Sustainable Development Reporting by Government Departments

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) publishes today its Seventh Report of Session 2005-06, Sustainable Development Reporting by Government Departments. This Report is based principally upon a briefing prepared for it by the National Audit Office (NAO) following an earlier recommendation from the Committee for an assessment to be made of how Government departments report their sustainability performance. Government departments and other bodies with an interest in the subject were then asked to respond to the NAO briefing - which was placed on the EAC website in October 2005 - and the Report reflects those responses.

While the Government has made some clear progress in developing a regular annual report covering the whole of central Government on environmental and sustainable development issues, the situation with regard to sustainable development reporting by individual departments remains less satisfactory. Targets are often unambitious or vague, much as the Committee noted in its earlier Report on sustainable procurement.

The Committee concludes that:

"...Departments which have not yet taken steps to improve the quality of their sustainability reporting, in response to the NAO's analysis or our consultation on it, should do so as soon as possible in order that these improvements can be seen in the 2006-07 reporting cycle." (Paragraph 10)

The Committee also notes that

"...there are some very significant areas of departmental activity which currently fall outside the parameters for what sustainable development reporting there is in Government. Individual departments must look to find mechanisms for reporting comprehensively on the environmental or SD content of PFI contracts and other private investment initiatives with which they are involved." (Paragraph11)

In order to ensure that there is the necessary leadership and oversight within Government, the Committee recommends that

"It will be important that a single department, and indeed a named senior official, takes ownership and responsibility for the development of departmental sustainability reporting. DEFRA and the Treasury are the main candidates for doing so, notwithstanding the role that the Sustainable Development Commission has in the development of Sustainable Development Action Plans." (Paragraph 25)

Copies of the report can be obtained from TSO outlets and from the Parliamentary Bookshop, 12 Bridge Street, Parliament Square, London SW1A 2JX (020 7219 3890) by quoting House of Commons No 1322. The text of the Report will also be available from approximately 3.30pm onwards on its publication date, on the Committee's Internet homepage:

For further information on the report, journalists may phone the Committee's press officer, Laura Kibby, on 020 7219 0718.

Notes for Editors

The report published today by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is its Seventh Report of Session 2005-06, Sustainable Development Reporting by Government Departments, HC 1322.

The Committee has issue a number of reports since its inception in 1997 on the Greening Government initiative, the most recent of which was its First Report of Session 2005-06, Greening Government: the 2004 Sustainable Development in Government Report, HC 698.

Details of all the Committee's press releases together with its Reports, oral evidence and other publications, are available on the Committee's website at: www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/environmental_audit_committee.cfm

The Environmental Audit Committee

Under the terms of the Standing Order No. 152A the Environmental Audit Committee is to consider to what extent the policies and programmes of government departments and non-departmental public bodies contribute to environmental protection and sustainable development: to audit their performance against such targets as may be set for them by her Majesty's Ministers; and to report thereon to the House. The Committee was set up on 13 July 2005.