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Mainstreaming Sustainable Development: one year in

A year on from publication of Mainstreaming Sustainable Development, the Coalition Government’s vision for sustainable development, Jonathan Tillson, Head of Defra’s Sustainable Development Team, introduces a series of reviews on the year’s progress.

We have made considerable progress in the last twelve months. The vision that we published this time last year brought a new series of mechanisms to put sustainable development at the heart of everything we do in policy, operations and procurement. By bringing responsibility for sustainable development fully back into government, we have been able to start embedding it into our core cross-Whitehall governance mechanisms through detailed relationship building, negotiation and dialogue. This year has been about getting many of the pieces in place including establishing structures, strengthening cross-government relationships and embedding sustainable development into government policy and operations.

Some of our main achievements from the year include:

  • In-depth work with Cabinet Office and Number 10 to ensure that business plans for each department will embed sustainable development throughout policy and operations, with a set of measurable indicators;
  • A new Cabinet sub-committee has been set up to monitor progress on the Greening Government Commitments – giving the high level governance to a key element of our sustainable development mainstreaming;
  • A new requirement has been agreed for all departments to report annually on progress to mainstream sustainable development through policy and operations;
  • Strengthening cross-government relationships – A Defra-chaired cross-Whitehall Sustainable Development Group has been set up to test ideas, explain new initiatives and share learning;
  • Working with Civil Service Learning (CSL) to embed sustainable development criteria into new Civil Service Core Competencies.

In the coming year we will look to demonstrate more visible results from the progress we are making. And two key events, the Rio+20 summit in June and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games from July to September, will give us further opportunity to showcase what we’re doing. And we will be looking to draw the outcomes of the Rio conference into our programme of activities here.

Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State, adds:

“The Coalition Government remains committed to sustainable development. Only by stimulating sustainable economic growth, protecting and enhancing our environment, and supporting social progress can we deliver our programme for Government for current and future generations.

The current drought situation highlights how we need to take a long term approach to decision making, balancing the needs of industry, homes and the environment in our management of a precious resource. I believe passionately that green growth is possible and necessary, and this Government will be taking that message to Rio this summer.”

Reviewing progress on sustainable development

In the following articles, my sustainable development team at Defra reviews progress across the four themes of the Government’s vision for sustainable development, including an article from Minas Jacob offering a personal view of his work on capability building, having re-joined Defra last year from the Sustainable Development Commission.

Mainstreaming sustainable development

Ministerial leadership and oversight Mainstreaming sustainable development in policy

Progress review…

  • Embedding sustainable development into policy making through monitoring business plans
  • Building guidance on sustainable development into HM Treasury Green Book for central government
  • Sustainable development in policy impact assessments

Progress review…

Leading by example Transparency and scrutiny

  • Greening Government Commitments
  • Procurement and the Government Buying Standards
  • Cabinet sub-committee

Progress review…

  • New headline sustainable development indicators
  • Regular reporting of information
  • Role of the Environmental Audit Committee
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Drawing on external expertise
  • Annual report and accounts

Progress review…

A final article looks at the opportunity presented by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games for learning and inspiration.

This article introduces a series of reviews on progress in the first year since publication of Mainstreaming Sustainable Development, the Coalition Government’s vision for sustainable development. Read all the articles here…

Next article: Capability building to embed sustainable development in policy making: a personal view »

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