Embedding sustainable development across Government, after the Secretary of State’s announcement on the future of the Sustainable Development Commission

Written evidence submitted by the Department of Health (ESD 21)


1. This submission covers the Department of Health and its Executive Agency but does not include the Department’s Arms Length Bodies. It does not cover broad sustainable development issues in the NHS, except where the SDC had a specific support role.

2. There are a number of areas where we believe that the mechanisms for ensuring sustainability of operations are working well in our sector, notably:

· the use of Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate (SOGE) reporting process and the Key Performance Indicators that are the output of this process,

· the role of the Centre of Expertise in Sustainable Procurement (CESP) part of the Efficiency and Reform Group of the Cabinet Office.) in liaising with Departments and monitoring progress; and

· the role SDC has played in a Sustainable Development Programme in the NHS and in embedding sustainable development as part of DH policy making

How can mechanisms to ensure the sustainability of Government operations, procurement and policymaking be improved and further embedded across Government Departments?

3. Whilst the current mechanisms are working effectively, we believe that the introduction of single reporting arrangements with associated monitoring and continuous review, which includes all aspects of property performance, would be more efficient. Reporting cycles should be consistent, with a single system for all building and operations related data collection for all purposes including Sustainable Development in Government (SDIG), High Performing Properties (HPP), carbon budgets, Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC) and Her Majesty’s Treasury Financial Reporting Manual (HMT FReM)

4. In relation to target setting, there should be greater recognition of the improvements in sustainability already undertaken. If not this reduces the ability to meet a target set across the board. The recent exercise for assessing the percentage reduction each Department needed to make towards the Prime Minister’s 10% carbon emissions reduction exercise is a good example of where this took place.

5. The use of audits to assess the effectiveness of procedures could be beneficial in term of raising profile and awareness of sustainable practices as well as identifying specific issues.

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?

6. The requirement to meet the 10% reduction has already made Government Departments more accountable for delivering on sustainable development. The on-line reporting tool has increased transparency and the publication of Departments progress against the 10% target on the data.gov.uk website makes us more accountable.

7. There will come a point where the scope for delivering further savings will diminish. However, the remit is being widened to include Arms Length Bodies. This will mean that Government Departments will be accountable for sustainable development activities across more of their estate.

8. The requirement for all government bodies to make a statement about sustainable development costs and usage in their annual accounts should be extended. Sustainability should be included in the Government wide Permanent Secretary’s Annual Statement of Internal Control

9. Sustainability should also be included in the new governance arrangements for Department Boards and this needs to filter through and feature in Departments other governance arrangements.

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?

10. From a Departmental perspective, the SDC was successful in fulfilling its remit. It provided the Department with invaluable help and advice during the development of the D epartment’s S ustainable D evelopment A ction P lan (SDAP) .

11. We also feel that they fulfil led their role as a watchdog of government in terms of app raising the effectiveness of delivering sustainable development through the SOGE annual exercise and reporting. As this role is now provided by the CESP team , it is clear that this work has reached a natural end.

12. The Department does feel that it is important that there needs to provision of awareness of the concept of sust ainable develop ment with key sectors such as the NHS and increasing awareness of the issues it raises. There should also be a function that is able to encourage, stimulate and share good practise not just across government but al so the wider community.

13. In relation to the NHS Sustainable Development Unit, the SDC played an important role in providing analysis and data to underpin the publication of its landmark Saving Carbon, Improving Health carbon reduction strategy for the NHS. This analysis built on their previous experience with the education sector. It revealed extensive carbon emissions arising through NHS supply chain and travel, as well as building energy.

14. Under contract to the Department, the SDC have embedded staff to work closely with our policy makers to promote the use of carbon and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) as a consideration in policy design and appraisal, with a view to avoiding ‘lock-in’ to high-carbon policy, and helping the NHS begin stabilising and then reducing its overall GHG burden.

15. From autumn 2008, the SDC’s health team took a more active role in helping to integrate sustainable development in DH policy, assisting with general advice and awareness raising on sustainability, and also providing more targeted support for individual policy teams (eg healthy food, commissioning, policy support, health inequalities, pharmaceuticals and social care). Highlights include:

· Systems review of how DH’s policy machinery lends itself to incorporation of sustainable development as a priority, leading to a report for the SD team and the appointment of an analyst to act as the central source of information and support for analysts with regard to GHGs and sustainable development.

· Provision of evidence to the Marmot Review, leading to greater understanding of the interaction between health inequalities and sustainable development.

· Reframing climate change and other environmental problems as critical to future public health, not solely issues of NHS estates management. 

· Policy pilots on World Class Commissioning and the Healthier Food Mark, raising the profile of sustainable development in these important policy initiatives.

· Participation in committees and working groups such as the GES's Social Impacts Working Group and the sustainable social care programme steering group.

· Provision of research and support to the Public Health White Paper Team.

16. The provision of sustainable development input into policy decisions remains important and the Department will need to find alternative ways of delivering this, now that funding has been withdrawn from the SDC.

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 (eg Centre of Expertise in Sustainable Procurement)?

17. The key to taking on broader initiatives and development is to ensure that there is a common platform for data requirements and reporting and that definitions are understood across the government community. CESP have adopted a more proactive role in terms of data collection and verification. The key is to minimise the requests for data, i.e. data is collected once and then it can feed the many requests for data. This will free up resources to actually implement and drive new initiatives and developments forward.

18. From an NHS perspective it has been recognised that the NHS cannot achieve ambitious targets for carbon reductions in isolation, but rather in association with its partners, suppliers and contractors. The Department’s Procurement, Investment and Commercial Division is working with the CESP to identify appropriate mechanisms.

19. NHS organisations are legally autonomous and are therefore subject to legislative requirements such as the EU Energy Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC) as a means of reducing energy and carbon by a cap and trade approach.

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?

20. The Department first published a Sustainable Development Action Plan in March 2006, focusing on the key contributions set out in Securing the Future, delivering UK Sustainable Development Strategy, March 2005:

· the NHS as a corporate citizen;

· food and health in the context of sustainable food and farming;

· transport and health;

· healthy, sustainable communities; and

· health impact in partnership in the regions.

21. Good progress was made on these areas and others, including the establishment of a good governance structure and good performance in sustainable operations. These five key contributions continue to shape our response, but within a far more wide-reaching SDAP for 2007/08. Details of progress made was published in the Sustainable Development Action Plan 2007/8 Progress report. We are now taking delivery of SD into a new phase, guided by a new strategy and with an increased emphasis on policy, which is where we feel we can have the most significant impact.

22. The Department produced its Sustainable Development Strategy ‘Taking the Long Term View’ in 2008. Within this document, DH’s overall aim is to improve health and well-being for all. We want our approach to this task to be consistent with the principles underpinning sustainable development. This means that we need to understand the decisions we are making today on the future: we need to explore how the future might be different so that we do what we can to influence it for the better and adapt to it.

23. This document also referenced the five principles for sustainable development:

· Living within environmental limits

· Ensuring a strong, healthy and just society

· Achieving a sustainable economy

· Promoting good governance

· Using sound science responsibly

24. The Sustainable Development Action Plan process itself has helped to drive forward our SD agenda and enabled us to identify colleagues across the Department to take a leading role for each of the nine opportunities. The programme infrastructure we put in place to support and monitor delivery of the SDAP has been very helpful. This includes managing the SDAP as a programme of work; putting in place a programme board and a steering group; using the DH project management approach; monitoring and reporting progress quarterly.

25. The DH produced its Climate Change Plan in spring 2010. In this document, the Department set out its initial priorities and intentions, which articulate how they will contribute to reductions in carbon and how and where their efforts will be directed in terms of adapting to climate change. Through the actions set out in the Climate Change Plan the department is confident that the health and social care sector can play its part in reducing carbon and that we can make the transition to delivering health and well-being for all in a low carbon future.

26. The Department has established a Green Champions network, members of staff (currently about sixty strong), who have volunteered to help raise staff awareness and increase staff engagement of Sustainable and Efficiency issues. The network runs seasonal missions to highlight specific topics, for example Green travel and leisure and the forthcoming missions, which compliments the PM’s energy efficiency competition, will be on reducing your personal carbon at work and at home.

2 7 . The move to a managed print service and the rollout of Dynamic Desktop (Ultra Thin Client) puts us in a good position. Facilities managers have been working to help meet the target since the PM set the challenge in May by making changes to cooling and lighting for example.

28. We have struggled to introduce an Energy Management System (EMS). This has been down to the lack of drive from our Facilities Management suppliers, as this didn’t form part of the contract. It also proved difficult to get sign up to some of the polices which are an integral part of the EMS. We have just awarded a new contract for provision of our Facilities Management and the contract includes the requirement to deliver an EMS system.

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

2 9 . The department currently records details of its rail and taxi expenditure based on unit headcount, by directorate on a quarterly basis. As from Quarter 2, 2010/11 these statements will include an estimated CO 2 equivalent. This data will be published on the DH intranet enabling staff to monitor what progress the department and individual directorates are making in reducing their carbon footprint.

30. The department also makes transparent its printing costs and these are now re-charged to individual directorates. Transport costs are also devolved down to the individual cost centres. Sustainable Development and DH’s Carbon footprint are both measures that are reported in the quarterly Corporate Scorecard.

31. DH staff have been made aware of the cross Government competition, which commenced on 30th September, with the display of the league table showing the performance of each Department’s headquarters energy consumption, being published on the DH intranet. All staff are being encouraged to make a personal contribution to saving energy and are encourage to make a pledge on our discussion database.

What would help Department of Health engage more effectively with the bodies set up by Government to deliver sustainable development targets?

32 Engagement with bodies such as CESP and the Central Management Carbon Management Programme have been working effectively. We need to continue to work with these bodies to share good practices and learn from some of the more innovative ideas and how they can be implemented. While there are sustainable development workshops where good practice can be shared, it would also be helpful to have discussion forum or shared website where ideas and issues can be raised and help provided by the Government Sustainable Development community.

33. It is important that the bodies we deal with continue to have the expertise and experience to help us meet our targets and that they have knowledge of our business, which would help us to adapt initiatives accordingly.

34. Some appreciation that not all those involved with the sustainable development agenda are London based and consideration could therefore be given to more sustainable approaches to holding meetings and workshops so all can be involved.

35. We do receive numerous requests for data, from different parts of the organisation for similar data items, often with very tight timescales. It would be extremely helpful if requests for data could be streamlined and collected centrally and then made available more widely. Along with more realistic timescales, this would reduce the pressure on our limited resources and ensure consistency of data quality.

How has the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) contributed towards improving the sustainability of your Department? How much money has Department of Health saved, over what period, by implementing measures recommended by the SDC?

36. The data collection and reporting process established by SDC has enabled us see a level of KPIs that is consistent across Government and the traffic light and five star rating proved invaluable. This was only used by the core Department and our Executive Agency.

37. With investment from DH, the SDC’s Good Corporate Citizenship Assessment Model (GCC) was launched in February 2006, followed up by a strong programme of advocacy via publications, events and working in depth with NHS organisations. It quickly established itself as the leading sustainability benchmarking and learning tool, and by September 2010 (in its second version) over 80% of all NHS Trusts were registered as users (exceeding the 2010-11 target after only six months).

38. The impact of the GCC was studied in 2010, with recommendations offered to DH and NHS. SDC have advised us that without more extensive research, it is impossible to quantify the impact of potentially thousands of actions inspired by the GCC in hundreds of NHS organisations nationally. However, based on feedback, case studies and levels of interest in the GCC, it is likely to have had significant impact.

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

3 9 . This is a very effective way of monitoring our performance and is the main vehicle by which we do so.

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?

40. We work in tandem with CESP for both data collection and verification of the data, which is a continual process within a set timeframe. Verification is done using actual invoices and utilising our FM supplier for the data and feedback on the outputs from the CESP team.

41. We currently initiate an annual internal audit of our property benchmarking data. We could extend the audit remit to cover the SOGE data. This will provide us with an independent assessment that we are handling and reporting our data correctly and accurately.

13 October 2010