Ethical guidelines for designers
The 2012 Imperative Pledge

At the Teach-in in 2009 at the V&A we introduced ethical guidelines for designers based on Leopold's basic tenet:

'A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.'
Aldo Leopold. The Land Ethic. 1947

As a means of catalyzing change in design universities we published two documents; one about embedding this ethic in design education (The 2012 Imperative) and the other a practical document aimed at reducing carbon emissions on campus.

2012 Imperative

To meet the challenges associated with climate change and world resource depletion, it is imperative that ecological literacy becomes a central tenet of design education. Presently the interdependent relationships between ecology and design are virtually absent in many professional curricula. A major transformation of the academic design community must begin today. To accomplish this, the 2012 Imperative calls upon this community to adopt the following:

PATH A: 2012 Imperative Curriculum
Adopters of Path A commit to:
Adding to design curriculum the requirement that: ‘We will make it a requirement of our curriculum and design projects that they will be based on an unconditional respect for life, and for the conditions that support life. We will only undertake projects that tend to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biosphere.’ In practice we will work towards dramatically reducing the need for fossil fuel and the environmental footprint of the materials, products, processes and spaces that we design. To achieve these goals we will work towards complete ecological literacy in design education by 2012.

PATH B: 2012 Imperative Curriculum AND Facilities
Adopters of Path B commit to:
PATH A: 2012 Imperative Curriculum AND:
• Pledging to reduce carbon emission by 10% in 2010. See the 10 Point Checklist for guidance.
• Monitoring energy use and implementing sustainable design strategies across the university.
• Reducing emissions in 4 categories: grid electricity, on-site fossil fuel, vehicle fuel, and air travel.
• Creating a carbon reduction strategy and a Energy Descent Action Plan at your university.
• Appointing a senior member of staff to take responsibility for implementing the plans.
• Generating on-site renewable power OR purchasing renewable energy from an additional source.

This project is inspired directly by the 2010 Imperative run by Architecture 2030 in 2007. The 2012 Imperative will expand the scope of the project by bringing this agenda to all design disciplines, by incorporating action research processes and by creating an on-line forum ( for dialogue and for organizing actions according to the goals of the project. The 2012 Imperative has been initiated by EcoLabs ( and launched at the 2012 Imperative Teach-in, 12 October 2009 (