Who Ensures Sustainable Development Within The Public Sector?

Most public sector organisations including the NHS, local government, central government, fire, police and charities should be working towards ensuring that plans for service development and design are sustainable in terms of impact on the environment.

The Sustainable Development Commission is the Government’s independent adviser on sustainable development, reporting to the Prime Minister, the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales and the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. Through advocacy, advice and appraisal, they ensure that sustainable development sits at the heart of Government policy. In addition, the information and guidance provided by the Sustainable Development Commission can help shape the way that individual public sector organisations manage their own policy writing and service implementation.

On 1 February 2009, the Commission became an executive non-departmental body. This means that it is a separate legal entity and thus has responsibility for:

– reinforcing its remit as the UK Government’s sustainable development watchdog and advisor across a number of Government departments and organisations

– Retaining working relationships with the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations

– Supporting public sector organisations in the provision of policies that recognise the importance of sustainable development

– providing informed, evidence-based advice to government on finding solutions to problems which help it to meet its commitment to sustainable development

– developing the attitudes, skills and knowledge in government to make the best decisions for today and the future

However, there are a number of things that they don’t do:

– Their watchdog role is restricted to UK Government departments and agencies, thus whilst they can provide an advisory role to a wider number of agents, they do not undertake scrutiny of the wider public sector, private businesses, or individuals.

– They do not make rules or guidance. Instead they provide advice and help the Government to deliver on development, but do not have responsibility for the implementation of policies themselves.

– Whilst the Commission aims to raise awareness of sustainable development, their remit doesn’t include helping individuals live more sustainably.

The Development Commission’s expert Commissioners are recruited as public appointments and are appointed by the Prime Minister with the agreement of the Devolved Administrations.

In 2005, the UK Government’s Sustainable Development Strategy, Securing the Future, strengthened the Commission’s role to act as an independent watchdog, scrutinising the UK Government’s progress on implementing the strategy, and monitoring targets on the sustainable management of the Government estate and sustainable procurement. In addition, the Commission performs a similar scrutiny and advisory role for the Scottish Government, and it works closely with the Welsh Assembly Government.

The Sustainable Development Commission’s work is divided into ten policy areas: climate change, consumption, economics, education, energy, engagement, health, housing, regional & local government and transport. Each policy area is led by a steering group of Commissioners

Each of the commissioners decide on which projects will be undertaken in each policy area, taking into account: knowledge gaps in the Government, new policy initiatives, contentious issues and technological innovations.