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Our roadmap to drive forward ethics and sustainability in the built environment

How the profession can best reflect and engage with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the UN’s plan of action for people, prosperity and the planet.

18 December 2018

For the past nine months, RIBA’s Ethics and Sustainable Development Commission has investigated how the institute and its members can tackle the most pressing issues facing our world today, from climate change and natural resource depletion to regional inequality. This was a significant undertaking that has resulted in recommendations on how we, in the profession, can best reflect and engage with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals(SDGS), the UN’s plan of action for people, prosperity and the planet.

In the course of its work, the Commission undertook a public consultation and invited contributions from a variety of leading industry figures. The supportive feedback from this consultation has helped to inform the Commissions’ findings. They comprise a series of nineteen recommendations, grouped under the following headings:

  1. Leadership on ethics, values and standards
  2. Collaboration and influence
  3. Ethics and sustainable development in practice
  4. Knowledge and competence
  5. International activity
  6. Governance

Where next for the Commission?

In December, RIBA Council agreed to establish a leadership group to develop and implement a plan of action based on the Commission’s findings and aligned with the SDGs.

Achieving the targets contained in the SDGs is largely public sector and policy led, but it is not a job for government alone. The built environment professions, led by their institutes, are also key to delivering change. By building capacity, empowering their members and making sure they have the necessary skills to make an effective contribution, we can be part of the solution and seize the opportunities presented in a rapidly changing world.

Much of the work to be undertaken will build upon a range of existing initiatives that the RIBA is already driving forward, such as the work of the Sustainable Futures Group and the Institute's commitment to the UN Global Compact. All of this is underpinned by the ‘Five Principles’ for the future of the profession, a pledge that was recently announced by the five Presidents of the architectural institutes of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

I am very grateful to the members of the Commission together with everyone that has supported our work over the past nine months. But the real work is about to begin, now that we have laid the foundations, it is time for the profession to get behind the Institute and drive forward the changes required.

Read the Ethics and Sustainable Development Commission report


Chair, RIBA Ethics and Sustainable Development Commission

The findings of the RIBA Ethics and Sustainable Development Commission were endorsed by the RIBA Council at its meeting on 11 December 2018, by the following motion:

  1. ‘RIBA Council reasserted the Institute’s unequivocal commitment to placing public interest, social purpose, ethics and sustainable development at the heart of its activities.’
  2. ‘RIBA Council mandated the RIBA Board to assume responsibility for delivering these commitments and to propose to Council in March 2019 a nominated Board-level member to oversee this work.’
  3. ‘RIBA Council agreed to ask the RIBA executive to nominate, by March 2019, a Director(s) to take responsibility for ethics and sustainable development and establishing a leadership group, supported by external experts as appropriate, to develop and implement a plan of action based on the Commission’s findings, aligned with the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.’

RIBA President Ben Derbyshire said,

“My thanks to the Ethics and Sustainable Development Commissioners, and their consultative group, for their expertise and final report.

Without question, the built environment professions have a critical role to play in tackling global challenges and ensuring professional ethics are central to our work.

The RIBA is unequivocally committed to leadership in this field, enshrined through initiatives and partnerships such as the Five Presidents Pledge, which I launched with my fellow Presidents in the UK and the Republic of Ireland earlier this year. The RIBA provides a range of tools, seminars and resources to support its members and practices to further embed ethical and sustainable practice in their work.”

Further information on RIBA’s work in this area:

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