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

Further written evidence submitted by the Department for Work and Pensions

What procedures specifically initiated in the department have been most successful in improving sustainable development? Why have these worked well? Which procedures have not worked and why?

  1. The Department recognised the need for a dedicated Sustainability and Climate Change (SCC) Team. The team is responsible for all aspects of sustainability (policy, strategy, communications, monitoring, reporting and operations). This includes managing the Department's carbon budget and the key environmental outcomes of its estates partner Telereal Trillium. The ethos is mainstreaming, the team influencing existing policy and process rather than re-inventing it.
  2. Sustainability is handled corporately, integrating activity across corporate groups, businesses, agencies and arms-length bodies. Intranet information is available, ranging from how staff can help reduce carbon emissions at work and at home to considering sustainability in policy making. Content is reviewed regularly, engaging staff by being topical and seasonal.
  3. Sustainability is integrated within the Department's Change Lifecycle process from initiation through to completion, and the SCC Team have access to project documents as they develop. A checklist has been developed to enable Ministers' private office staff to check that submissions have considered all aspects of sustainability.
  4. The contract with the estates service partner incentivises energy and water reductions by sharing monetary savings between the Department and estates service partner encouraging joint working. It also allows estates service partner to develop business cases for "over and above" spend-to-save measures (for example, measures that would not be covered under the contract. They agree them with the Department, fund them and then recover their investment from accrued savings. This means that the risk remains with estates service partner, that no departmental funding is required, but that the Department receives a half share of all savings following investment recovery, demonstrating value for money and incentivising improvements that would otherwise be unlikely to occur.
  5. Verification of the data on operational performance is primarily undertaken in-house. However, the majority of this data is sourced from suppliers so its assessment in house provides a level of independent assurance. In addition, we have engaged independent auditors on several occasions to assess energy and water returns. The Department would wish to see this process continue, whereby departments "self-assure" data prior based on significance, but see later regarding overall independent assurance.
  6. The Department recognises that procurement is a key enabler to delivering social, economic and environmental benefits and improvements. The Department's Sustainable Procurement (SP) Strategy sets out its vision, objectives and high level targets, highlighting stakeholders and governance processes.
  7. A mandatory SP Risk Assessment Methodology (SPRAM) tool has been designed for commercial staff to identify any potential social, economic and environmental risks associated with new procurements and existing contracts. It identifies potential impacts, scores them and provides guidance on potential mitigations. The concept being that the best time to incorporate sustainability is at contract specification stage. It also encourages customer discussions on demand management to reduce procurement volumes. The tool is regularly cited as best practice across government. Each category team then builds their own strategy detailing how they will consider sustainability in their individual category.
  8. The Department's Sustainable Procurement Team Implementation Group (SPIG) is attended by SP champions from all category areas, commercial teams and Non Departmental Public Bodies. The group discuss and make decisions relating to new and emerging SP policy, share best practice and raise any issues or barriers to delivering SP. A different supplier is invited to each meeting and awareness and training slots are offered.
  9. The Department makes full use of the SP Task Force's Flexible Framework and is exceeding the current recommended levels (see "Key Achievements").
  10. The Department and its principal suppliers have signed up to the Supplier Charter - a set of principles outlining how the Department and its suppliers will work together to achieve strategic objectives. The Charter has been rolled out to the critical 59 suppliers, but specifically targeting those with the most significant impacts - e.g. IT, travel and estates.
  11. As part of the Department's Policy Through Procurement initiative, performance conditions are used in all new contracts. These ensure that suppliers are operating to at least a minimum standard within six months of contract date, with continuing improvement thereafter. Three SP schedules cover environment, diversity and equality, and apprenticeships and skills, demonstrating the balance necessary to achieve broad sustainability (the Department is seen as a leader on the social aspects).
  12. The terms of the DWP estates contract create the incentive for the Department and its estate provider to work together to increase energy and water reduction. Measures to reduce water and energy consumption, in addition to those included in the under the contract, can be funded by the Department and the investment recovered from accrued savings shared between the Department and the estates provider. Examples are:


DWP has reduced energy use and carbon emissions by 23% over the last three years. Energy use and carbon emissions decreased by 11% in 2007-08; 3% in 2008-09; and 9% in 2009-10.

The decrease in 2009-10 took place against the background of an increased demand for DWP services, as a consequence of the economic downturn, which included longer opening hours in Jobcentres, and an increase in the number of staff and IT equipment.

As a result the Department's reductions over the last three years, per annum, it now saves approximately £8 million and 70,000 tonnes CO2 through a combination of technical and "housekeeping" measures such as:

  1. A joint campaign with the DWP estate partner to implement no-cost and low-cost measures, challenge behaviours and encourage buy-in;
  2. the use of smart meters on largest 600 sites (accounting for 90% of the Department's total electricity usage), adding gas and water readings where possible, enabling "next-day" rectification of issues and demonstrating campaign results;
  3. 41,000 national "spend-to-save" measures have been introduced. These are initiatives that require short term investment with long term savings. For example, fridge controllers, infrared sensors on water boilers and waterless urinals. Future plans include automatic lighting controls which will be placed in both external and internal areas and a combined heat and power plant for our largest building. More information on these measures can be found in the DWP Carbon Reduction Delivery Plan.
  4. an intranet based "Energy Pack" - which contains good practice guidance and reports to inform and encourage DWP staff to be more aware of sustainability issues.
  5. Following a comprehensive Travel Review in 2007, road mileage has reduced by 20% in the last three years. Most notably, grey fleet usage reduced by 40% (staff's own vehicles used for Departmental business). CO2 from road travel fell by 35% (8,000 tonnes) over the same period. This has been achieved by setting limits on daily and annual mileage and through campaigns to encourage alternatives to travel (e.g. video conferencing) and the use of more sustainable forms of travel.


Water consumption has 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.

The terms of the DWP estates contract create the incentive for the Department and its estate provider to work together to increase energy and water reduction. Measures to reduce water and energy consumption, in addition to those included in the under the contract, can be funded by the Department and the investment recovered from accrued savings shared between the Department and the estates provider.


The amount of waste generated in the Department has fallen by 44% in the last five years, and it consistently recycles 62-66% of waste produced each year. In addition to recycling facilities being provided for staff in all office locations, the Department actively encourages more innovative approaches. One popular scheme was the introduction of the intranet-based "swap shop" where staff nationally advertise and swap surplus or wanted items of office equipment and stationery, thereby reducing waste and procurement costs. In the last three months alone, over 1,000 items have been "swapped", preventing their entering the waste stream and negating the need for procurement. The value of these items is very conservatively estimated at £23,000.

To what extent are civil servants in your department made accountable for working more "sustainably"?

  1. DWP's Planning, Performance and Risk Committee (a sub-committee to the Department's Executive Team) takes overall ownership of sustainability. In addition to this group, a Sustainable Development Delivery Group comprising representatives from key corporate and business areas is responsible for sharing best practice and ensuring integration of activity in their respective areas. The Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate (SOGE) targets are disaggregated to businesses and local Energy Champions take practical responsibility for reducing energy and carbon across key DWP sites.
  2. It is also worth noting that the Department's Permanent Secretary also has sustainability set within his Key Work Objectives. Sustainability has also now been included in the staff competency framework to ensure that everyone understands that they have a key role, which is backed up by comprehensive intranet guidance and information..

What would help the Department for Work and Pensions engage more effectively with the bodies set up by Government to deliver sustainable development targets?

  1. The Department is working closely with 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.
  2. The process to assure this consistency is remains 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. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has indicated that the value of the natural environment will also need to be evaluated, and that this work in is hand.
  3. 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 Department for Energy and Climate Change). 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. 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.
  4. Work is ongoing across government to identify what can be achieved on social sustainability. This work needs to have a clearer focus and more robust objectives to ensure that social and environmental factors receive equal weighting in the development of policy and strategy across Whitehall

How has the SDC contributed towards improving the sustainability of your Department? How much money has Department for Work and Pensions saved, over what period, by implementing measures recommended by the SDC?

  1. DWP appreciated the SDC's assistance on the wider aspects of sustainability, particularly in supporting the principle of cross-departmental impact analysis and mitigation. The Department piloted the SDC's Departmental Sustainability Assessment (DSA) during 2009. The DSA gave an independent assessment of the extent to which sustainability was embedded in the Department and what more can be done to facilitate integration. The SDC report is due to be published in early 2011. There would have been value in the SDC continuing this work in other key departments.
  2. The SDC was also invaluable in providing independent opinion on departmental SD in Government (SDiG) returns. These explain each department's position in relation to SOGE targets and are available online[16]. However, there were protracted delays between the data collection and reporting and the SDC assessment which lead to feedback being received from SDC up to two years after it had ceased to be relevant or helpful. Any future independent assurance mechanism needs to be undertaken quickly to have value.
  3. It is very difficult to attribute savings as solely accruing from SDC recommendations, as savings are made from a combination of the different initiatives in place at any given time.

To what extent does the SDC's Sustainable Development in Government (SDiG) reporting process provide an effective means of monitoring the Department's performance?

  1. The principle of reporting through the SDIG process is more than adequate to monitor departmental 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 of operation.
  2. Performance against the last published Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate targets is available online[17].

How does the Department verify the data it submits on Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate (SOGE) targets? How might the submission and verification procedure be improved under the new SDiG process?

  1. The Department verifies internally the returns from its estates and business travel suppliers on energy, waste, water, travel etc. Energy has in the past been subjected to an external scrutiny (by Parsons Brinckerhof) to assess system compliance and data accuracy and completeness. In addition, the Department's internal assurance team, Risk and Assurance Division, have undertaken audits of sustainability and operational data/information.
  2. Currently, SDiG provides a high degree of assurance by identifying performance outside of expectations 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. However, care will need to be taken to ensure that the added to the length of the reporting process and any attendant increase in costs demonstrates value for money. 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.
  3. 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.

15 October 2010

16  http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/presslist.php/115/moves-towards-greening-government-already-saving-a60-70-million-every-year Back

17   http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/publications/downloads/2009_Primary_Targets.pdf


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