In early January 2022 I was extremely fortunate to be one of 30 “big picture systems thinkers” selected across the Jacobs business to take part in Engineers Without Borders UK’s pilot Advocate Programme.
Jacobs partnered with Engineers Without Borders UK to develop this 7-month programme aimed at evolving our skill sets to accelerate our company growth plans, sustainability commitments, and balance the needs of people and the planet in our solutions.
I jumped at the chance to learn the advocacy skills that would help me more effectively promote the importance of biodiversity and sustainable development.
The programme kicked-off with a month-long multi-discipline Reshaping Engineering challenge, which involved working with a wide range of people from various organisations and disciplines across the globe, developing ideas to embed sustainability into everything we do. The rest of the programme involved several training modules and workshops focused on integrating climate response and sustainability into project delivery.
As a long-term enthusiast and professional in ecology and habitat restoration, I jumped at the chance to learn the advocacy skills that would help me more effectively promote the importance of biodiversity and sustainable development. For the last 15 years of my career, I have been vigorously flying the flag about the importance of working with natural processes to deliver projects that work with, rather than against, nature. With a focus on river and wetlands, most of my work has been on flood risk management and infrastructure projects that impact rivers and their floodplains.
Early on in the programme, I developed some personal goals that I would strive to achieve with the help of my new-found advocacy skills:
- I will promote the benefits of integrating river restoration/habitat improvements into river realignments and crossings required as part of a major infrastructure scheme.
- I will work with colleagues within Jacobs to develop a vision for nature-based solutions and how to implement this on projects. The end goal would be that nature-based solutions are considered carefully and fully before more traditional hard engineering (and less sustainable) solutions.
- I will strive to break down silos between disciplines so that we better capture the wider benefits of wetland restoration and creation, such as carbon sequestration, water quality improvements, nature recovery and social benefits.
We all need to be honest and open about the huge challenges we face, including the radical solutions we must consider, if we are to help find solutions to the climate emergency.
My experience of participating in the programme has been brilliant – it has opened my eyes and helped me to think more diplomatically and empathetically about other technical disciplines and the challenges they face on projects. I have tried to be as open as possible and worn my heart on my sleeve throughout, something I think is key as we all strive for a more sustainable future. We all need to be honest and open about the huge challenges we face, including the radical solutions we must consider, if we are to help find solutions to the climate emergency and embed nature recovery.
The programme aligns with Jacobs’ sustainable business strategy, PlanBeyond 2.0, which is focussed on how we can create a more connected, sustainable world. Our role as advocates is to now lead positive change across Jacobs, and help the business integrate environmental, social and governance considerations into operations – and into the hearts and minds of every employee and every client solution we deliver.
We’re pleased to announce that we’ll be delivering the Reshaping Engineering challenge for a second year in February 2023. Register today to secure your place!