Without Borders UK's 2021-2030 strategy calls for the sector to make social and environmental justice a cornerstone of engineering to help reach UN Global Sustainable Development Goals.

Engineers Without Borders UK, which aims to put global responsibility at the heart of engineering, has launched its latest strategy to radically change the current culture in the engineering sector in order to ensure a safe and just future for all.

As an organisation, Engineers Without Borders UK will be accelerating its efforts to inspire, upskill and drive change within the sector, engaging 500,000 practising and student engineers by 2030. Through workshops, the successful university Design Challenges, corporate partnerships and advocacy, Engineers Without Borders UK intends to bring globally responsible engineering to the mainstream.

The strategy's three goals are intended to enable a tipping point towards reaching globally responsible engineering. The three stated strategy goals – inspire, upskill, and drive change – are designed, respectively, to encourage lifelong, meaningful commitment to globally responsible engineering; equip the engineering community with the skills and expertise to be globally responsible, and encourage collaboration with organisations to enable globally responsible engineering to become mainstream.

To illustrate matters of concern, Engineers Without Borders UK has highlighted key statistics, including how 39 per cent of global carbon emissions are produced by the building and construction sector; 33 per cent of the Earth's soils are already degraded and over 90 per cent could become degraded by 2050; that approximately 14 per cent of food is lost between harvest and retail, while 9 per cent of the world’s population is undernourished, and that approximately 10 per cent of the world's people do not have access to electricity.

These concerns have informed Engineers Without Borders UK's global challenges, which it aims to tackle through its 2021-2030 strategy, namely the risk of not meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals; that we are living in a climate emergency and a biodiversity emergency, and that the impact of the global coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic will last for years.

The new strategy also calls for engineers employed in the sector to make a commitment to the four key principles of globally responsible engineering, transforming how engineers, at both an individual and organisational level, practice their profession:

  1. Responsible: to meet the needs of all people within the limits of our planet. This should be at the heart of engineering.
  2. Purposeful: to consider all the impacts of engineering, from a project or product’s inception to the end of its life. This should be at a global and local scale, for people and planet.
  3. Inclusive: to ensure that diverse viewpoints and knowledge are included and respected in the engineering process.
  4. Regenerative: to actively restore and regenerate ecological systems, rather than just reducing impact.

Emma Crichton, head of engineering at Engineers Without Borders UK, said: “We urgently need to balance the needs of all people with the needs of our planet. Engineering continues to rely on unsustainable methods and research shows how engineering education needs to adapt, including education within our profession at large. We urgently need to act to ensure a safe and just future for all.

"Our new strategy will provide the inspiration and tools to mainstream globally responsible engineering by embedding these principles across education and industry. It is an ambitious strategy but the scale of the challenge demands this. By bringing together thousands of people and organisations, we will develop unstoppable momentum towards achieving social and environmental justice through engineering."

Engineers Without Borders UK's stated purpose is to engage and galvanise the engineering community to ensure a safe and just future for all. As part of a global movement of over 60 Engineers Without Borders organisations, it aims to inspire, upskill and drive change in the engineering community and take communal action to put global responsibility at the heart of engineering.

The organisation believes that despite engineering employing approximately 5.7 million people in the UK, there continues to be a lack of clarity around the profession's commitments "to people and planet". While professional engineering institutions have individual codes of conduct and a statement of ethical principles does already exist, to enable a better world a professional commitment should be about putting principles into action, every single day, it says. Therefore, to achieve social and environmental justice, those working in and around engineering need to commit to global responsibility.

The full 2030 strategy is available online.

As the IET celebrates its 150th anniversaryE&T marked this landmark engineering anniversary by identifying seven ‘Technology Critical Targets’ that must be met in order to survive the next 150 years on Earth.

The IET has outlined its own position on sustainability and climate change, stating five key tenets for engineering professionals, namely: think long term; think globally; strive to innovate; use all resources responsibly, and be a champion.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles