Engineers Without Borders UK Takes a Stand Against Greenwashing.

Date: May 2024
Read time: 4 mins
Author: Charlie Martin

In the wake of increasing greenwashing scandals, Engineers Without Borders UK (EWB-UK) is stepping up its efforts to promote genuine sustainability in the engineering sector. While their recent partnership with The Anti-Greenwash Charter is a significant development, the driving force behind this move reveals a deeper commitment to ethical practices and global responsibility.

The Catalyst for Change

The decision to support The Anti-Greenwash Charter was sparked by a thorough review of EWB-UK’s due diligence policy. John Kraus, Chief Executive Officer at EWB-UK, provided insight into this important moment. He explained:

“Since the policy was last updated, we have seen a troubling increase in reported greenwashing by companies, including support for charitable organisations as a way to deflect attention from unsustainable or unethical practices.”

Discovering the Charter, which champions transparency, accountability, fairness, and honesty, aligned perfectly with EWB-UK’s mission. “At the same time, we discovered The Anti-Greenwash Charter, which perfectly aligned with our mission to promote transparency and integrity,” Kraus noted.

Defining Global Responsibility

At the heart of EWB-UK’s mission is a robust definition of global responsibility, rooted in four core principles: responsible, purposeful, inclusive, and regenerative engineering. These principles guide the organisation in promoting practices that meet the needs of all people while respecting planetary limits.

“We advocate for globally responsible practices in engineering, which means fulfilling the UN Sustainable Development Goals in ways that are ethical and inclusive,” Kraus stated.

“The Charter’s standards of transparency, accountability, fairness, and honesty align well with these principles.”

EWB-UK’s approach to sustainability goes beyond mere compliance; it involves a deep, reflective process on the role of engineering in society and its far-reaching impacts. This comprehensive view underscores the importance of ethical practices in driving meaningful change.

A Commitment to Vigilance

Aligning with the Charter has sharpened EWB-UK’s focus on maintaining integrity. Kraus emphasised:

“The Charter has sharpened our vigilance against greenwashing, especially when evaluating potential partnerships.”

This renewed vigilance recently led the organisation to decline a partnership that did not align with their standards, showcasing their commitment to authenticity.

A Vision for the Future

Beyond internal policies, EWB-UK aims to inspire the broader engineering community to embrace genuine sustainability. Kraus highlighted the sector’s unique position to effect change, employing millions in the UK alone:

“As a sector that employs millions, it is time for the engineering community to actively consider how we can address the destruction of global ecosystems and the current failure to meet basic human rights.”

The organisation advocates for a critical reflection on engineering’s social, environmental, and economic impacts, both locally and globally. “Ensuring transparency, accountability, fairness, and honesty as individuals and companies develop this practice will be critical for ensuring system-wide change,” Kraus added.

Stories of Impact

One striking example of EWB-UK’s commitment to these principles is their recent decision to forego a potentially lucrative partnership due to greenwashing concerns. This decision underscores their dedication to maintaining a reputation for integrity, even when it comes at a financial cost. “Our vigilance against greenwashing has led us to make tough decisions,” Kraus recounted.

“Recently, we decided not to pursue a partnership enquiry primarily due to concerns about maintaining our reputation for integrity.”

This story exemplifies EWB-UK’s steadfast adherence to their principles and their willingness to take a stand for what they believe is right, even in the face of difficult choices.

Concluding Remarks

Engineers Without Borders UK’s commitment to genuine sustainability extends far beyond their recent partnership with The Anti-Greenwash Charter. By championing global responsibility and maintaining rigorous standards, EWB-UK sets a powerful example for the engineering sector. Their dedication to ethical practices and their call for industry-wide change highlight the importance of integrity in driving real sustainability. As EWB-UK continues to lead by example, their story serves as a compelling reminder of the critical role that honesty and accountability play in shaping a sustainable future.

If you think The Anti-Greenwash Charter embodies the values of your organisation, find out more here.

About Engineers Without Borders UK

Engineers Without Borders UK strives to make engineering a driving force for a society that balances human and planetary needs. By partnering with the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Engineering Council, universities, professional bodies, and industry, EWB-UK is transforming engineering education and practice to address 21st-century challenges. Their programs, used by over 200 universities worldwide, equip engineers with technical and sustainable skills. With over 80,000 students having participated in the Engineering for People Design Challenge and 15,000 people engaged annually in experiential learning, EWB-UK aims to reach 250,000 participants by 2030, fostering a generation of engineers dedicated to sustainability and equity.