Written evidence submitted by Department
for Communities and Local Government |
1. The Department's approach to sustainable development
is shaped by the Department's ambition to lead a radical shift
in power from Westminster to local people to enable people to
have control of the decisions which affect them, as set out in
the draft Structural Reform Plan published in July 2010. In particular
the Department aims to make localism and the Big Society part
of everyday life by decentralising power as far as possible; reinvigorating
local accountability, democracy and participation; increasing
transparency; meeting people's housing aspirations; and giving
communities a stronger role in planning.
2. Delivering these priorities will contribute
to sustainable development:
- Local people are best placed to understand what
is right for sustainable development locally. Empowering local
people and communities will enable them to respond confidently
to the challenges of sustainable development as well as other
- Action on transparency will enable local people
to hold local authorities to account on what they are doing to
promote the sustainability of their local area.
- The planning reforms being introduced are geared
to giving local people and communities far more ability to determine
the shape of the places in which they live, including by creating
a new designation to protect green areas of particular importance
to local people.
3. As a practical example of this overall approach,
the Department is working with the four Big Society vanguards
announced by the Prime Minister in July. One of the vanguards
is the London Borough of Sutton, which is seeking to develop the
Hackbridge Sustainable Suburb. The Department is working with
the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Department
for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to provide
assistance to realise the vision of Hackbridge residents and implement
the principles of one planet living, including providing expert
advice on options for setting up a decentralised energy network.
The Department is also exploring ways of increasing community
involvement in Hackbridge, for example in the restoration of the
River Wandle which is being led by the Wandle Trust.
4. The Department is working across Whitehall
on other actions to promote a low carbon and eco friendly economy
and to be the Greenest Government ever. This includes work on
improving the energy efficiency of new homes through the zero
carbon homes policy; working with DECC on the Green Deal; and
working with Defra on the preparation of the Natural Environment
5. With regard to its own operations, the Department
published its Sustainable Operations Policy in February 2008,
to support delivery of the targets for Sustainable Operations
on the Government Estate (SOGE). This will be revised when post
SOGE targets have been agreed. Delivering a resource efficient,
low carbon estate is crucial in both supporting its policy work
and in operating an effective organisation. To increase transparency,
the Department also publishes utility consumption data for its
headquarters building on its external website. The Department
is currently on course both to deliver all the 2010-11 SOGE targets
and the Prime Minister's commitment to reduce carbon emissions
from offices by 10% by May 2011.
1. 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?
1.1. The main procedure which the Department
used historically was the preparation of, and reporting against,
Sustainable Development Action Plans (SDAP). At the time, this
was a useful process in terms of raising awareness of sustainable
development in the Department, pulling together a coherent picture
of sustainable development activity across the Department and
identifying areas where further action might be needed. The Department
was pleased to receive positive feedback from the Sustainable
Development Commission on the last SDAP report prepared which
1.2. The downside of the SDAP was that, because
of the very comprehensive approach taken, it became a check list
of activities, and reporting tended to focus narrowly on checking
what had happened against these, rather than the development and
delivery of an overall strategy. Also, as well as SDAPs, Carbon
Reduction Delivery Plans and Departmental Adaptation Plans were
required by the last administration (the Department published
these in March 2010). Inevitably there was some duplication between
these documents and the SDAP.
1.3. It will be important to ensure that any
future requirements for Departmental Plans of this nature are
well focused and complement, rather than cut across, each other.
1.4. The Department has established for some
time a programme board of senior managers, chaired at Director
General level and drawn from across the Department, to oversee
its work on climate change and sustainable development. The board
is currently revising its role and ways of working.
1.5. The Department has participated fully in
the cross Whitehall mechanisms established and led by Defra and
DECC on this agenda. They have been useful to enable Departments
to coordinate activity and learn from each other. The Department
has also welcomed the challenge provided by bodies like the Committee
on Climate Change, most recently the report of the Adaptation
Sub Committee on its first review of Government action on climate
1.6. In relation to its estates and operations,
the Department has had particular success in reducing carbon emissions
from its buildings by combining traditional energy efficiency
techniques with the use of new technologies, such as high efficiency
lighting, boiler optimisers and heat recovery cooling systems,
reducing emissions in DCLG's HQ building by 27% since 2007, despite
1.7. The introduction of Board level Sustainable
Development in Government (SDiG) progress reports has also been
crucial in securing senior support, ensuring buy-in to potentially
challenging new initiatives, such as further reductions to office
heating. Board reporting has helped ensure the delivery of the
SOGE targets became a corporate priority.
1.8. An environmental champions network was established
in 2006 both to support the Department's Sustainable Operations
team and to foster more sustainable behaviour in the workplace.
This group of staff volunteers have organised a number of successful
campaigns to increase environmental awareness and help embed sustainability
in daily business. The success of many of these campaigns has
been in part because the group is staff led and comprises enthusiasts
who are able to relate to their colleagues on a familiar level.
2. To what extent are civil servants in your
department made accountable for working more "sustainably"?
2.1. As noted above, the Climate Change and Sustainable
Development Programme Board is chaired at Director General level
so providing Board level oversight and challenge to the work of
the Department on sustainability and climate change.
2.2. A small central team manages the Department's
programmes of work on climate change and sustainable development.
However, action on these issues is not simply the preserve of
this team. Specific policy teams will take forward specific actions
- for example the Planning Directorate are taking forward work
on the planning reforms described above. Team and individual work
objectives reflect those responsibilities appropriately and are
assessed as part of the performance management process for both
policy teams and staff working on the sustainability of the Department's
2.3. Consideration of the environmental impacts
of the Department's policies, alongside other impacts such as
equality impacts, social impacts etc. are included as part of
the Impact Assessment process when new policies and programmes
are being developed. This provides a systematic approach to challenge
and assessment - including for instance assessment of the impact
on carbon emissions. The Department has recently launched a policy
making framework designed to give support and guidance to staff
on all aspects of making policy.
2.4. The Department has a Corporate Procurement
Sustainable Procurement strategy, which is published on our Bravo
e-tendering portal so that suppliers are able to view our approach
and commitments. The Department's newly expanded procurement policy
team has an objective to attain Level 2 of the Defra Flexible
Framework by the end of the current financial year, with a progression
through to Level 3 (and beyond) thereafter.
2.5. The Department's procurement team will utilise
the Flexible Framework and will complete an initial review and
establish a sustainable procurement work plan by end November
2010, with a view to incorporate its use by end of 2010-11. Although
some key suppliers have been approached with regard to closer
working on sustainability issues this remains patchy overall and
a programme to address this and work with key suppliers to introduce
plans with them will commence during the remainder of 2010-11.
2.6. As part of the response to the challenge
to reduce the Department's own emissions by ten per cent, initiatives
such as CO2 pledge walls, climate change seminars,
and other behaviour change campaigns have been introduced to help
encourage staff to change their working practices, and to think
about any wider implications for policy development.
3. What would help DCLG engage more effectively
with the bodies set up by Government to deliver sustainable development
3.1. The Department works with a wide variety
of bodies on this agenda. As noted above, the Department contributes
to the cross Government work led by DECC and Defra. The Department
also works with bodies such as the Environment Agency and Natural
England on issues of joint interest.
3.2. With regard to work on sustainable operations,
the Centre of Expertise for Sustainable Procurement (CESP) is
the main point of contact. Engagement with CESP is positive; however,
greater opportunities for consultation would be of value as would
a clear forward work plan for CESP's own work. A clearer governance
structure for sustainable development across Government would
enable more effective outcomes, as would greater coordination
and cooperation between bodies such as the CESP and other Government
departments with major sustainability policy interests.
3.3. Local government has played, and will continue
to play, a key role in delivering sustainable development. The
Government does not believe, however, that the right way to do
this is by imposing targets or reporting processes on local authorities
on sustainable development, or other issues. The Government therefore
has announced recently the abolition of the previous administration's
National Indicators and Local Area Agreements. Instead a single
comprehensive list of data will be drawn up. The Government will
work with the sector on the list of data. As part of this process,
the Government will be open to suggestions from the sector about
data relevant to sustainability which might be included on the
4. How has the Sustainable Development Commission
(SDC) contributed towards improving the sustainability of your
Department? How much money has DCLG saved, over what period, by
implementing measures recommended by the SDC?
4.1. The Department and the SDC engaged on early
work to build capability and raise awareness of sustainable development
within the Department. The Department also has had support, feedback
and challenge from the SDC on Sustainable Development Action Plans
(SDAPs) and progress reporting against these.
4.2. The SDC's Sustainable Development in Government
(SDiG) annual reports were of particular value in raising the
profile of performance against SOGE targets, and the performance
league table fostered competition with clear reputational drivers.
The SDC also created opportunities for best practice sharing and
networking through the SDiG report, the SD Panel and through events.
4.3. It has not been possible to quantify financial
savings achieved through implementing SDC-specific recommendations
due to few if any actions being introduced in isolation from other
measures already underway within the Department. Some recommendations
which may have delivered significant savings have been previously
rejected by Government, such as incorporating emissions reduction
targets for all travel modes into SOGE.
5. To what extent does the SDC's Sustainable
Development in Government (SDiG) reporting process provide an
effective means of monitoring the Department's performance?
5.1. The SDiG reporting process provided clear
benefits in monitoring performance against the environmentally
focused SOGE targets, comparing progress against both previous
years and other Government departments. Later SDiG reports also
included more benchmarking which allowed further performance assessment,
in addition to the league table. The SDC reports also included
sound recommendations which the Department has found useful.
5.2. In more recent years, the SDiG reports have
developed into commentary on performance rather than performance
assessment itself, to avoid duplication with Government reporting
requirements now managed by CESP.
5.3. The existing SDiG reporting process is necessarily
limited to specifics of the SOGE targets such as carbon emissions,
waste and water with social aspects confined to reporting on volunteering
activity. Performance on wider issues was set out in the Department's
6. 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?
6.1. The Department incorporates a variety of
checks to verify SOGE data, with the degree of verification varying
across the estate, dependent on availability of resources, the
utility metering infrastructure and source of data (e.g. from
landlord, facilities management contractor, major occupier).
6.2. The most basic check undertaken for all
data involves the central Department's sustainable operations
team sense checking data against previous years' figures and benchmarking
with similar buildings and organisations. Energy and water data
is also checked against utility bills. More sophisticated verification
involves checking billing data with half hourly data generated
by automatic meter readers (AMRs).
6.3. To ensure greater certainty around data
accuracy, an auditing element could be introduced which could
be relatively light touch, to avoid further increasing the reporting
burden. The audit could be undertaken by either the Centre of
Expertise in Sustainable Procurement or by departments' internal
audit functions. To reduce the burden, a sample element could
be audited such as energy data from a particular building or road
travel from one Executive Agency.
1 November 2010