Using Ethics to Power the Profession

Article by Amanda Jasi

Amanda Jasi reports from this year’s Presidential Address

DAVID Bogle has become the 81st President of IChemE. On 16 June, he delivered an Address focused on the importance of ethics within the chemical engineering profession and education, highlighting how ethics is key to making a difference and attracting talent.

Speaking from Savoy Place, London, UK, he was only 100 m from the site where IChemE’s first meeting took place 100 years ago – at the Hotel Cecil –
addressing an in-person audience of around 100 members, trustees, and invited guests, with many more watching the Address live online.

“It’s a great honour to be elected IChemE President especially in this, the Centenary year, and I am looking forward to it immensely,” Bogle said, noting that he has been reading Centenary articles and attending its events “with great interest”. He said he takes up his Presidency at a time of celebration for IChemE, but also a time of concern, making mention of the war in Ukraine, divided national populations, rising inequality, and the climate emergency.

“The climate emergency and making the world sustainable is the great challenge of our time. We chemical engineers have a central role in this through designing industrial processes, urban systems, and many everyday operations to be more sustainable and eventually net zero.

“Our skill set puts us right at the heart of the challenge through devising best use of energy and materials to satisfy – and limit – the demand of our fellow citizens. IChemE has this at the heart of our strategy, guided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

During his speech, entitled Chemical Engineering: An Ethical Profession, he said: “Our role in promoting more sustainable ways of operating is one of the ways in which we seek to be ethical.”

Attracting talent

“To help tackle the climate emergency in particular we need to continue to attract fine talent into our profession,” he said.

Speaking about students, he highlighted that numbers of those studying chemical engineering in the UK and elsewhere remain strong, as does the footprint of topics in which chemical engineers can deploy their skills where there is a chemical and physical change. He listed “environmental, biological, medical, designing new materials, as well as our core heartland of manufacturing and energy”.

However, “it’s seen as a hard course and, vitally, not yet sufficiently clearly as a route to a profession that is making a big contribution to the climate emergency”.

In an interview with The Chemical Engineer, Bogle explained that it is important for young people to understand the contribution chemical engineering can make, because they are looking for “a profession, a career, a life that’s making a contribution.

“They all recognise the climate emergency as a major issue that is confronting them in a way that it didn’t confront us when I was that age […] Many, many of them are very concerned about that. So we want to be seen that we’re helping to tackle that challenge, and we’re doing that in an ethical way. Because they want to have those values of honesty, and be seen to be making a difference in a good way.”

Acknowledging the strong student numbers for the field, he added in his interview, “it’s attracting them into IChemE that I really want us to work on.

“It’s making it clear the value proposition to them and why they need to join because quite a lot don’t join, and we want to be drawing them in. So, it’s not just drawing them into chemical engineering […] but it’s them joining IChemE as a statement of their professional values.”

In his Address, he said: “By becoming a member of a professional organisation such as IChemE we are demonstrating a commitment to ethical principles – to the Statement of Ethical Principles published by the Engineering Council and Royal Academy of Engineering. I think this is a powerful force in recruiting potential young engineers who wish to work in an ethical profession.”

Retaining a higher fraction of chemical engineering graduates within the membership, as well as increasing the already “strong” number of Chartered Members are goals which Bogle mentioned for IChemE in his Address. He told The Chemical Engineer that plans to achieve these are in the works, and actions will be put in place “in due course”.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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