Sustainable development and engineering: Ethical and public policy implications

J. R. Herkert

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

3 Scopus citations


This paper explores the concept of sustainable development and its ethical and public policy implications for engineering. Sustainable development involves achieving objectives in three realms: ecological (sustainable scale), economic (efficient allocation) and social (just distribution). The success of public policy to promote sustainable development is dependent upon achieving all three objectives of a sustainable society. However, questions of just distribution and other questions of equity are often left off the table when engineers (and others) consider sustainable development policies and issues. Indeed, almost all the effort of engineers and engineering organizations on the issue of sustainable development has been focused on the need to strike a balance between economic development and environmental protection. Such a cost-benefit approach, which is well entrenched in the engineering culture, leaves little room for consideration of the social objective of sustainable development. There have been some efforts aimed at incorporating environmental and social equity concepts into engineering ethics. Here again, however, social concerns have been secondary to environmental issues. The incongruity between the ideal of sustainable development and the way it which it is typically characterized by the engineering community has significant implications for engineering and public policy, engineering ethics, and the potential role of engineers as facilitators of a transition to a sustainable society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Symposium on Technology and Society
Editors Anon
Place of PublicationPiscataway, NJ, United States
Number of pages6
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes
EventProceedings of the 1997 International Symposium on Technology and Society - Glasgow, UK
Duration: Jun 20 1997Jun 21 1997


OtherProceedings of the 1997 International Symposium on Technology and Society
CityGlasgow, UK

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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