The Importance of Sustainability in Engineering Management

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Engineering is one of the broadest professions. Whether you’re a civil, industrial, or mechanical engineer, one of the most crucial aspects of the field is sustainability. Sustainability management prepares us for the future, and it’s more important now than ever.


Despite the simplicity of engineering principles for sustainability in their abstract form, it is a challenge to convert these principles into quantitative design tools and performance metrics for application in engineering. Here’s why sustainability in engineering is crucial for you.

Defining Sustainable Engineering

Engineers are tasked with designing everything from buildings to bridges to automobiles, products, and services. These designs must be sustainable so that future generations can inherit the world they know and love. 


The principles of sustainable development are based on two critical pillars: environmental quality and economic viability. Environmental quality refers to the aforementioned physical aspect of sustainability and is concerned with the planet's well-being. 


The most revolutionary aspect of creating sustainably designed products and services is realizing that 100% of your product’s success depends on what goes in before the product even gets made. 


For example, a skyscraper might incorporate a renewable energy source, such as solar roof panels to increase energy efficiency. If the building were to use conventional energy, such as coal, to power itself, it would fail to maintain its eco-friendly reputation.


Engineers are already making strides in solving some of the world’s biggest problems. The work of engineers in sustainable development includes designing buildings using passive solar techniques, reducing carbon emissions in fuel, increasing energy efficiency, preserving water, and more.


The Importance of Sustainability

The modern world is grappling with climate change, pollution, and overconsumption. The planet’s resources have been depleted to the point where we live well beyond our means. The urgent demand for sustainability fuels a new generation of innovators who create changes that can transcend generations.  


There is a reason why there is no universal definition for what making decisions using the concepts of sustainability entails. Environmental justice, cultural equity, and social justice are integral to ethics, and when engineers make decisions about themselves or their clients, they must consider all these factors. 


Engineers have an ethical responsibility to shape the future of our planet. Therefore, the relationship between our decisions and the effects on our environment and people is ethically complex. 


The importance of sustainability is twofold. 


First, it’s our responsibility to preserve the earth for future generations. Humans have populated this planet for thousands of years, and we must leave it better than when we found it.  


Second, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their impact on the environment. As people continue to learn more about environmental issues, it will only be a matter of time before corporations are forced to undergo significant transformations.

Sustainability and Social Equity 

To understand sustainable practice, we must first examine how society and the environment interact. Social equity is how access to building, civil, and urban environments and services improves the quality of life. 


A primary goal of a sustainable system is to ensure that it benefits the most people. For example, there is a growth in demand for healthcare, school, religious, and recreational facilities. The need for non-hostile architecture is growing.


As an engineer, their work is fundamental to the public interest. Whether it’s work for governments, private organizations, or agencies, their role is to ensure that the public has access to infrastructure. The stakes are high because these systems affect the lives of all citizens.   


The field of social equity in engineering and development often focuses on risk management and prevention. It’s essential to understand how disasters can affect larger populations such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires.  


Why are these crucial to sustainability?


Local government action can advance social equity, but it requires a team of innovators and leaders who are adept at modifying messages to accommodate political sensitivities and aligning them with community priorities.


Residents that constitute marginalized communities are often characterized by financial hardship. Social equity will increase the number of people contributing to the environment by involving these groups and engaging more of your community. 


Such initiatives contribute to sustainability objectives such as increased employment in green jobs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Incorporating Sustainability In Engineering Practices

To remain competitive, businesses must develop strategies to reduce operational costs and limit their ecological footprint.


The challenges of implementing the concept of environmental sustainability within an engineering project are daunting. The level of technical knowledge required for professional success is often high, and integrating these concepts is difficult. 


Many people think of business as something that will profit at the expense of the environment and their employees. However, companies have embraced the idea of being socially responsible. 


Businesses that embrace a culture of social responsibility are focused on establishing and maintaining a profitable business model and having a positive social and environmental impact on their stakeholders. 


Integrating environmental and social elements into businesses involves mirroring the thought process of making environmentally sustainable choices, such as deciding which materials are available and which design elements are suitable.


For example, bioenergy for business operations helps reduce costs while utilizing waste material. When scaled for engineering, this creates more jobs and improves eco-friendly practices.

Opportunities In Sustainable Business Practices

As technological advancements continue, our ability to collect and analyze data increases. This presents opportunities for firms and individuals to implement innovative ideas that transform how the environment is managed. 


Many companies make this initial investment upfront, but they save significant amounts of money over the long run and are recognized as industry leaders in sustainability. In addition, they begin to rethink their supply chain and how they can change their methods and fully utilize these new ideas. They can gain an edge over their competitors.


Investing in environmental sustainability and implementing ecological profit and loss analysis (E-P&L) across the entire operation. E-P&L analyses measure a company's environmental impact, including how it sources its raw materials.


Companies have identified the biggest changes they could make in their suppliers, mainly at the tier-1 level. They are companies that produce the raw materials used in their products, such as cotton or rubber. The first step to improving the situation is to identify where they need to improve.

The Bottom Line

The rapid growth of environmental concerns, such as climate change and global warming, has increased the need for more sustainable business practices. As global climate change continues to pose challenges, the role of engineers and designers has never been more critical to the sustainability of our civilization.


A tremendous amount of research, talent, and funding is required to address the new challenges of accelerated urbanization. The task is enormous, but if we are to succeed, we must establish standards and guidelines for assessing the sustainability of any given solution.  


Creating technology and designs that solve these immense challenges is necessary to build a sustainable future. 


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