The Natural Edge Project The Natural Advantage of Nations Whole System Design Factor 5 Cents and Sustainability Higher Education and Sustainable Development

"The achievement of sustainability objectives will require holistic actions by all sections of society and will require considerable cultural change to societal customs and aspirations. This necessitates the development of transitional pathways from the present situation to the preferred future."
Institution of Engineers Australia, "Towards a Sustainable Energy Future", August 2001

Introduction to Sustainable Development for Engineering and Built Environment Professionals 

Unit 3 - Preparing to Walk the Talk


Educational Aims

Lecture 9: Rethinking the Application of Engineering Principles
To discuss the need to rethink the way we apply engineering principles to solve problems. This need is being increasingly recognised by engineering institutions, scientific communities, the corporate sector and government organisations around the world. For sustainable engineering solutions to occur, we need to reconsider engineering curricula, problem scoping methodologies and role descriptions in the workplace.

Lecture 10: Creating Value from Sustainable Development
To provide the argument to present to a CEO or company board convincing them that efficiency and sustainable development, as well as being the right thing to do, can also be highly profitable. While many business people now understand the basic business case for improved efficiency what is provided here is an overview of some of the most important studies proving that what is good for the environment can be good for the bottom line too.

Lecture 11: A Whole of Society Approach
There is much that engineers, built environment professionals, and business people can do to achieve sustainable development by supporting the efforts of government and even leading the way for government initiatives to follow. Here we will present ways in which governments can contribute to the transition to a more sustainable society. Engineers and built environment professionals should play key roles in assisting governments to provide reliable information on engineering related matters now and in the future.

Lecture 12: Effective Communication and Engagement
When considering a whole of society approach, it is essential to have a strategy to deal with the myriad of stakeholder groups that may be represented in a given project. Strategic Questioning is provided as an example of an effective communication mechanism that can facilitate ‘contextually sensitive’ positive outcomes for projects and decision makers. The multi-stakeholder engagement work by Alan AtKisson is also presented as an example of an engagement mechanism.



The engineering profession will play a significant part in moving society to a more sustainable way of life. Recognising this, the Engineering Sustainable Solution Program (ESSP) seeks to provide engineers and built environment professionals with a basic understanding of sustainability issues and opportunities as they relate to their practice. The ESSP is designed to facilitate the effective incorporation of key pieces of information, or ‘critical literacies’, relating to sustainability into engineering curricula and capacity building. This program provides an alert to sustainability principles and activity in the engineering profession.

In the preparation of any education program, and in particular an introductory course, it is a challenge to cover all possible questions or uncertainties that may arise during delivery of the material. In response to this challenge, this program will be supported (in its critical academic rigour and structure) by engineering related material in the publication, The Natural Advantage of Nations, and its companion web site ( along with other key texts.

Required Reading

Hargroves, K. and Smith, M.H. (2005) The Natural Advantage of Nations: Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century, Earthscan, London.

The Text Book along with each of the units has an online companion to provide additional supporting material. Optional reading material is provided after each lecture for those who wish to explore the content in more detail.

The development of the Engineering Sustainable Solutions Program – Critical Literacies Portfolio has been supported by grants from the following organisations:

  • UNESCO, Division of Basic and Engineering Sciences, Natural Sciences Sector (with particular support and mentoring from Tony Marjoram, Senior Programme Specialist - Engineering Sciences, and Françoise Lee).

  • The Institution of Engineers Australia, College of Environmental Engineers (with particular support and mentoring from Martin Dwyer, Director Engineering Practice, and Peter Greenwood, Doug Jones, Andrew Downing, Tim Macoun, Julie Armstrong and Paul Varsanyi).

  • The Society for Sustainability and Environmental Engineering (with particular support and mentoring from Terrence Jeyaretnam).

Expert review and mentoring has been received from Janine Benyus and Dayna Baumeister, The Biomimicry Guild (USA); Paul Anastas, Green Chemistry Institute (USA); Alan Pears RMIT University (AUS); Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute (USA); Tom Conner, KBR (AUS); and Mia Kelly, TNEP Working Group (AUS). We would like to add a special thank you to the Engineers Australia review panel Trevor Daniell, Thomas Brinsmead and David Hood.


Smith, M., Hargroves, K. and Paten, C. (2007) Engineering Sustainable Solutions Program: Critical Literacies Portfolio, The Natural Edge Project, Australia (TNEP).


The Natural Edge Project Engineering Sustainable Solutions
Program is supported by the Australian National Commission
for UNESCO through the International Relations Grants
Program of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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