Engineers have a responsibility to improve the lives of people and the environment that surrounds us. We are in a unique position whereby we can nurture and build relationships with communities across the world.
The role of engineering has to be to drive positive change through meeting the ever evolving infrastructure needs of our cities and regional communities.
In many parts of the world, communities face increasing challenges each and every day in the face of rapid urbanisation and climate change. At Arup we feel a responsibility to support these communities, to help them become more self-reliant and resilient, and not suffer in isolation.
Pro bono work positively impacts our world now and into the future. Through skilled volunteering within communities across the world, engineers undertake a whole range of activities with common goals in mind – improving lives, making the world a better place to live and leaving a lasting legacy. ”Peter Bowtell Australasia Building Design Leader
Working closely with Engineers Without Borders to support projects including the Biodigester work in Cambodia; RedR Australia post Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu to assess immediate needs post disaster and in an ongoing capacity through a vital Waste Management improvement project that continues today; Assisting to re-build a community at Narbethong post Black Saturday bush fires through the Narbethong Community Hall project; and ongoing work with the Yea community through volunteering with Habitat for Humanity’s brush with kindness programme.
There are so many ways our engineers at Arup have been able to give back to communities across the world, through our strong program of pro bono and local community engagement work.
A seven-time recipient of the ACCSR (Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility) honour of ‘Top 10 organisations with the strongest CSR management capabilities’, Arup is proud of our hundreds of staff who have participated in build programs around the world, and experienced first-hand what it is like to give back to the community.
These experiences not only benefit the local communities themselves, but they also change the way our people think about their work and provide long term benefits in relation to the people our Firm attracts and retains.
A meaningful place to work
Our community engagement program is a very strong motivator to the current generation of new workers and we are seeing every single one of our Graduate program staff members wanting to be involved. This is reflective of a change in broader society, many people nowadays want more from their work life than just making a living out of it. They want to know that what they do contributes to strong social outcomes, and that their work is meaningful.
Arup, which was listed in Fortune Magazine’s ‘change the world’ list, conceived its motto of ‘We shape a better world’ over 20 years ago. For two decades, Arup and its people have continually questioned its meaning as a firm and our intentions in these communities and the broader world at large. It could be the ‘Ove Arup’ in us all, or it could just be because we care, but as a firm we continually ask ‘why do we want to be involved in this kind of work?’, ‘what are we motivated by?’ and ‘why do we exist?’.
By knowing the answers to these questions, we understand our cultural DNA and we ensure our work in community is meaningful and entrenched in the way we operate. ”Peter Bowtell Australasia Building Design Leader
The result? For two decades, through doing rather than donating (participating rather than philanthropy), we have shown the world the positive impact we can have at the same time as being a profitable commercial enterprise. We have also shown the world that organisations can be driven and motivated by more than just profit. By ensuring pro bono is part of our corporate offering and conversation, it brings an internal check and balance around what is actually driving our organisations’ behaviour.
We have shown that pro bono work cannot just be a tick box, or lip service. It’s something that needs to be lived through the organisation and measured appropriately.
People are very good at holding leaders to account and recognising when rhetoric is not backed up by action.
Any organisation engaging in pro bono work must make sure they are true to what they are espousing. People expect transparency from their employer and with social media providing the ability for staff to comment on their company’s behaviour, you cannot protect your brand and reputation because it is ultimately in the hands of others.
If an organisation doesn’t think it can be held accountable by its community, then it will act in a way that is at its own peril. The allegations we are observing around the engineering profession gives us cause to reflect and from an ethical point of view there are clear lines, there are no shades of grey around issues of corruption and we should always be making decisions based on the fact that if behaviours are not ethical, then you just don’t do them.
Pro bono work plays a big role here
Bribery and corruption have caused great detriment to some of the world’s poorest and vulnerable communities and it has recently been affirmed that this is an issue for our entire profession. A real step change is needed to stamp these practices out and while tougher laws may be part of the solution, pro bono work also has a fundamental role to play.
We are lucky to operate in the communities that we do. We are often working off the public purse and where there is a commitment to give back to the community, there is also a responsibility to do the right thing by these communities and help them to create a lasting legacy.