This month’s Global Engineering Congress in London will focus on how engineers can help to deliver the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
There is a strong appetite for action on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) among engineers, but efforts are hampered by a lack of effective means to measure impact, according to new research from the ICE and the Nathu Puri Institute.
The research revealed that 83% of engineers surveyed want to know more about the SDGs and what can be done to demonstrate success against the SDG 2030 targets. Seventy eight per cent do not believe in “cherry-picking” SDGs for self-serving targets but instead, that profitable growth should be balanced with a longer-term view on global SDG impacts.
Survey participants identified which SDGs should be a priority for engineering firms, with 94% indicating SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) as a clear priority, 83% indicating SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), 80% indicating SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), 79% indicating SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and 57% indicating SDG 13 (climate change).
With some of the identified priority SDGs, there was a notable difference between the ratings of millennials and non-millennials. Nearly 70% of millennial engineers rated climate change as a priority SDG, compared with only around 50% of non-millennials. Around 90% of millennials indicated sustainable cities as a priority SDG, compared with less than 80% of non-millennials.
“The majority of all engineering professionals see climate change and sustainable cities as key priority SDGs on which engineers can act,” says ICE director of engineering knowledge Nathan Baker.
“But it appears these issues are of greater importance to millennial engineers. As they take their place as the next generation of engineering leaders, we can expect sustainability to become an even greater driving force within engineering, setting a new agenda for infrastructure.”
The research findings have been released ahead of the Global Engineering Congress (GEC)this month (see box). This will be hosted by the ICE together with the World Federation of Engineering Organisations. It will be a forum where engineering professionals will convene to agree a worldwide response to deliver the SDGs.
The five SDGs identified as priorities by the research are also those that were independently chosen to be focused on at the GEC. The congress will bring together the engineering community to agree and implement a practical route map towards these goals by 2030.
Quality of life
Baker explains: “Infrastructure has always been essential for delivering economic growth and societal wellbeing. The work that engineers do is vital for meeting the SDGs, improving people’s quality of life and preserving our planet. The worldwide engineering community has the means to deliver real change and through the GEC, the ICE is inviting policymakers, leaders and practitioners to take practical action.”
The research further found that nearly nine out of 10 engineers want to measure SDG impact on projects. Despite this strong demand, only one third of engineering firms reported that they have an effective means to measure impact.
When asked to identify the greatest challenges for measuring SDG impact, issues with defining success came out as the most popular answer (56%). This was closely followed by business priorities (55%), leadership (52%) and a focus on outputs rather than outcomes (46%).
“These responses suggest that a necessary next step is the creation of standardised tools and key performance indicators to measure SDG performance on engineering projects,” says London South Bank University and University College London researcher Paul Mansell, who led the research. “The next phase of research will work with engineering organisations to develop simple, relevant and accessible frameworks for reporting sustainability impact on projects.”
The wider ongoing research includes interviews with CEOs and heads of sustainability to better understand their SDG priorities and what they plan to do differently. Due to be published in November, the full research report is intended to identify areas of best practice across the sector and will be used by the ICE to inform post-GEC activity.
- More information on the Global Engineering Congress can be found at www.ice.org.uk/congress