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 Centre of Expertise in Sustainable Procurement (CESP), Cabinet Office


1.1   The Environmental Audit Committee have launched a new inquiry on how sustainable development can be further embedded in Government policy decision-making and operations, in the light of the Government's decision to withdraw funding for the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC).

1.2  The Committee is interested in receiving written evidence that looks at the following themes of the inquiry:

  1. How can mechanisms to ensure the sustainability of Government operations, procurement and policy-making be improved and further embedded and mainstreamed across Government departments?
  2. 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?
  3. 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 continuing importance?
  4. In formulating a future architecture for sustainable development in Government, how can it take on board wider developments and initiatives (eg to develop "sustainability reporting" in departments' accounts) and the contributions that other bodies might make (e.g. Centre of Expertise in Sustainable Procurement)?
  5. How, without the assistance of the SDC, will the Government be able to demonstrate that it is "the greenest government ever"?

1.3  In support of these themes, the Committee has asked the Centre of Expertise in Sustainable Procurement in the Cabinet Office to provide written evidence on the reporting process for the Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate (SOGE) targets and its experiences in working with government departments to support best practice in sustainable operations and procurement.


  1. The role of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) and the Centre of Expertise in Sustainable Procurement (CESP) is to provide challenge and support to departments in delivery of their sustainability commitments.
  2. CSO and CESP are based in the Cabinet Office's Efficiency and Reform Group to drive departmental delivery of resource efficiency savings, provide transparency in performance, and demonstrate government leadership on sustainable operations and procurement.
  3. Performance management of government's own sustainability and engagement with its supply chain are key aspects of a sustainable development in government work programme.
  4. Government departments have made considerable progress towards meeting their targets for Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate and there are a range of examples of departments demonstrating best practice in sustainability.
  5. The current priority for departments is delivery of the Prime Ministers' commitment to reduce central government carbon emissions by 10% by May 2011 and there is a comprehensive programme of work underway across government.


3.1  In its response to the Sustainable Development Commission's report on Sustainable Development in Government 2008, the previous government established the post of Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) and a Centre of Expertise in Sustainable Procurement (CESP), to provide leadership and support on sustainable operations and procurement in government.

3.2  In April 2008, William Jordan was appointed in the role of CSO with a small team (CESP) within the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) (an Independent Office of the Treasury).

3.3  The role of the CSO and CESP is to provide challenge and support to departments in delivery of their sustainability commitments by:

  1. Driving improved performance across central Government, providing targeted support and information to assist departments in delivering their SOGE commitments and improving the timeliness, accuracy and transparency of performance data.
  2. Facilitating greater co-ordination across Whitehall, to encourage dissemination of leading practice, reduce duplication and share lessons learned by holding regular practitioner forums and master classes and developing case studies and guidance across the community of sustainability practitioners in departments.

3.4  In their last report, published 22 July 2010, the SDC stated:

 "The SDC are encouraged by the work carried out by CESP on the SOGE assessment thus far. The SDC is confident that CESP's work will continue to improve the quality of information provided by departments on all operations and procurement activities, both on and off the formal estate. This is vital if Government is to make the necessary, ambitious and urgent improvements needed to lead by example on sustainability".


4.1  In June 2010, CESP, along with the rest of OGC, was moved to the Efficiency and Reform Group in the Cabinet Office under a machinery of government change. The Cabinet Office under Francis Maude, now has responsibility for driving efficiency and reform, tackling waste, improving accountability and raising professionalism across government.

4.2  The Cabinet Office Structural Reform Plan includes two key objectives on sustainability:

4.7:   Work with DECC and government departments to improve energy efficiency. Develop a programme of action and performance management regime to deliver 10% energy efficiency improvements in Whitehall in 12 months; and

5.5:   Work with DECC to introduce transparency in energy use by government headquarter buildings. Mandate release of data and publish online.

4.3  Sustainability provides opportunities to deliver financial and resource efficiency savings, demonstrate transparency and government leadership, and drive change in other sectors. The role of the Cabinet Office is:

  1. Leading the operational delivery of the PM's commitment for the Coalition Government to be the "greenest government ever".
  2. Driving the agenda on transparency in the environmental performance of government by facilitating the release of departmental and supplier data.
  3. Improving the sustainability of the supply base so that government builds stronger relationships with its suppliers and manages risk and cost effectively.
  4. Ensuring integration of efficiency and reform with sustainability in government operations and procurement.


5.1  Performance management of government's own sustainability and engagement with its supply chain are key aspects of a sustainable development in government work programme (alongside the broader challenge of embedding sustainability in policy development which is led by Defra).

5.2  The current framework of SOGE targets and commitments was set by the previous administration in 2006 and is due to come to an end in 2010-11. It includes targets on reducing carbon emissions, reducing water consumption, improving waste and recycling rates The Government has confirmed that departments should continue to work towards these targets. Defra is currently considering proposals for defining and implementing the Government's sustainable development objectives beyond 2010-11, and Cabinet Office is working with Defra to develop an action plan to take these forward.

5.3  In 2009, CESP took over the responsibility for collecting and reviewing departments' performance data from the SDC. CESP works with departments to enhance the quality and timeliness of this data and provides a vehicle for delivering departmental performance improvements. This includes driving improved performance management by moving departments from an annual reporting cycle to quarterly reporting for carbon, waste and water and monthly reporting for the Prime Minister's commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 10% in 12 months.

5.4  The current SOGE reporting process:

  1. Departments report data on an annual basis through the Electronic Property Information Mapping Service (e-PIMS). Additionally departments submit reduction plans across all targets.
  2. CESP review this data and challenge departments on its quality, accuracy, scope and validity. Individual departmental plans are compiled into forecast trajectories for each target area.
  3. This information is compiled into an annual report detailing each department's performance against target as well as the pan-government performance which is then published online.

5.5  Key initiatives that CESP has implemented to improve departmental reporting and delivery include:

  1. Reviewing and challenging departments' data to ensure they are continuously improving its quality and applying similar data standards across government.
  2. Enhancing e-PIMS so departments can report monthly on the carbon, and quarterly on water and waste targets.
  3. Developing a performance "dashboard" to provide departments with a mechanism for CESP and departments to track in-year delivery and bring about improvements to departmental performance management.
  4. Working with departments to challenge the robustness of their plans and sharing information across departments to identify new projects that can improve performance.
  5. Improving the performance validation process through our data standards work with the National Audit Office and HM Treasury.

5.6  CESP is continuing to work with departments on validating their performance data for 2009-10 (to be published in December 2010). CESP will also work with departments over the coming months to ensure they submit full performance data for 2010-11.


6.1  The most recent performance data (published in December 2009), shows that government departments are on track to meet their headline targets:

6.2  The targets of the new administration represent a step change in ambition and it is the responsibility of the CSO and CESP to ensure departments respond. The current priorities for departments are delivery of the Prime Minister's commitment to reduce central government carbon emissions by 10% by May 2011 and to publish online the energy consumptions of their headquarter buildings. Working with the Department for Energy and Climate Change, Cabinet Office reports on the energy efficiency agenda to a Ministerial Working Group (chaired by the Energy and Climate Change Minister, Greg Barker).

6.3  The 10% commitment will be delivered through a combination of staff behaviour change (such as switching off computer monitors), estate management (decreasing space occupancy per FTE), installation of new technology (such as voltage optimisation equipment), greening ICT (such as moving to "thin client" devices), and more active facilities management (reducing energy consumption overnight and at weekends).

6.4  Cabinet Office and DECC are leading a joint programme of work to deliver the Government's commitments on energy efficiency. Key elements of this include:

  1. Each department has submitted plans to CESP setting out the initiatives they will implement to meet their share of the 10%. These plans indicate that Government should achieve the commitment and reduce emissions by up to 13%.
  2. The CSO and CESP have challenged departments' plans to ensure they are robust and comprehensive. We are now monitoring progress on a monthly basis and challenging departments to ensure they are on track with delivery.
  3. Real time energy displays have been installed in 17 department HQ buildings and Number 10 under a programme led by CESP. The data is being published online on departments' websites to ensure transparency in the Government's energy consumption.
  4. The Prime Minister launched an energy saving competition on 30 September to run throughout the month of October, catalysing departments to compete with each other to reduce energy use in their HQ buildings. The CSO, CESP and DECC are supporting delivery.
  5. CESP is sharing information on departments' plans and key initiatives to ensure departments are achieving best practice through practitioners and maximising the carbon reduction opportunities available.
  6. CESP is working with departments to reform their facilities management contracts to ensure they getting better value for money and capitalising on the opportunities to make carbon and financial savings.
  7. CESP, working in partnership with the Carbon Trust and the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), has issued guidance to departments on best practice in heating, cooling and lighting of their buildings.

Note: the scope of the 10% commitment covers the office estate reported by the main departments under SOGE, with the baseline defined as departments' emissions from their office estate for the period May 2009 - May 2010.

15 October 2010

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