63.In February 2011 the coalition Government made a commitment to embed sustainability in the way the Government estate is run. Its Greening Government Commitments (GGCs) set out goals for Departments to tackle their carbon emissions, water use, waste, and supply chain impacts. The Department for Transport achieved four out of the five targets, for water, waste, paper and domestic flights, in 2014-15. It reduced carbon emissions by 21%, missing the target of 25%, but DfT said it would have met the target had it not been for a change to the conversion factor for generated electricity. The Government is currently considering future Greening Government arrangements. Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin MP told us in November:
We are in the process now of developing a new set of Greening Government Commitments for this Parliament […] We will obviously measure performance against those, as we did in the last Parliament.
64.The rail network, currently operated by Network Rail, is not included in the departmental group for environmental reporting purposes, because in 2010 the Cabinet Office designated Network Rail outside the GGC reporting boundary. This is despite its huge estate, including almost 16,000km of track. Highways England was designated a private company in early 2015, similar to Network Rail, but there are no plans to remove it from the Department’s group environmental reporting. The NAO told us that DEFRA was, however, going to review the list of departmental arm’s length bodies as part of setting the new 2016–2020 framework of GGC targets. Mr Letwin said in November that the NHS, the prison estate and “other agencies” had to play their part in achieving the GGCs:
I am looking to see this time around for the development of cross-agency and cross-public sector goals, rather than just Government goals to achieve greening.
The Department also told us that there was already a “good alignment” between some areas covered by the GGCs and Network Rail’s work to deliver its sustainability strategy, “for example around reducing carbon emissions and waste minimisation.”
65.We welcome the Department’s good performance against the majority of the Greening Government Commitments, and we expect the Government to continue to report against these during this Parliament. Network Rail is a major landowner, with responsibility for almost 16,000km of track; its sustainability strategy is already well aligned with the GGCs; Highways England, a similar organisation, has to report against these commitments; and the Government envisages new “cross-agency” goals to meet its greening commitments. We recommend that Network Rail be included in the list of departmental bodies that must report against the Greening Government Commitments.
66.The Government Buying Standards (GBS) include mandatory sustainability requirements for contracts. The Greening Government Commitments report for 2014–15 indicated that the Department has improved compliance over the last several years, with most contracts, excluding those in food and catering, meeting the standard.
67.Between 2012–13 and 2014–15, however, the proportion of departmental food procurement meeting GBS fell from 86% to 62%. Rosalind Wall explained:
The previous contract had been let for quite a considerable period of time, and, therefore, had not been in line with the latest standards. Going forward it will be.
68.We welcome the Department’s improved compliance with Government Buying Standards. We note, however, the sharp decline in food procurement performance over the past few years and will look out for its improvement when the 2015–16 figures are produced.
96 National Audit Office, , May 2016, Areas, p33
97 Environmental Audit Committee, oral evidence on the Government’s approach to sustainable development, , Qq29, 63
98 National Audit Office, , May 2016, Areas, p31
99 National Audit Office, , May 2016, Areas, p31
100 Environmental Audit Committee, oral evidence on the Government’s approach to sustainable development, , Q29
101 , para 6
1 August 2016