Chapter 6 – Sustainability
Sustainability is the concept of utilizing our physical, natural and social resources to meet our needs and aspirations without compromising the well-being of future generations and the global ecosystem. Since the early 1990s, Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia has consistently supported and encouraged its members to adapt sustainable principles within the practice of professional engineering and geoscience.
Members of Engineers and Geoscientists BC, through the Sustainability Committee, advise Council on these matters on an ongoing basis.
SUSTAINABILITY AND APEGBC PROFESSIONALS
WHAT IS SUSTAINABILITY?
A sustainable society meets the needs of people in a resilient economy without compromising the planet’s ecological integrity or the needs of future generations. Sustainability has three pillars that must be integrated in a balanced way:
a) environmental: to stay within the biophysical carrying capacity of our region/country/planet (e.g. minimize resource use, minimize waste, protect nature from degradation);
b) social: to maintain and protect quality of life and the values that we aspire to live by; and
c) economic: to ensure that an adequate material standard of living is provided for all members of society.
The most widely quoted definition of sustainability and sustainable development was given by the United Nations’ Brundtland Commission on March 20, 1987:
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Since that time, the definition and scope of sustainability has expanded to encompass all aspects of human activities. Sustainability requires us to be smart about managing our resources and impacts, with the long term in mind. In other words,
we need to think about the way we use our natural, social, and economic capital so that we don’t use them up too fast or make conditions worse for others while we benefit ourselves (“others” can mean those in different places around the world or future generations).
How Does it Relate to Professional Engineering and Geoscience?
This preamble emphasizes the relevance of the Sustainability Guidelines to the scope of an APEGBC professional’s task and work responsibilities. APEGBC professionals must consider these Sustainability Guidelines in their work; the application of the Sustainability Guidelines is, however, a matter of judgment. The concept of sustainability in the practice of professional engineering and geoscience is not new. Sustainability is already a key element to our professional practice where we carry out our roles considering ethical, environmental, social and economic challenges. By continually gathering new knowledge, developing new materials and technologies, and using more sophisticated decision-making methods, we deliver economic benefits, minimize negative environmental impacts and improve societal wellbeing. APEGBC professionals already have an explicit mandate to protect public welfare and the environment.
The first principle of our Code of Ethics states:
“Professional Engineers and Geoscientists shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public, the protection of the environment and promote health and safety within the workplace.”
1.0 HOW DOES IT RELATE TO PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERING AND GEOSCIENCE?
APEGBC professionals have a significant role to play in the development of
a sustainable society through their professional practice. Our actions directly and indirectly shape the world we live in, including the resources we use, as well as the health, safety, environment, and wellbeing of the public. APEGBC professionals make decisions and provide leadership to our colleagues, clients, employers, decision-makers and the public in the development, implementation, operational life spans, and decommissioning of engineering and geoscience projects, products, processes, or systems. We have a responsibility to the public, consistent with the APEGBC Code of Ethics (the “Code of Ethics”), to provide sustainable solutions that adhere to the basic pillars of sustainability
(environmental, social and economic). This requires that we consider the long-term consequences that flow directly and indirectly from our actions. APEGBC professionals must not make promises of results for sustainable solutions as this will probably negate their professional liability insurance coverage. These APEGBC Sustainability Guidelines are an update of APEGBC’s former Guideline on Sustainability, originally adopted in 1995. APEGBC professionals are encouraged to view their work through the “lens of sustainability”, using these Sustainability Guidelines to assist them where appropriate. Sector-specific guidelines for sustainable engineering and geoscience practice are also available on the APEGBC website.
2.0 THE SUSTAINABILITY GUIDELINES
Within their scope of professional practice, APEGBC professionals have a responsibility to:
2.1 GUIDELINE 1: MAINTAIN A CURRENT KNOWLEDGE OF SUSTAINABILITY
Maintain a level of competence on matters of sustainability related to the APEGBC professional’s area of expertise, and seek additional expertise as necessary. The knowledge, concepts and opportunities for sustainable solutions are rapidly evolving and APEGBC professionals should strive to keep skills up to date, and advance the understanding of sustainability in their field of practice.
2.2 GUIDELINE 2: INTEGRATE SUSTAINABILITY INTO PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE
Integrate sustainability considerations into professional practice, reflecting the APEGBC Code of Ethics’ requirements to hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and the protection of the environment. APEGBC professionals must consider the combined environmental, social and economic aspects that take into account the direct and indirect impacts over the full project life-cycle.
2.3 GUIDELINE 3: COLLABORATE WITH PEERS AND EXPERTS FROM CONCEPT TO COMPLETION
At key stages of the project life-cycle, collaborate with peers and experts
across disciplines to identify appropriate alternatives and new opportunities for sustainable results.
2.4 GUIDELINE 4: DEVELOP AND PREPARE CLEAR JUSTIFICATIONS TO IMPLEMENT SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS
Discuss opportunities and document decisions made related to the integration of environmental, social and economic metrics. These discussions should occur early enough to enable the client or employer to make informed decisions about how to implement an appropriate level of sustainability considerations in the task or projects, products, processes, or systems.
2.5 GUIDELINE 5: ASSESS SUSTAINABILITY PERFORMANCE AND IDENTIFY OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Identify opportunities to improve knowledge and professional practice related to sustainability, where best practice is to assess actual performance of implemented solutions against the original design goals and metrics. An amplification of each guideline is provided in Appendix I.
Appendix I link here: https://www.egbc.ca/Practice-Resources/Sustainability