Yves Beauchamp, CAE President
Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) principles are having a transformative effect in board rooms and investment houses across Canada and around the world. How are these principles affecting the practice of engineering in Canada now and into the future?
For engineers in the private and public sectors, it is clear that they will be responsible for the creation and implementation of new practices and processes in response to their employer’s commitment to ESG principles. This includes designing products and selecting materials for the circular economy, reducing carbon footprint, remaining cost-competitive while building social capital and meeting the requirements of the “triple bottom line” and the “3P” model of success including profits, people and the planet. While ESG principles are becoming widely accepted, there is still little standardization or common measurement practice through which continuous improvements can be made. The engineering community will be responsible for developing much of this framework.
Engineers have long been comfortable with their role and responsibility of ensuring public safety and protection in an immediate sense. For example, bridges and buildings should not fall down, pressure vessels should not blow up and electrical equipment should not present a risk to users. The long-term risks associated with ESG issues may be somewhat harder to quantify; however, there is a growing consensus around the negative impacts of climate change, environmental degradation, the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the work force, social license for large infrastructure projects, and corporate governance that is aligned with the needs of sustainable development.
The way in which we train the next generation of engineers and provide professional development for current practitioners is as important for achieving ESG goals as the way in which we incentivize CEOs. Organizations such as Engineers Canada, the national body representing the provincial and territorial licensing bodies, is raising ESG as an important issue for engineers.
At the Canadian Academy of Engineering, we are committed to having ESG issues deeply integrated into our “engineering perspective” on issues important to Canadians.