A new sense of purpose
Putting the principles of globally responsible engineering into practice.
Doctors have a moral duty to their patients, first and foremost. Lawyers have a moral duty to justice, first and foremost. But what about engineers?
For a sector that employs 5.7 million people in the UK alone, we continue to have a surprising lack of clarity around our commitments to people and planet. We have the Professional Engineering Institutions individual codes of conduct and the Statement of Ethical Principles, but to enable a better world a professional commitment should be about putting principles into action, every single day.
As we look ahead to the 2030 deadline for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, it is time for the engineering community to proactively consider how we can address the destruction of global ecosystems and the current failure to meet the basic human rights of everyone.
The engineering community is uniquely placed to address these challenges – and can do so if we take a different approach and act urgently.
There needs to be a rapid move towards globally responsible practice. This means critically reflecting on the role of engineering in society and understanding the social, environmental and economic impacts engineering has, both locally to where it is implemented and globally through supply chains and operational outputs.
We need to move from an approach of engineering for people and planet to an approach of engineering with people and planet.
Today, engineers are often described as problem solvers, in doing so we have emphasised jumping in too late in the process when we should be going further back to also thinking about what problems need to be solved. Should we even describe our focus as working on problems at all? If we were to reframe our perspective to one that is continuously looking for opportunities for improvement, building on existing strengths and what is already working well, then we challenge the assumption that everything needs to be fixed by starting from scratch which can lead to unsustainable results from the outset.
Equally, the inclusion of a diverse range of people’s views and insights in the engineering process has never been more important. We cannot question how else we might build our cities if citizens are not involved in shaping that vision; we cannot rethink food supply unless the consumers of food are part of the debate; we cannot consider whether or how we travel unless those who need to get from A to B are also given the opportunity to define that need. Engineers alone cannot address the significant global challenges we face; we must work in collaboration with others.
To achieve social and environmental justice, we need those working in and around engineering to commit to global responsibility. Our 2021-30 strategy sets out four key principles for globally responsible engineering that we want to see adopted across the engineering community and embedded in the culture of how all engineering is taught and practiced.
Responsible. To meet the needs of all people within the limits of our planet. This should be at the heart of engineering.
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.
Inclusive. To ensure that diverse viewpoints and knowledge are included and respected in the engineering process.
Regenerative. To actively restore and regenerate ecological systems, rather than just reducing impact.
You can demonstrate your professional commitment to globally responsible engineering by becoming a member of Engineers Without Borders UK. You be will joining a diverse network of people who share your dedication and will inspire, support, and help build your confidence to put these principles into action.
To further understand how to embed these principles into your day to day practice, explore this list of competencies which we believe are required to deliver on the four principles of globally responsible engineering.
If you’re interested in supporting the ongoing development of our competency frameworks please get in touch with us at [email protected]