justice and its implications, including its implications for engineering. Despite these differences, one group put forth the following “declaration for engineering:”

Engineers and engineering societies have a heritage of concern for ethics and ethical issues. Yet in fulfilling its professional responsibilities, engineering has for too long neglected questions about social justice and sustainable community development. As in other professions, engineers are obligated to serve the public interest. To honor this commitment to public service, engineers should pay greater attention to social justice and sustainable community development. In this way, engineering can take a leadership role in developing a vision of a profession that provides integrated solutions.


Karen Smilowitz, Northwestern University, rapporteur of Group 1, first noted that the difficulty of defining terms, even among like-minded people with common concerns, is indicative of their complexity. Group 1 ultimately decided that, for their purposes, getting to social justice requires “achieving equality in human rights” and “equity in human opportunity.” The group then moved on to a discussion of how to reach that goal. They identified the following essential participants in that effort: academia (at both the undergraduate and graduate levels), professional organizations, industry, government (local, state, and federal), and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Group 1 discussed how engineers, engineering societies, and employers could identify pathways, solutions, and opportunities to promote just and sustainable applications in engineering and societal systems. If engineers are engaged early in the development of an engineering solution to a problem, they can do more than provide sound engineering advice; they can question whether social justice and sustainability goals are also being met by that particular project. They can also propose sustainable solutions, not just with a 12-month horizon, but with a 10- or 20-year horizon to encompass the long-term social impacts of their work.

“[Y]ou don’t just go into a community and say, ‘Here’s the solution, see you later,’ but make sure that these are sustainable solutions; this is one of the keys to sustainability.”

Karen Smilowitz, Northwestern University

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