Skip to content
Civil Engineer blog

Sustainability route map

27 February 2020

David Balmforth, Chair of the Sustainability Route Map Steering Group, looks at how to deliver sustainable development goals through engineering.

Sustainability route map
Delivering SDG's is one of the greatest challenges faced globally

Time for action

With only 10 years left in which to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals, attention has focused on the risk of inactivity and the need to deliver actions now.

The World Economic Forum in January saw high profile figures such as HRH Prince Charles and Greta Thunberg challenging global leaders to tackle inertia, with HRH Prince Charles launching his Sustainable Markets initiative which aims to:

...generate long-term value through the balance of natural, social, human and financial capital. Systems-level change within sustainable markets is driven by consumer and investor demand, access to sustainable alternatives and an enhanced partnership between the public, private and philanthropic sectors.

A similar such shift is required in the built environment, especially as Infrastructure is at the heart of global development and delivering the SDGs. A recent paper for Nature Sustainability found that infrastructure either directly or indirectly influences the attainment of all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including 72% of the targets. We therefore have a unique opportunity at ICE to inspire our members to deliver a more sustainable built environment and we also have a duty to provide them with the knowledge skills and expertise in order to do so.

Delivering the SDGs is one of the greatest challenges faced globally, the risks of failure are catastrophic, but the possibility of a sustainable, peaceful and prosperous planet is the reward if we are able to deliver.

World Engineering Day, The Global Engineering Congress and the Sustainability Route Map

04 March will be the first World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development. This day is intended to highlight the role that Engineers have in delivering the SDGs worldwide.

ICEs commitment to delivering the SDGs was brought to the foreground in 2018 with our largest ever event; the Global Engineering Congress (GEC).

The GEC was inspirational in demonstrating how engineers might better shape a sustainable world. The lessons learnt gave a clear steer on what needs to be done. But perhaps more importantly it established a basis for collaboration, between the professions, governments, non-governmental bodies and global organisations such as the UN, the World Bank, and WFEO.

Outputs from the GEC helped us to generate our Sustainability Route Map. A program of activity to transform how engineers engage with the SDGs. The route map builds on the GEC legacy and sets out the strategy for delivering our vision :

To harness the capability and capacity of the global engineering community to accelerate the delivery of the sustainable development goals for the benefit of society. To Bring about a transformation in the delivery of infrastructure through leadership, advocacy, nurturing collaboration and building knowledge and skills.

We are taking this forward on three fronts:

1. Measuring, monitoring and reporting

Measuring, monitoring and reporting is important because if we do not monitor and measure, we will not know if our interventions are delivering the desired change. Reporting is also important because it focusses the mind. Having to report on progress and having sound data in the public domain changes attitudes and priorities.

2. Capacity, capability and education

Making progress on the SDGs against the future challenge of climate change, carbon reduction and poverty and populations growth requires new skills and greater capacity and capability, especially in countries where engineers are less likely to have the support of effective professional bodies locally. We will work with engineering organisations globally, governments and non-government bodies, charities and trusts to develop the necessary engineering capacity, knowledge and skills.

3. Systems Approach

Infrastructure is heavily networked and interconnected. Sustainable development of infrastructure therefore requires a systems approach. Existing systems capability can be extended into new geographies and new contexts.

Related links

  • David Balmforth, Chair of the Sustainability Route Map Steering Group & Past President 2014-2015, ICE