As you will know, the focus for my Presidential year is on net-zero carbon. Building a community of members with the appetite to address the great challenges of decarbonisation and sustainability is a long-term goal of the institution.
The desire for ICE to be seen as a global leader in resolving the climate crisis has led to the creation of a detailed programme for The Carbon Project for 2022-26. This programme is supported by a number of themes, one of which is to assure that ICE members are competent and advancing the industry’s capability using suitable, practical tools. The Trustee Board was pleased to have been given an opportunity to shape the programme and Council will now also be given the chance to refine it further.
Extending the ICE’s work on the decarbonisation agenda, it is incumbent on everyone in the industry to step into the light and demonstrate the work they are doing to tackle this great global challenge. A new programme is designed to do just that, and trustees are eager to ensure that civil engineers from across the industry, and at all levels, apply to become Carbon Champions. I encouraged the Trustee Board, and will do the same with Council members, to consider how they can become potential role models.
This is an exciting opportunity for ICE members to be prominent advocates of the decarbonisation agenda and more work is now planned to promote the programme. Council will address ways to prioritise the five-year plan in its April Strategy Session on de-carbonisation and resilience.
2020 has been an extremely difficult year for all industries, not least our own. Trustees recognise the effort that the institution’s leaders have made in navigating their way through this challenging period and, having seen the financial report for 2020/21, feel reassured at the way ICE is being run.
Trustees agreed to approve the report after noting the outstanding effort that ICE’s Finance Team have put in this year in particular.
The last year has given us all an opportunity to take stock and, at the direction of trustees, ICE’s leadership has been examining ways to introduce more resilience into its finances. Because of the actions taken in the past twelve months, the institution is a position to greatly reduce its in-year reliance on the surplus generated by its commercial arm, Thomas Telford Limited (TTL). An interim review of the ICE Group’s finances suggests that building our reserves will give the ICE better protection from market shocks. Trustees agreed to update the advice that ICE provides to TTL as its sole shareholder and look forward to receiving a final report in June.
As a global institution, ICE has members around the world, and it is critical that we continue to attract and retain members from a diverse mix of geographies across the world. In key territories such as Hong Kong but also many other places, we must continue to provide an offer that is relevant to our members wherever they are based.
Trustees are mindful that the challenges which the world faces cannot be solved in – or by – one country alone. It is therefore important that as an organisation we do more to facilitate our global knowledge networks and be more collaborative with others. Alongside encouraging a more international spread of members on ICE committees, trustees look to the International Committee to work with the executive to explore how we might engage audiences overseas into its updated international strategy for 2021-25.
And as the pinnacle of ICE’s Learning Society, we also encourage Council to consider how it might approach its role with a wider, international mindset.
Further to in-depth discussions at previous meetings, trustees agreed that any unintentional barriers to selection should be removed, however they all agreed that the postholder should be an industry visionary with an exceptional record and experience.
There was some debate as to the specific qualifications that a future president might be required to possess. Trustees wish to consult Council over summer 2021 for its collective view before convening later this year to agree changes to the Terms of Reference.
Diversity and Inclusivity
ICE has made good progress over the last few years in seeking to represent members from all sections of society and this has been evident across much of the work the institution does. Much of this has been driven by the 2016 Diversity and Inclusivity action plan which is aligned to the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Diversity Concordat.
But ensuring the institution remains inclusive and welcoming to all is an ongoing piece of work. Events from 2020 show us that we must constantly seek to do better and see things through other people’s eyes. It is for this reason that the institution has sought to develop and reorient its activities by producing a refreshed plan this year. Trustees noted that great progress has been made but are keen that the institution aims high when it comes to matters of fairness, inclusivity, and respect.
The FIR Committee has a busy programme for 21/22 and this includes the release and commission of a number of member surveys. These are designed to offer insight into how well the industry and ICE itself is performing in respect of making sure that civil engineers feel they are treated fairly. But we must not just listen to these voices but take appropriate steps to make the lives of engineers, whoever they are, better.
Toolkits which offer practical advice on making positive change will be produced by the institution in collaboration with a number of third-party associations. Transforming the culture within industry so that it includes everyone aligns with our desire to deliver societal outcomes that benefit all. Trustees are keen to see the best practice from these toolkits adopted across all ICE committees as well as the wider industry.
A year of change
As the financial year for 20/21 draws to a close, it is worth looking back at how the institution moved rapidly to ensure that it conducted its business with as little disruption to members as possible. It should not be underestimated how hard the staff have worked over the last twelve months, and this is evidenced by a financial report that is full of good news, against all odds.
The Trustees are grateful to the leadership of the institution for ensuring that it has continued to offer members an excellent service in difficult circumstances.