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The National Audit office (NAO) has published its review of the quality of sustainability reporting by central government departments in the UK in 2013- 2014. Colleen Theron, a sustainability lawyer at CLT Envirolaw, examines the details.
By way of background, HM Treasury first introduced requirements for central government organisations to report on sustainability issues in their annual reporting in 2011. The government’s vision for sustainable development and what this means in practice was set out in Defra’s 2011 report on ‘Mainstreaming sustainable development'.
While compliance with many requirements was achieved in 2012, the Environmental Audit Committee recommended in 2013 that Defra and HM Treasury take ownership of sustainability reporting and that reporting on sustainable procurement be improved.
Sustainability reporting is about ensuring that an organisation’s annual report reflects its environmental, social and economic performance.
The focus of the review was to look not only at the good practice and understanding how sustainability is being integrated into the departments but what was missing.
Most departments make a commitment to embedding sustainability in policy making and decision making. All departments have reported on performance against the Greening Government Commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, waste and water from government buildings and business travel. This is probably unsurprising given the legislative constraints on organisations to reduce their impacts in relation to these issues and the costs in failing to address reducing impacts.
The information that was made available was seen as valuable for stakeholders interested in the direct environmental impacts of the government.
There was also some improvement in how departments report, and in a few cases the publication of a separate docu
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