During 2012 Engineers Australia and the Society carried out a 'Sustainability Survey' to help determine the opinions of engineers towards sustainability. The purpose of the survey was to assist EA and SSEE to better meet members' needs in terms of sustainability by understanding the level and quality of sustainability initiatives within the various engineering disciplines.
The survey was sent to 70 000 EA members and there were 3484 responses with all engineering disciplines represented.
Data Analysis Australia have performed an analysis of survey responses by demographic categories, and an investigation of trends within responses to open-ended survey questions. In addition, some analysis of the survey design and implementation was performed, and recommendations made.
Initially it was found that trends between demographic categories were perhaps surprisingly consistent across questions. Therefore a number of different methods were employed to test for differences and trends.
The main results of this analysis overall are:
- Sustainability issues facing Australia are considered important by all EA members. Water resources had over 50% of respondents giving it a critically important rating.
- More members in the federal government (84%) rated Energy Usage as Very Important-Critical compared to other issues while more state government members (74%) rated Transport-Public as Very Important-Critical.
- Cost related issues were by far the most commonly cited barrier to working more sustainably. Nearly half of all respondents gave this as reason, when combining the open ended comments with the structured responses. With a third of responses stating limited understanding of actions that can be done to address cost related issues, this is an area where EA could deliver improved outcomes for its members.
- Considering ways for EA to act on sustainability internally the results showed that, overall, most respondents feel that all categories are Important to Very Important and that EA is acting but has room for improvement.
- Of the five areas that EA could be addressing to improve sustainability of its own operations, Reducing Energy Usage and Reducing Waste stood out as having the lowest performance and as being rated the Most Important by members.
- More females ranked Reducing Waste as Most Important compared to the other issues while more males ranked Reducing Energy as Most Important. Proportionally more respondents from Western Australia rated Reducing Water Use as Most Important than respondents from other States.
- Overall, all the education categories showed up as being areas that members feel are very important and where EA should be doing more in order to help foster sustainability with the engineering profession and society; and
- EA members enthusiastically engaged with the opportunity to provide their personal definition of sustainability, with 83% responding. The most common themes that emerged were related to resource management (27%) followed by environmental management and protection from damage due to fulfilment of human needs (27%) and the ensuring of intergenerational equity (17%).
The following recommendations have been provided:
- EA members need to see EA being more involved in education, promotion and government policy;
- EA’s conferences, awards and publications should focus on innovative and sustainable projects; and
- EA would be well-advised to reinforce to its membership the details of its sustainability policy and what actions are being taken internally to encourage sustainability locally.
The full report is available here.