EAC 160103

16 January 2003


Learning the Sustainability Lesson

The Government is committed to helping us live more sustainable lifestyles. We know  this makes sense - making better use of our natural resources whilst achieving social  and economic progress so that we and future generations can enjoy a better quality of life.  However, Government policies and strategies alone will make little impact unless we are all equipped with the skills and basic understanding to engage in change and make every day decisions in such a way that we as individuals contribute to sustainable living - in our roles as consumers, workers, parents, educators, scholars, neighbours and public representatives.  We need to learn how to live differently.

Sustainable development is an over-arching concept which needs to be reinforced by  a joined-up approach to education. The Environmental Audit Committee has appointed a sub-committee which will be examining how the Government is using both formal and informal learning avenues in the delivery of its sustainable development strategy. 

In particular we will be considering:

a) The work of DfES and its agencies in this area and its future plans;

b) The role of other government departments in promoting education for sustainable development (ESD);

c) How far ESD has been integrated into all key areas of learning including: formal education, the work place and the community;

d) The effectiveness of Government campaigns to raise awareness of sustainable development issues.

We are particularly seeking views on the following questions:

1. Is a lack of public engagement and understanding a real obstacle to the Government’s progress on its sustainable development agenda?  Have there been any studies to show this? Please refer to practical examples where possible.

2. Is there a need for a national strategy for education for sustainable development?  Would additional infrastructure be required to deliver a coherent, national strategy?

3.Are existing awareness raising Government campaigns such as “Are you doing your bit” effective and well targeted? Have past campaigns been evaluated?  How could they be improved in the future?

4. Are there existing education programmes relating to sustainable development which might be considered good practice? These might include in-house training schemes for ESD for employees and stakeholders within businesses, the civil service, and other organisations. Are there elements of successful, strategic communication programmes in other areas which could be applied to ESD?  For example, from other Government awareness campaigns such as those for drink driving, AIDS and smoking.

The Committee would be grateful to receive memoranda from interested individuals and organisations relating to these issues.  Written evidence should be sent to the Clerk of the Committee, Mrs Jessica Mulley, by  Wednesday 12 February 2003 either by post or emailed to eacom@parliament.uk. For printing purposes we would be grateful if electronic copies could be provided where possible.  A brief guidance note on the preparation and submission of evidence is available on the Committee's web pages.

Notes for Editors

1. The EAC’s sub-committee will be known as the Sub-Committee on Learning the Sustainability Lesson. Its membership is as follows:

Joan Walley MP (Chair)

Mr Peter Ainsworth, MP

Mrs Helen Clark, MP

Mr Colin Challen, MP

Mr David Chaytor, MP

2.    This inquiry has been timed to coincide with a great deal of activity on education for sustainable development both within government and NGOs. The Government is currently considering the future of the Sustainable Development Education Panel as its five year appointments are now subject to review.  DEFRA is currently conducting an audit of all its activities relating to the communication of sustainable development and is likely to publish a communications plan in April 2003.  In addition, Futerra (a consultancy dedicated to improving the communication of sustainable development) is about to embark on a 4 month enquiry into the success of government in raising awareness of sustainable development with UK audiences.

3. Internationally, the UN General Assembly agreed at its last meeting in December to have a UN International Decade for Education for Sustainable Development and has tasked UNESCO with leading this.  The UK is subject to a range of EU and UN commitments on ESD including those set out in the Implementation Plan agreed in September 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa.

4.  Details of all the Committee's inquiries, together with its Reports and other publications, are available on the internet at