Written evidence submitted
by South West Learning for Sustainability Coalition|
The South West Learning for Sustainability Coalition
is a Community Interest Company that links a network of 100 organisations
and individuals who see learning as essential to the development
of a sustainable South West. We work across all sectors to ensure
that education for sustainable development (ESD) initiatives contribute
to a coherent framework of activity that reflects educational
values, as well as sustainability concerns.
The three principal roles of the Coalition are:
- (i) to share ideas and experience in education
for sustainable development (ESD) across the region and with other
- (ii) to give the ESD movement a "voice"
and sense of solidarity;
- (iii) to work with others to ensure that
ESD initiatives and services contribute to a coherent framework
of provision across the region.
Since 2004 the Coalition has grown through the voluntary
efforts of members and supportive institutions. With modest funding
we have established a schools' networking website called Linking
for a Change (www.linkingforachange.org.uk)
provided practical training for school leaders and run a number
of successful regional events.
We believe that learning is integral to sustainable
development, indeed sustainable development doesn't just depend
on learning, it is inherently a learning process.
We do not propose that learning across Government
would, on its own, bring about sustainable development but we
suggest that it would provide evidence that sustainable development
Effective learning relies on reflection as well as
practice and the presence of a critical partner organisation,
such as the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), helps to
ensure that such reflection is taking place. We are therefore
concerned that the withdrawal of funding from the SDC will reduce
drastically the Government's capacity to learn its way forward
towards its goal of being the "greenest Government ever".
In providing brief responses to the specific themes
of the EAC's inquiry, we have restricted our comments to the issue
of learning for sustainability and to the contribution
that the SDC has made to the field of education for sustainable
EAC Question: How can mechanisms to ensure the
sustainability of Government operations, procurement and policy-making
be improved and further embedded and mainstreamed across Government
While clear leadership will be required, such as
that promised by Defra, it is critical that responsibilities are
devolved across and within Government departments so that as many
people as possible are called upon to engage with and learn from
decision-making in relation to sustainable development.
Each Department needs clear rights and responsibilities
in relation to sustainable development; at the very least they
should be allowed to retain and further develop their own sustainable
development policies and departmental action plans with Defra
(or better still, an independent body) providing oversight of
EAC Question: How can governance arrangements
for sustainable development in Government be improved, and how
can sustainability reporting by Government departments be made
more transparent and accountable?
Learning will inevitably involve making mistakes,
which will in turn provide valuable lessons. It is important that
the "critical friendship" of the SDC is not replaced
with a didactic approach or worse still a "blame culture".
For this reason, we strongly recommend that an independent body
(or group of organisations) provides some external oversight.
EAC Question: Was the SDC successful in fulfilling
its remit? Which aspects of its work have reached a natural end,
or are otherwise of less importance, and which remain of particular
In terms of education, the SDC provided a valuable
cross-sector, cross-phase overview that no single Government department
appears well-positioned to replace.
More specifically, the publication of Every Child's
Future Matters applied a valuable sustainability perspective to
the Government's flagship education policy. If Every Child Matters
does not remain central to Government thinking on education, then
an updated review (from a sustainability perspective) of any new
policy direction will be required. In the absence of the SDC,
it is not clear who might be asked to provide this; we suggest
such a task could be offered nationally through a transparent
One piece of unfinished business: the SDC initiated
the search for a national indicator for education for sustainable
development on behalf of the Government (Defra); this process
needs revisiting. We would suggest that the Sustainable Development
Unit within the Department of Education take the lead on this.
EAC Question: In formulating a future architecture
for sustainable development in Government, how can it take on
board wider developments and initiatives (e.g. to develop "sustainability
reporting" in departments' accounts) and the contributions
that other bodies might make (e.g. Centre of Expertise in Sustainable
The Government should be open to learning from examples
of good practice wherever these can be found, e.g. the sustainable
procurement policy of Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA:
EAC Question: How, without the assistance of the
SDC, will the Government be able to demonstrate that it is "the
greenest government ever"?
The Government may not like or want comments from
external bodies but we suggest it needs external scrutiny
and comment in order to demonstrate progress towards sustainable
development. Again, we strongly recommend that an independent
body (or group of organisations) provides both external oversight
and critical friendship to ensure that the Government achieves
its vision of becoming the "greenest Government ever".
20 October 2010