Is Climate Change and the SDGs relevant to the ISE Profession?

Abstract: This paper posits that not only is the application of Industrial and Systems Engineering critical to the achievement of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and mitigating the impacts of Climate Change, that ISE’s explicitly taking a leadership role in this work is vital to the sustainability of the profession.

The internet is full of stories and discussions of Climate Change, whether it exists or not; if it exists, is it caused by humans or not; and if it is caused by humans, can we do anything about it. Each year the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP) generates stories about the UN SDGs– the governments of the world’s efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change by 2030. Increasingly, there are also stories on efforts by companies and by local and national governments to be more sustainable.

At its core, sustainability is about multi-criteria (economic, environmental, and social benefit) optimization, process improvement and waste reduction. At its core, sustainability will be achieved through the application of methods that are part of the Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) Body of Knowledge.

Through the lens of ISE, this paper presents the scientific consensus on climate change, notes the foundational impact of systems thinking on the emergence of sustainable development, reviews the 17 SDGs – illustrating how they embody an integrated systems approach, and will look at one Goal – ensuring sustainable consumption and production – to show the important role of ISE’s in its achievement.

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