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Dr David Hicks
Integrated Environmental Management
Department of Chemical Engineering
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Highly commended

Internal News - 11 November 2008

New course in Sustainable Development is ‘highly commended’ by engineers

A new professional development course in the Department of Chemical Engineering that emphasises the importance of poverty alleviation as part of sustainable development has been ‘Highly Commended’ at the annual awards ceremony of the UK’s Institution of Chemical Engineers.

The recognition signals acceptance by the Institution that engineers should consider the immediate needs of the world's poor as well as the long term protection of the environment in their efforts to promote sustainable development.

The new course, part of the Department’s MSc in Integrated Environmental Management by distance learning, sets out the different interpretations of sustainable development and traces their origins.

Since the Rio ‘Earth Summit’ in 1992 these different interpretations have caused confusion and hampered progress towards the goal behind the famous and widely cited Brundtland definition that: ‘Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’

It is not widely known that this original quotation from the ‘Brundtland Report’ goes on to say:

‘It contains within it two key concepts:

(Our Common Future, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 43)

Most prominent interpretations of sustainable development used in developed countries, such as the UK government’s definition of sustainable development, ignore the ‘overriding priority’, clearly stated in the first bullet point, given to meeting the needs of the world’s poor – referring mainly to those in developing countries who cannot meet their basic needs for food, shelter and security.

The United Nations on the other hand has continued to pursue Brundtland’s ‘overriding priority’ with its Millennium Development Goals leading to a confusing ‘two-track’ approach.

The new course explains this confusion and shows how businesses and other organisations can promote sustainable development in practice by helping to alleviate poverty and protect the environment.

Professor Crittenden, Director of the Department's Integrated Environmental Management Programme, commented: "This is an outstanding achievement by members of the IEM team who created the new module in Sustainable Development, especially Dr David Hicks, Louisa Frears and Professor Alan Emery, our Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor in Engineering Design for Sustainable Development."


The course was a ‘Highly Commended’ runner up in the Petronas Award for Excellence in Education & Training, which is awarded to an individual or team for an innovation in training, development of staff or education of the wider community to either change public perception or work with society to develop young people or address the skills gap.

Although part of the MSc programme, the course is also available to practitioners as a separate CPD course including a short residential school. For further information see related links.

'An Introduction to Sustainable Development' explaining the origins and interpretations in practice of sustainable development taken from the course materials is available online.