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3. Roles and responsibilities

The Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) provides a whole-of-government view of activities that contribute to environmental sustainability. Each participating department and agency has a role to play in supporting the implementation of the FSDS and reporting on progress. This makes managing the FSDS highly complex. The following section provides an overview of the roles and responsibilities of the various departments and agencies bound by the Federal Sustainable Development Act (the Act, FSDA), central agencies, FSDS committees and stakeholders, as well as those departments and agencies that are participating voluntarily in meeting the requirements of the FSDS.   

3.1 Environment Canada

3.1.1 Minister

The Minister of the Environment has specific responsibilities under the Act. The Act requires the Minister to:

  • establish a Sustainable Development Office (SDO) within Environment Canada (EC) [(FSDA, 7(1)];
  • establish a Sustainable Development Advisory Council (SDAC) [(FSDA, 8(1)];
  • develop a Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) every three years [FSDA, 9(1)];
  • consult with the SDAC, the appropriate Parliamentary committees and the public on the draft strategy [FSDA, 9(3)];
  • submit the draft FSDS to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD) for review and comment [FSDA, 9(4)];
  • seek the Governor in Council’s approval of the official FSDS [FSDA, 10(1)]; and
  • table the FSDS [FSDA, 10(2)], and the Progress Report on the federal government’s progress in implementing the FSDS, in both Houses of Parliament [FSDA, 7(2)]. 

As with all other ministers of departments and agencies subject to the FSDS, the Minister of the Environment is also responsible for developing a departmental sustainable development strategy [FSDA, 11(1)]. 

3.1.2 Sustainable Development Office

The Sustainable Development Office (SDO) is responsible for developing and maintaining systems and procedures to monitor progress on implementing the FSDS [FSDA, 7(1)]. Specifically, it must, at least once every three years, provide the Minister with a Progress Report on implementation of the FSDS [FSDA, 7(2)].    

In addition, the SDO:

  • provides overall leadership and coordination on matters related to the FSDS;
  • supports the Minister in developing an FSDS once every three years and in meeting other requirements of the Act;
  • implements and maintains the FSDS Management Framework, including tracking and reporting on risks and performance measures;
  • develops and coordinates reporting on the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators;
  • acts as a key interlocutor on behalf of EC with the CESD, Parliamentarians, other government departments (OGDs), key stakeholders and citizens;
  • reaches out across government, international agencies and to stakeholders to build awareness of the FSDS and its contribution to progress on sustainable development;
  • contributes to the development of guidance and direction to departments/agencies on meeting the requirements of the FSDA; and, 
  • is responsible for reviewing and/or responding to the comments received from, and/or audits conducted by, the CESD with respect to implementation of the FSDA

The SDO is housed in the Strategic Policy Branch of EC under the responsibility of the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) of the Branch and the Director General (DG) of the Sustainability Directorate. 

3.2 Public Works and Government Services Canada

In the context of the FSDS, the Office of Greening Government Operations at Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) works with other government departments and agencies to improve the environmental performance of the federal government's operations, including: 

  • lead the development of greening government operations content for each FSDS and associated Progress Report, including reviewing comments related to greening government operations received during the legislated FSDS public consultation process;
  • consult and build consensus with departments and agencies on the development of greening government operations targets, implementation strategies and performance measures;
  • provide greening government operations-related guidance to departments and agencies to support target establishment, implementation and reporting;
  • monitor and compile results on progress for the greening government operations goals, targets for inclusion in the FSDS Progress Reports; and
  • co-chair the Interdepartmental FSDS DG and ADM Committees with EC’s SDO

As with all other ministers of departments and agencies subject to the FSDS, the Minister of PWGSC is responsible for developing a departmental sustainable development strategy [FSDA, 11(1)]. 

3.3 Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) is responsible for the Government of Canada’s annual reporting processes, and provides advice on the integration of FSDS-related reporting in support of the Reports on Plans and Priorities (RPPs) and Departmental Performance Reports (DPRs). TBS releases guidance, developed in collaboration with EC’s SDO and PWGSC’s Office of Greening Government Operations, to departments and agencies so they may meet their requirements for planning and reporting on sustainable development activities through the RPP and DPR reporting processes.

As with all other ministers of departments and agencies subject to the FSDS, the Minister of TBS is responsible for developing a departmental sustainable development strategy [FSDA, 11(1)] for the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (the department).

3.4 Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) supports the Minister of the Environment by promoting the application of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) to federal government policy, planning and program proposals by providing departments and agencies with SEA guidance and training. The Guidelines for Implementing the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (the Guidelines) were updated with the tabling of the first FSDS in Parliament in 2010. In addition to considering potential positive or negative environmental impacts, the Guidelines instruct departments to consider a proposal’s impact on the achievement of the FSDS goals and targets when undertaking an SEA. In order to make environmental decision-making more accountable and transparent to Parliament, which is one of the purposes of the FSDA, public statements of SEAs should include a description of a proposal’s important environmental effects and potential impacts on the goals and targets of the FSDS

3.5 Government departments or agencies

As Section 11(1) of the FSDA mandates, departments and agencies listed in Schedule I of the Financial Administration Act, and any others listed in the Schedule of the FSDA must “prepare a sustainable development strategy containing objectives and plans for the department or agency that complies with and contributes to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, appropriate to the department or agency’s mandate”.

Those departments and agencies required to produce DSDSs are listed in Appendix 1. Departments meet this requirement by integrating their sustainable development activities and reporting into their core departmental annual planning and performance processes.

For example, this includes integrating FSDS commitments into RPPs and DPRs with additional details on their respective contributions to sustainable development on departmental and agency websites. 

In addition, departments and agencies covered by the Act:

  • participate in the FSDS DG/ADM Committees and working groups;
  • provide the necessary approvals/consensus on FSDS work products;
  • implement guidance developed by EC, TBS, PWGSC, Privy Council Office and/or CEAA in support of the FSDS;
  • select and/or use indicators that will monitor, measure and report on progress of the goals and targets to which they contribute or lead;
  • track progress toward completion of their respective implementation strategies [FSDA, 9(2)];
  • provide access to advance FSDS information in support of RPPs and DPRs so that this material may be reflected in FSDS progress reports;
  • identify departmental activities that could support future iterations of the FSDS;
  • respond to requests for information in support of the FSDS Performance Measurement Framework; and
  • assist organizations within ministerial portfolios that are not subject to the Act in identifying and reporting on FSDS-related activities.   

3.6 Voluntary departments or agencies

In support of the purpose of the FSDS, which is to improve transparency and accountability, departments and agencies that do not fall under the FSDA are encouraged to contribute to the FSDS.

The FSDA strives to improve the transparency and accountability of environmental decision-making by providing a whole-of-government picture of actions and results to achieve environmental sustainability. Federal departments or agencies that are not listed under the FSDA are encouraged to participate in order to ensure that all relevant federal actions on environmental sustainability are reflected in the FSDS and subsequent progress reports.

Organizations not subject to the FSDA can contribute targets, indicators, and/or implementation strategies to the FSDS. In support of transparency and consistency with departmental reporting, such organizations commit to the full three-year cycle of the FSDS and to reporting information and results annually through existing organizational reporting processes. This will ensure the robustness and completeness of data when aggregated results are reported.

3.7 Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

The Commissioner of The Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD) provides Parliamentarians with objective, independent analysis and recommendations on the federal government’s efforts to protect the environment and foster sustainable development.  As required under the FSDA [section 9(4)], the CESD is legally mandated to review the draft FSDS and comment as to whether the targets and implementation strategies can be assessed. The CESD is also legally required, under the Auditor General Act [section 23(3)], to review and comment on all FSDS progress reports, focusing particularly on the fairness of performance information. The CESD conducts audits of DSDSs, looking at various aspects of the DSDS. Recent departmental audits have focused on the implementation of the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals and its related guidelines.

3.8 Governance--FSDS committees and working groups

3.8.1 Interdepartmental Assistant Deputy Minister Committee

The Interdepartmental ADM Committee, co-chaired by the ADM of the Strategic Policy Branch at EC, and by the ADM of Policy, Planning and Communications Branch at PWGSC, provides strategic direction, advances thinking, and makes decisions on key issues associated with implementing the FSDAADMs provide advice to ministers on key issues including, for example, the Management Framework, goals and targets, and the content and structure of the FSDS and Progress Reports.   

The committee is composed of an ADM from each of the departments/agencies bound by the FSDA as well as those participating on a voluntary basis. Representatives are expected to brief their respective ministers on a variety of decisions including final decisions related to the FSDS or Progress Reports. The committee is supported by the SDO

3.8.2 Interdepartmental Director General Committee

The Interdepartmental DG Committee, co-chaired by the DG of the Sustainability Directorate at EC and the DG of the Office of Greening Government Operations at PWGSC, provides operational direction and guidance. It also discusses key issues including, for example, the implementation of the FSDA and development of goals, targets and implementation strategies for the FSDS. The DG Committee is a venue for the SDO and Office of Greening Government Operations to share information related to the FSDS and/or the Progress Reports, including such items as audits by the CESD, communication plans and environmental indicators. The committee plays additional roles as necessary. The committee is composed of a DG from each of the departments/agencies bound by the FSDA as well as those departments and agencies participating on a voluntary basis. Representatives are expected to brief their ADMs in preparation for FSDS ADM Committee meetings. The committee logistics are managed by the SDO.

3.8.3 Greening Government Operations Community of Practice

Led by the Office of Greening Government Operations, the Greening Government Operations Community of Practice is a forum for federal sustainability managers and operational staff to share best practices and information on the planning, implementation and reporting of sustainable practices in line with the targets and implementation strategies identified in Theme IV of the FSDS. The Office of Greening Government Operations will work through an advisory panel consisting of volunteers from at least five departments and agencies to identify and prioritize topics that the Community of Practice could address.  Participation in the advisory panel would rotate yearly.

3.8.4 Other working groups

As required, other working groups may be established and led by SDO or the Office of Greening Government Operations to carry out certain tasks and facilitate inter-departmental engagement. These may be established at any level, for example, at the director or working level. 

3.8.5 Key operating principles for committees

  1. Decision-making: Committees operate, to the extent possible, on a consensus basis. The decision-making process is practical, transparent, inclusive, and in the interest of meeting the requirements of the FSDA while balancing the needs of departments/agencies.  As appropriate, information is presented to relevant DM Committees (e.g., Public Service Management Advisory Committee [PSMAC]) for issues management. In the event that consensus cannot be reached, EC will make decisions that uphold the requirements of the FSDA as the highest priority. 
  2. Frequency of meetings: The DG Committee meets at least quarterly and more frequently when required prior to the tabling of each FSDS and Progress Report. ADM Committee meetings will be on an ad-hoc basis at the recommendation of the DG Committee.   

3.9 Parliamentarians

The FSDA requires that the FSDS be tabled in both the House of Commons and the Senate. The FSDA also requires that a committee from the House and/or the Senate review the development and implementation of the FSDS. The House Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (ENVI) and the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources are the principal venues for review of the FSDS by Parliamentarians. In compliance with the FSDA, both committees receive the draft FSDS at the start of the legislated 120-day public consultation period.   

3.10 Sustainable Development Advisory Council

In compliance with the FSDA, the SDAC is created and chaired by the Minister of the Environment. The SDAC is responsible for providing advice to the Minister of the Environment on drafts of the FSDS. Members are appointed by, and report directly to, the Minister of the Environment as prescribed under the FSDA [section 8(1)]

3.11 Stakeholders and Canadians

Stakeholders, which include Parliamentarians, SDAC, the CESD, non-governmental organizations, academia, associations and Canadians, play a major role in developing the FSDS by providing input and feedback on the draft FSDS. As mandated by the FSDA, the SDO must consult with stakeholders and Canadians for feedback and input into the FSDS for a period of 120 days. Comments received from stakeholders and Canadians are summarized in a Consultation Synthesis Report produced and posted to the Web by the SDO, and inform the final FSDS and subsequent Progress Reports.


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