Embedding sustainable development across Government, after the Secretary of State's announcement on the future of the Sustainable Development Commission - Environmental Audit Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by the Department for Work and Pensions



Section 1. Introduction

Section 2.The role of the SDC and the future without it

Section 3. Pan-Government mechanisms and governance

Section 4. Future Measures to embed sustainability

Section 5. Key Achievements


  1. The Department has a pivotal role in supporting social and economic sustainability and reducing its environmental impact. It has introduced guidance and toolkits for policy makers and procurement and operational staff to promote and encourage more sustainable proposals and outcomes. We are currently discussing ways to ensure consistent implementation.
  2. The impacts of climate change on people will shape not only what the Department needs to do to adapt its core policy and operations so that it can continue to successfully deliver its objectives, but also shape how it works internally and across government to deliver effective solutions such as reduced carbon emissions.
  3. In 2007, the Department published a 3-year SD Action Plan and, in March 2010, a Carbon Reduction Delivery Plan and Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. Together, these explain the overall plans for integration of sustainability within the Department, and also how it plans to mitigate climate change and adapt to its inevitable consequences. The Department has published an SD Annual Report since 2001 setting out its progress and future plans. All of these documents are available online.[15]
  4. The Department has a recognised history of sustainability delivery. It is deeply embedded within operational management and the Department already meets, or is on track to meet, the targets for Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate (SOGE). The Department recognises, however, that it has more to do to fully embed sustainability within policy development, and work is ongoing to address this.
  5. It is essential that we build on the good work taking place across departments by more fully embedding sustainability principles within pan-government policy development and governance processes, and then ensuring compliance through firm leadership.
  6. This memorandum provides a summary of DWP initiatives and views on further mainstreaming of sustainability.


1.  Sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising future generations' ability to meet their own needs, taking full account of social, environmental and economic impacts in all decisions. The Department clearly has a pivotal role in socio-economic elements through its work to improve social inclusion, reduce poverty and support the most vulnerable in society.

2.  The Department also recognises that its policies and operations have a considerable environmental impact and it's responsibility to reduce that impact. Considerable work has been done to embed sustainability principles within the Department core policies, plans and operations. There remains more to do, but if the mainstreaming of sustainability is to be achieved there need a clearer and firmer focus across government.

3.  The following paragraphs provide the Department's view on the specific questions asked by Environmental Audit Committee.


4.  The Department appreciated the assistance provided by the SDC on the wider aspects of sustainability, particularly in supporting the principle of cross-departmental impact analysis and mitigation. The Department was therefore happy to approve the SDC's request to pilot their new Departmental Sustainability Assessment (DSA). The DSA gave an independent opinion on the extent to which embedding of sustainability had been successful and what more could be done to ensure/assure integration. The SDC's very helpful draft report has just been received and comments returned. The Department believes there would have been value in the SDC continuing this work in other key departments.

5.  SDC's recent draft DSA made clear that there remains room for improvement in embedding sustainability within the Department's policy making. Whilst guidance and tools are in place for policy makers, there is a lack of consistent application of them and therefore insufficient evidence of impact analysis and mitigation. Work is ongoing to address this, using the DSA as evidence.

6.  The Department found the process of the SDC undertaking the pilot DSA very useful, as it gave an independent view of the extent of application. The Department feels there would be value in an independent audit, perhaps by National Audit Office, into embedding across government.

7.  The Department believes that the work of the SDC was valuable in providing independent opinion on departmental SD in Government (SDiG) returns. However, the protracted period between the data period, its reporting cycle and the SDC assessment meant that their comments could be up to two years outdated, many or most of which had subsequently been cleared. For example, stating that a department was x% behind on its energy target has little value when, by that time, it is already known that a further improvement has been made. Any future independent assurance mechanism (see "Areas for Improvement") needs to be undertaken quickly to have value.

8.  It is impossible to identify savings accruing from SDC recommendations, be they at an "embedding" level or operationally. Many savings have been made (for instance, £8million p.a. on energy) but these are attributable to many different initiatives.


9.  A long standing commitment exists to embed sustainability throughout policy development and decision making. This was addressed explicitly in the 2005 UK SD Strategy and subsequently supplemented by additional requirements such as the inclusion of carbon emissions within Impact Assessments.

10.  The Department already meets, or is on track to meet, SOGE targets for energy, water, waste, road travel, procurement etc (see "Key Achievements"). It is now working with key NDPBs to integrate their activities.

11.  The Department is working closely with colleagues in other departments to encourage the introduction of further mandatory measures to ensure consistent appraisal of key sustainability impacts such as carbon, climate change adaptation and social aspects that need consideration within policy development across government.

12.  The Department believes that the process to assure this consistency is unclear and, whilst recent improvements such as the sustainability Specific Impact Test have assisted, governance and "policing" of appraisals needs to be clarified and tightened to ensure that policy and strategy proposals receive robust analysis. DEFRA have indicated that the "value of the natural environment" will also need to be impacted, although this is work in progress.

13.  The Department also believe that the pan-government governance process for sustainability requires streamlining to ensure integration and consistency. Currently, sustainability policy, operations and procurement, and climate change adaptation are governed through separate programmes chaired and led by different departments (DEFRA, Cabinet Office and DECC respectively). There is no overall strategy which integrates these activities, prioritising them as one single programme and therefore aligning expectations on departments and avoiding duplication and gaps. The Department believes that, ideally, a single overseeing Board should govern the individual strategies and the overall programme, chaired by a single department who would take the overall lead on the programme. This would also streamline reporting structures and minimise duplication, enabling departments to focus on outcomes.

14.  Work is ongoing across government to identify what it aims to achieve on social sustainability. This needs to have a clearer focus and robust objectives to ensure that social and environmental factors receive equal weighting in the development of policy and strategy.

15.  The principle of reporting through the SDIG process is more than adequate to monitor performance. However, the scope of questioning needs to remain static wherever possible to give an accurate year on year picture of progress, with departments being given adequate lead in periods for the gathering of new data. The size and scale of departments also needs to receive greater consideration, as each department has its own difficulties in delivering against targets, increasing with that department's scale.

16.  It is essential that government and departmental reporting is robust and transparent, particularly ensuring we are well placed to meet the requirements of the International Financial Reporting Standards and the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme. Currently, SDiG provides a high degree of assurance by identifying performance outside of expectations.

17.  But there is no third party verification of departmental returns. It is essential that independent audits, perhaps by the National Audit Office, take place on sustainability reports to ensure and demonstrate consistency and robustness of data. There is the opportunity for this to be built into the new SDIG process. It could, however, add to the length of the reporting process, increase costs and will clearly need to demonstrate value for money to the cost conscious public. This could be undertaken through "system audit" of the processes involved in departments and the sampling of actual data, thereby assessing the robustness of the process whilst being relatively light touch. This could allow the assurance to be undertaken quickly (i.e. ongoing assurance of data throughout the reporting year) to maximise its value.

18.  As part of any reporting process it is important to recognise past improvements, as these will always affect an organisation's ability to deliver further savings. Currently, there is insufficient recognition of current position when developing future targets, which could be addressed by comparing performance to best practice benchmarks as well as ongoing targets.

19.  Integrated reporting tools are also essential if we are to ensure that government is fully accountable for its impacts. The Department is working closely with the Efficiency Reform Group to develop a pilot Carbon Management Tool for government. This is designed to be low cost (integrating within existing systems) but to automate and streamline the process as much as possible to enable departments to focus on outcomes rather than reporting.


20.  A comprehensive impact assessment toolkit has been developed by the DWP Sustainability and Climate Change (SCC) Team and Jobcentre Plus. This was based on DEFRA's "Stretching the Web" tool, but refined and enhanced to address specific issues of relevance to the Department. The toolkit is aimed at the earliest stage of policy development (where the greatest opportunity exists to influence outcomes). It provides an initial assessment of potential impacts scores them and produces a graphic (web), providing a simple check that a comprehensive and relevant range of issues have been considered. The SCC Team is working with the Department's Policy Professionalism Capability Team to identify how to embed the toolkit consistently across all policy development.

21.  Adaptation to Climate Change is a key theme being built into the Department's processes, both at the above "embedding" level and also within business continuity planning. This will ensure that potential climate change impacts on policies such as Winter Fuel Allowance and the Social Fund are considered, but also the potential impact on the Department's operations and staff. Further aspects are identified within the Department's Climate Change Adaptation Plan.

22.  Autumn 2010 will see the installation of a Combined Heat and Power unit in one of the Department's largest buildings (Quarry House, Leeds) which will save £93,000 and 428 tonnes of CO2 per year. The CHP is funded through the Salix scheme. The Department is working with the Carbon Trust to identify other potential funding schemes for long payback low-carbon initiatives such as solar, wind and biomass. It is also looking at the potential to use feed-in tariffs to incentivise on-site generation.

23.  On IT, the Department's Data Centre is being moved to a new energy efficient facility, and "thin-client" technology is being introduced to replace PCs, and multi-function devices to replace printers, scanners and faxes. Telephony possibilities are also being assessed.

24.  As part of the new DWP AWaRE campaign (Avoid Waste and Reduce Energy) volunteer "Energy Champions" are in place across the Department's sites to ensure local engagement. In addition, the Environment brief is being added to Health and Safety Committees or "House Committees" to further integrate local ownership. To ensure opportunities when replacing equipment at the end of its life are maximised, the Department is working with the Building Research Establishment to identify "best in class" equipment that could be installed under the PFI or invested in under the "spend-to-save" scheme. In addition, the Department continues to build home and tele-working and low-carbon location choices into its Estate Strategy.

25.  Further initiatives are identified within the Department's Carbon Reduction Delivery Plan, supported by its sign up to the Carbon Trust's Carbon Management Programme.


26.  Energy use and carbon emissions reduced by 23% in the last three years - 11% in 2007-08, 3% in 2008-09 and 9% in 2009-10. This latter year is particularly significant, with continuing reductions despite increased demand for services leading to longer opening hours, more staff and more IT. Per annum, this saves approximately £8 million and 70,000 tonnes CO2 through a combination of technical and "housekeeping" measures such as:

  1. joint campaign with Telereal Trillium to implement no-cost and low-cost measures, challenge behaviours and encourage buy-in;
  2. intranet based "Energy Pack" - good practice guidance and reports to inform and encourage staff;
  3. "Smart Meters" on largest 600 sites (90% of total electricity usage), adding gas and water readings where possible, enabling "next-day" rectification of issues and demonstrating campaign results;
  4. 41,000 national "spend-to-save" measures.

27.  The Department was awarded the Carbon Trust Standard this year, ranking it alongside well known "green" organisations such as Marks and Spencer and Asda. The Department is, we believe, the largest UK public sector organisation to hold the Standard.

28.  Water consumption reduced by over a third (400,000m3) in the last four years, through a programme of improved data collection, leak detection, installation of waterless urinals and campaigns with staff.

29.  The Department was awarded "5 out of 5" for sustainable procurement (Flexible Framework) in SDiG reporting period (April 2008 - March 2009).

30.  Waste generation fell by 44% in the last five years and recycling has consistently achieved 62-66%. Particular popular is the intranet-based "swap shop" where staff nationally advertise and swap surplus or wanted items of office equipment/stationery, reducing waste and procurement costs.

31.  Road mileage has reduced by 20% (grey fleet by 40%) in the last three years, and CO2 from road travel by 35% (8,000 tonnes).

32.  The Department has won a number of awards in the past few years:

  1. Mayor of London's Green 500 "platinum" award (both 2009 & 2010).
  2. Short-listed for Civil Service Diversity and Equality Awards 2010.
  3. Government Finance Profession Sustainability Award 2008.
  4. GO Excellence in Public Procurement SP Award 2007.
  5. Various Green Apple awards.
  6. Building Magazine Sustainability Award 2005.
  7. Premises & Facilities Mgt "Partners in Sustainability" Award 2003.

15 October 2010

15   http://www.dwp.gov.uk/about-dwp/sustainable-development/ Back

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