New inquiry: Embedding sustainable development across Government

16 September 2010

The Environmental Audit Committee, chaired by Joan Walley MP, is today launching a new inquiry on how sustainable development can be further embedded in Government policy decision-making and operations, in the light of the Government’s decision to withdraw funding for the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC). As part of its inquiry, the Committee will examine latest sustainable development performance data across government departments.

The Committee is interested in receiving written evidence that looks at the following themes of the inquiry:

  • How can mechanisms to ensure the sustainability of Government operations, procurement and policy-making be improved and further embedded and mainstreamed across Government departments?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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)?
  • How, without the assistance of the SDC, will the Government be able to demonstrate that it is ‘the greenest government ever’?

The Committee invites organisations and members of the public to submit written evidence, setting out their views on these issues. More wide ranging responses are also welcome. Submissions should ideally be sent to the Committee by Wednesday 13 October 2010, although later submissions may be accepted. Guidance on preparing submissions is set out below.


The context for the inquiry is the Secretary of State’s announcement on 22 July on the future of the Sustainable Development Commission, when she announced that the Government would withdraw funding for the SDC from April 2011. The SDC is the Government's independent adviser on sustainable development and also acts as an independent watchdog, scrutinising the Government’s sustainable development performance. Its work encompasses four main areas:

  • Promoting awareness of the concept of sustainable development;
  • Establishing good working practices within Government;
  • Advising key Ministers and others across Government;
  • Monitoring performance against sustainable development targets and reporting on these.

The Secretary of State told the House of Commons on 22 July that “We will mainstream sustainability, strengthen the Government's performance in this area and put processes in place to join up activity across Government much more effectively. I am not willing simply to delegate this responsibility to an external body. I have accordingly decided that I will withdraw DEFRA funding from the Sustainable Development Commission at the end of the current financial year, and instead take a personal lead, with an enhanced departmental capability and presence”.

For written submissions to the Committee, please note:

Each submission should ideally:

  • Be no more than 3,000 words in length;
  • Begin with a short summary in bullet point form;
  • Have numbered paragraphs; and
  • Be in Word format with as little use of colour or logos as possible.

A copy of the submission should be sent by e-mail to and marked ‘Embedding sustainable development across Government’. An additional paper copy should be sent to:

Clerk of the Committee
Environmental Audit Committee
House of Commons
7 Millbank
London SW1P 3JA

It would be helpful, for Data Protection purposes, if individuals submitting written evidence send their contact details separately in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.  

A guide for written submissions to Select Committees may be found on the parliamentary website at: (PDF PDF 1.25 MB)

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