My career to date has spanned a variety of roles and sectors; as an official working on a wide range of international policy themes, I have been most energised by issues that relate to tangible improvements in the quality of human life: delivering technical assistance to economies in transition, pushing for more effective protection of human rights within the UN, and championing higher ambition on climate action. Although my job was essentially anchored in promoting the “national interest” – for example, national security, economic prosperity and global energy supply – I came to realise that these issues could not be separated from social justice and the health of the planet.

Working with professional bodies in the built environment sector, I was able to combine my diverse policy experience under a broader theme of sustainability. Given their “public advantage” remit, I promoted the idea that professionals ought to be at the heart of sustainable thinking and practice. I have been inspired by the many professionals who share this view, and who champion change amongst their peers and within their organisations. They are often successful in creating new standards, guidelines, tools and competency frameworks, all of which are essential, many of which have created new business models.

But there is still a long way to go. 

We stand at a crossroads where the planetary boundaries are being tested as never before. Our response must be nothing short of a globally responsible revolution. It will not be easy, as societies have become ever-more complex and ever-more interconnected, and expectations of high living standards have become entrenched.

There are many reasons to be positive, notably the growing demand for, and increased scrutiny of, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investments. But we are far from the systemic change we need. Engineers are no strangers to systemic change; they were at the forefront of the first and subsequent industrial revolutions. More than most, engineers understand the world we inhabit, which was designed and created, in large part, by them.

We have an unprecedented opportunity and responsibility to re-shape, reorganise and rethink the sector, and for this, we need to rally the enormous collective expertise and inventiveness of engineers and allied professions. This is where Engineers Without Borders UK comes in. As the incoming Chief Executive, my goal is clear: to deliver our 2021-2030 strategy, Reaching the tipping point for globally responsible engineering. Principally that means a movement of 500,000 individuals actively committed to putting global responsibility at the heart of all engineering, and 250,000 people equipped with the skills to do that. Those are the numbers we will deliver on. Equally important is that the movement drives real change and those who we have trained, put their skills into practice. If the combined effect is transformative, we will have succeeded.

The challenges before us demand nothing less than high ambition. We have no time to lose. In the coming weeks, I am eager to meet those we work alongside to make this a reality, including our partners and members as possible. I want to hear your ideas for how we can work more closely together to make our shared vision a reality.

Contact me at [email protected].

Chief executive, John Kraus