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Sally Sudworth - INWED 2021

Sally Sudworth, founder of the Climate Emergency Group at the Women’s Engineering Society and global head of sustainability and climate change at Mott MacDonald discusses how her career in engineering is allowing her to tackle the climate emergency.

We need diversity to establish designs that are fully inclusive, accessible and safe for all to use and operate. In delivering innovative and creative solutions from as broad a range of people as possible, we can extend the range of possible answers to the incredible challenge that climate emergency presents.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in 2018 stated that there is need for an urgent response to the climate emergency. This is a subject that is dear to my heart and something I’m using my career to tackle.

I am a chartered engineer and chartered environmentalist. In my current role as global head of sustainability and climate change at Mott MacDonald, I am delighted to be able to work full time on the sustainability and climate emergency agenda. Throughout my career I have worked in a number of fields including highway design, construction, asset management, flood and coastal risk management and river and canal restoration. This means I understand how to ensure sustainability is focused on at different stages of projects and in different sectors.

My determination to tackle climate change meant I went on to shape the net zero strategy for infrastructure at the Environment Agency. It is frustrating that while some progress has been made across industry there is still so much to do. That is why I founded the Climate Emergency Group at the Women’s Engineering Society (WES). This group of professionals is a multi-disciplinary, multi-sector cross-section of industry. That results in them having a unique perspective.

The Climate Emergency Group has multiple working groups considering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in some detail and a programme of webinars is being held in advance of COP 26. So, why are these important to engineers and professionals working in the built environment? The SDG goals provide us with a framework within which we can deliver sustainable solutions and provide a common language.

It is essential that we work in an integrated way and we take an integrated approach to the delivery of the natural and built environment. Nature based solutions, biodiversity and environmental net gain all have a key role in helping to establish climate resilient places. Establishing wetlands, saltmarshes, mangrove plantations, peat bogs and sea grasses can all help to provide a buffer to help withstand the predicted increases in storminess and future flooding.

WES celebrated its centenary in 2019 and it is interesting to note that the Society’s objective of delivering equality in the workplace for women engineers is still as relevant today as it was back in the early 1900s. We still need role models to attract more women to the profession. Bringing the female perspective to delivery of design, infrastructure and asset management systems is essential in all engineering disciplines. We need diversity to establish designs that are fully inclusive, accessible and safe for all to use and operate. In delivering innovative and creative solutions from as broad a range of people as possible, we can extend the range of possible answers to the incredible challenge that climate emergency presents.

At Mott MacDonald we achieved our carbon neutral status in 2020 and are now shaping our path to net zero. This will involve considering all the carbon emissions associated not just with our in-house operations but in our wider value chain. This means we will be working closely with our suppliers, partners and clients in order to align our net zero goals. Ultimately, we want to be designing and constructing infrastructure and asset management systems that can be operated and used in a net zero way. This is going to be an incredible challenge and thankfully we are not alone as we work alongside many other organisations as they consider their transition to a more climate resilient way of working. I love my job as an engineer, and it is an exciting time to be working in climate change as there is a real appetite for embracing this challenge which is hugely encouraging.

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