Written evidence submitted by the Department
for Education |
- The scope of SDiG reporting is limited to operation
of the estate and does not give a comprehensive assessment of
the department's contribution to sustainable development.
- The most effective levers for action have been:
- capacity building in the department through embedding
SDC advisers to work with policy teams;
- leadership from the Permanent Secretary who has
an objective on sustainable development in his job plan;
- the requirement for annual reporting on progress
to the SDC against the SDAP; and,
- comprehensive delivery plans underpinning the
SDAP monitored by a programme board.
- For a small department with a large public sector,
the influence the department can have on the sector has more impact
on reducing carbon emissions and improving UK sustainability than
the operation of a small part of the government estate.
- Going forward, sustainable development targets
should be relevant to Departmental aims and objectives and reflect
both estate and influence on the public sector.
- Reporting should be embedded within overarching
structures rather than additional, for example in the structures
for departments' annual performance reporting.
The mechanisms that have been used to ensure the
sustainability of Government operations, procurement and policy
making are based on formulaic reporting - on Sustainable Operation
of the Government Estate (SOGE) targets, including against the
Sustainable Procurement Flexible Framework, and in departmental
Sustainable Development Action Plans, where SDC assessment has
been something of a tick box exercise. The processes have not
allowed for departments' differences in maturity of understanding
of sustainability and its embedding in departmental thinking.
Indeed, having a separate SDAP, instead of sustainability being
part of normal planning and monitoring processes, positions sustainable
development as an add-on to everyday good practice. This centrally
driven phase may have been necessary to raise awareness across
Government departments, but should now evolve to reflect the different
priorities and potential impact of each department in each of
operations, procurement and policy. For example, a small department
with a large public sector can have more impact on sustainable
development (and UK carbon emissions) through influencing others
than it can by even the most sustainable possible operation of
its estate (although we do recognise the presentational importance
of the latter).
A simple development of the current system would
be to require departments to set sustainability priorities and
report against them annually demonstrating progress. Alongside
this should be explicit sustainability accounting as part of financial
reporting, not only on the information currently covered by SOGE,
but also the department's assessment of its contribution to reducing
carbon emissions against its carbon budget. This would be in line
with the Coalition's aim for transparency in public affairs and
ensure that all data published by public bodies is published in
an open and standardised format, so that it can be used easily
and with minimal cost by third parties.
The purpose of being "the greenest government
ever" must be to leave a fair and equitable legacy to future
generations. This means we must value the natural environment
in relation to its contribution to society. This is not only the
resources the environment provides (both finite and renewable)
that meet our day to day physical needs, but also the impact on
the health and wellbeing of individuals from exposure to the natural
environment. There is a wealth of evidence on the latter (including
the SDC publication Every Child's Future Matters), but
work would need to be done on how we could measure improvement.
- What procedures specifically initiated in
the department have been most successful in improving sustainable
development in your department? Why have these worked well? Which
procedures have not worked and why?
The department has had a close relationship with
the SDC since 2005 (governed by a memorandum of understanding).
Advisers from the SDC have worked alongside staff to build capacity
and understanding of sustainable development, how our policies
can help to underpin sustainable development and also be enhanced
by taking a sustainable approach. The arrangement has been successful,
for example the development of the internationally regarded sustainable
schools work. The relationship has evolved over time to require
less input from SDC as sustainability has become better embedded
in the department's work. The input from SDC has reduced over
the last 18 months and was planned to end this year.
Without a clear mandate in the form of commitments
from each Directorate (published in our SDAP), the SDC advisers
and the Sustainable Development team in the department struggled
to get traction with colleagues. From the second SDAP (2006-08),
the commitments and the knowledge that the department had to report
on them to the SDC watchdog team, provided a lever for action.
Setting up a Sustainable Development Programme Board and a series
of Directorate delivery plans alongside SDAP 2008-10, strengthened
that further. However, the additional bureaucracy of this structure
becomes counterproductive over time, and the more sustainable
development is embedded in the department's thinking, then the
more integrated it should be in normal departmental processes.
Going forward, we think that sustainable development should be
reported in the departmental annual report.
Operationally, SOGE targets and ISO14001 have worked
well at embedding sustainable development in to the work of Estates
and Facilities management. The targets have acted as a catalyst
for action and led the estates staff to a more thorough examination
of the environmental impacts of operations and have facilitated
project works aimed at minimising these impacts. ISO14001, although
continually developing, has formalised the reporting, monitoring
and auditing of EFM activities from an environmental perspective.
The fact that Permanent Secretaries have been expected
to have a sustainable development objective in their personal
job plans has been very influential - raising the profile of sustainable
development with senior managers. This has given the Sustainable
Development Unit in the department authority to challenge colleagues
on how sustainable development is an outcome of the delivery of
their policies. We have monitored this through delivery plans
which underpinned the SDAP, reporting to a departmental Sustainable
Development Programme Board chaired by the Director General for
Finance and Corporate Services, and including external members
from SDC, OGC and PFS.
- To what extent are civil servants in your
department made accountable for working more "sustainably"?
All operations and procurement staff are expected
to have sustainable development objectives in their job plans
and this improved from 80% to 100% between 2009 and 2010. Some
members of policy teams, where relevant, also have sustainable
development objectives. In the last two rounds of the staff survey,
staff have been asked to rate the statement "I know how to
incorporate sustainable development into my work". This improved
from 44% to 56% positive rating between 2009 and 2010.
Progress on the Sustainable Procurement Flexible
Framework is included in the annual SOGE performance report and
this includes reporting progress on leadership, staff competence
and awareness of sustainable procurement. The Department has achieved
level 4 (from 5 levels) for this area by December 2009 in advance
of the December 2010 target to be at level 3.
The department is working to improve the quality
of policy making with training for staff and a "Making Policy"
site with advice and support for policy development and impact
assessment. Sustainable development and sustainable procurement
are integral parts of this.
3. What would help Department for Education
engage more effectively with the bodies set up by Government to
deliver sustainable development targets?
Liaison with OGDs has been very effectively managed
both by SDC and by OGC/CESP, but it is not helpful to have to
report on overlapping ranges of operational data on different
returns. We suggest that ePims, or an upgrade of it, could be
developed into a single portal for operations data.
Imposing generic targets for the operation of the
estate, applied to all departments, does not reflect starting
positions or local circumstances. For example, the target to achieve
10% CHP across the estate is not the most sustainable energy option
for any of our four headquarters buildings and targets need to
be sufficiently flexible to reflect this. In addition, the impact
of this department on the wider public sector has the potential
to deliver far more in terms of sustainable development. Targets
should relate to departmental objectives in addition to requiring
ongoing improvement in sustainable operations.
4. How has the Sustainable Development Commission
(SDC) contributed towards improving the sustainability of your
department? How much money has Department for Education saved,
over what period, by implementing measures recommended by the
This is a complex issue. We have taken advice from
more sources than the SDC, and often on the advice of SDC (e.g.
to have Carbon Trust undertake an energy audit) so to separate
out which actions were triggered by SDC advice would be contrived.
In total on sustainable operations, we have spent £910,000,
over 2008-2010, on invest to save measures with an expected payback
period of 3-4 years. We have approximately £330,000 savings
to date and should realise a saving of 2,698 tonnes of CO2
Of greater impact, but difficult to measure, are
the savings from influencing action in the school sector by publishing
information on the sources of carbon emissions in the sector.
The most recent update of this joint four year project with SDC
was published in March and included the following pie charts:
School greenhouse gas emissions
The publication also recommended actions that should
be taken at school, local authority and national level. Along
with the information that the school sector is responsible for
15% of public sector emissions, we know from the reaction of audiences
of heads, school business managers and local authority staff that
these pie charts really bring home the message that schools should
be taking action to reduce their impact on the environment.
In addition, the SDC have undertaken work relating
to the department's policy development, for example in the publication
of Every Child's Future Matters and most recently Improving
Young People's Lives: How the environment builds their resilience,
responsibility and employment chances.
6. To what extent does the SDC's Sustainable
Development in Government (SDiG) reporting process provide an
effective means of monitoring the Department's performance?
It's an important example of public accountability,
but it is limited in scope to operation of the estate (see comments
in General observations above).
7. 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?
Utilities consumption, waste creation and recycling
are verified through the contracts in place for provision of these
services. For waste these contracts have legal obligations and
are regularly audited under ISO14001. With regards to utilities
consumption, all sites are extensively metered and this data is
interrogated on site and used to corroborate the invoices received
by suppliers thus also ensuring accurate financial accounting.
Travel mileage for air and rail travel is provided
and verified through the travel contract in place. Private vehicle
mileage travel figures are calculated from analysing internal
financial management information. The department no longer has
fleet or pool cars.
Energy management has been examined by the Carbon
Trust and endorsed as adopting the CT carbon management programme.
Estates and Facilities Management have managed carbon practices
through the EMS environmental impacts and supporting action plans
audited for ISO14001 certification.
The Department's sustainable procurement performance
is improved through the Flexible Framework and actions confirmed
for progress against each element. Compliance with Government
Buying Standards has been mandated and any move away from the
standards requires a robust business case before purchase. Regular
compliance checks are conducted and an exercise to scrutinise
indicated that all purchases follow the standards.
To improve the submission and verification procedure
under the new SDiG process, the electronic data capture needs
to be extended and streamlined. The current ePIMs process is used
for estates reporting and SOGE forward planning but is creaking
under the demands being made of it. In addition it does not collect
information covering the whole range of sustainable development
18 October 2010