“The sustainable development concept requires all of us – as engineers and citizens – to consider much more widely than before the impact of our own lives and of the infrastructure and products we produce both geographically and temporally.” So says Royal Academy of Engineering President Lord Broers in publishing a new Academy guide for engineering students and their tutors. Engineering for Sustainable Development: Guiding Principles brings together much of UK engineering’s current thinking on applying sustainable development in the real world and proposes 12 principles as a basic framework.

These principles are supported, and in fact grew out of, real-life case studies that the Academy has collected and developed since 1998 when it started appointing Visiting Professors in Engineering Design for Sustainable Development at universities around the UK. The visiting professors, 26 so far, aim to generate teaching materials for engineering undergraduates that inspire them with an understanding of both the concept of sustainable development and the place of their own engineering field in delivering it.

The 12 principles, expanded on in the guide and illustrated with case studies ranging from flood abatement schemes to the introduction of washing powder tablets, are:

1. Look beyond your own locality and the immediate future.
2. Innovate and be creative.
3. Seek a balanced solution.
4. Seek engagement from all stakeholders.
5. Make sure you know the needs and wants.
6. Plan and manage effectively.
7. Give sustainability the benefit of any doubt.
8. If polluters must pollute – then they must pay as well.
9. Adopt a holistic, ‘cradle-to-grave’ approach.
10. Do things right, having decided on the right thing to do.
11. Beware cost reductions that masquerade as value engineering.
12. Practice what you preach.

“Wise use of natural resources, minimum adverse impact and maximum positive impact on people and the environment are our targets,” says Lord Broers. “Time is not on our side to make the necessary changes in our way of life if we are to live within the limited carrying capacity of Planet Earth. I hope this guide inspires you to make a difference to the world through sustainable development based upon wise practice of engineering.”

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.
  2. An online version is available at Engineering for Sustainable Development (947.69 KB)
  3. Printed copies of Engineering for Sustainable Development: Guiding Principles are available from the Academy tel. 020 7227 0500. Details of the Visiting Professors in Engineering Design for Sustainable Development Scheme are available from David Foxley in the Education Department.