2. Implementing a New Approach

The Progress Report is part of the sound management approach to implementing the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) – the "Plan, Do, Check, and Improve" system.

Exhibit 1: The FSDS System of Plan, Do, Check, Improve

The Federal Sustainable Development Strategy Systen of Plan

FSDS Progress Reports describe the current state of implementation of the FSDS. This first Progress Report focuses on the systems and procedures put in place to implement the 2010-2013 FSDS. These major accomplishments include:

  • Establishing a Sustainable Development Office;
  • Putting in place a management framework for the FSDS;
  • Putting in place a way to integrate Departmental Sustainable Development Strategies into the expenditure management system for the first time;
  • Developing greening government operations targets, implementation strategies, and guidance;
  • Revising the guidelines for strategic environmental assessment requiring consideration of, and public reporting on, FSDS goals and targets; and,
  • Establishing a performance measurement system for the FSDS to effectively monitor and report on progress. This includes a suite of environmental indicators and performance measures for Themes I-III, and common performance measures for Theme IV.

2.1 Establishing a Sustainable Development Office

In accordance with requirements of the Act, a key element of progress has been to put in place a Sustainable Development Office (SDO). The SDO is responsible for developing and maintaining systems and procedures to monitor progress on the implementation of the FSDS. It is housed in the Strategic Policy Branch of Environment Canada under the responsibility of the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) of the Branch and the Director General of the Sustainability Directorate. 

2.2 Managing the FSDS

Developing the FSDS Management Framework, which was put in place following the tabling of the FSDS, is an important first step in implementing the FSDS. Created in collaboration with other government departments, the FSDS Management Framework is a best practice in clarifying the sustainable development management, reporting and accountability structures which often varied under the previous federal approach to sustainable development.

Given that the FSDS is a complex, horizontal initiative involving 27 departments1 and agencies across the federal government, the focus on coordination and collaboration among participants that the Management Framework instills is fundamental to the successful implementation of the FSDS.  

The FSDS Management Framework (Annex 1) spells out:

  • The roles, responsibilities and accountability of all the participating departments, committees, and stakeholders;
  • A logic model for the implementation of the FSDS which lays out clear expected outputs and outcomes;
  • A performance measurement and evaluation strategy that identifies indicators to measure performance;
  • A communications strategy;
  • A risk management strategy that identifies key risks to meeting the requirements of the Act and the controls intended to mitigate those risks; and
  • A reporting strategy for both the FSDS and departmental sustainable development activities.

The Management Framework will be revisited with the tabling of every new FSDS. The results of evaluations on progress towards outcomes achieved as outlined in the logic model will be integrated into the FSDS Progress Reports required at least every three years.

2.3 Integrating with the Expenditure Management System

Integrating sustainable development planning and reporting within the Government’s core expenditure planning and reporting system, the Expenditure Management System (EMS), provides a much stronger basis for improving the transparency and accountability of environmental decision-making. It brings together and enhances financial and performance information on existing federal government activities and links them to environmental actions and decisions. This new linkage is a key element of the FSDS.

Under the EMS, the reporting on plans and the tracking of progress on results occurs through two key documents:

  • Report on Plans and Priorities (RPP) – The RPP outlines activities and expenditures for each department and agency. It outlines, over a three year period, an organization’s priorities and where it will allocate the resources to address those priorities.
  • Departmental Performance Reports (DPR) – The Departmental Performance Reports provides an overview of the accomplishments achieved by the organization compared to what it proposed in the RPP.

For the first time, each department and agency required to produce a Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy2 will demonstrate where its departmental activities are contributing to the FSDS. Departments were advised to integrate their departmental strategy within their 2011-12 RPPs. See Section 9.3  (Annex 1) of the Management Framework for more information on departmental sustainable development strategies (RPPs/DPRs/Websites).

To aid in this process, Treasury Board Secretariat, Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), and the SDO in Environment Canada provided guidance to departments and agencies on how to identify, describe, and report on their sustainable development activities. 

Given this level of integration with EMS reporting requirements, departments now essentially complete their Departmental Sustainable Development Strategies when they develop their annual RPPs. Thus Departmental RPPs will contain objectives and plans that contribute to the FSDS and will identify which activities and programs contribute to the FSDS through the use of visual identifiers, written text, and departmental websites. Departmental websites will provide more details on the departmental contributions to the FSDS, and where applicable, to broader contributions to the social, economic, and environmental pillars of sustainable development. 

The 2012 Progress Report will include an analysis of the integration of FSDS and Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) elements within the EMS. Next steps also include examining opportunities to more deeply integrate the FSDS and supporting departmental strategies within the EMS

2.4 Shrinking the Environmental Footprint – Beginning with Government

The Government of Canada has a significant operational presence across the country, with more than 40,000 buildings owned or leased, more than 30,000 on-road vehicles, and 260,000 employees across Canada. As a result, the federal government has a considerable environmental footprint ranging from the energy used to heat and cool federal buildings and operate the federal vehicle fleet, to the goods purchased to deliver services to Canadians and the disposal of electronic equipment at the end of its useful life. 

As a custodian, fleet manager, procurer of goods and services, and employer, the Government of Canada has demonstrated its commitment to reduce its environmental footprint and to be a leader with regards to the greening of its operations. For example, all new government office buildings are required to meet the Canada Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED - Canada) Gold level3. In 2006, the Treasury Board Secretariat approved the Policy on Green Procurement which requires that environmental performance considerations be integrated into federal procurement decision-making processes.  In addition, in 2010 the government implemented a strategy to address the environmentally sound disposal of all federally generated surplus electronic and electrical equipment, such as computers and printers. Many departments and agencies have also made considerable progress in shrinking the environmental footprint of their own operations.

With the tabling of the FSDS, Government of Canada efforts with respect to greening government operations have been further strengthened. The departments and agencies named in the Act are now required to contribute to achieving the goals and targets of Theme IV of the FSDS, Shrinking the Environmental Footprint - Beginning with Government.

Theme IV includes 11 greening government operations targets in the areas of green buildings, greenhouse gas emissions, electronic waste, printing units, paper consumption, green meetings and green procurement. For a full list of Theme IV targets and implementation strategies, please refer to the FSDS.

In the context of the FSDS, PWGSC has worked and continues to work with other government departments and agencies to improve the environmental performance of the federal government’s operations. For example, prior to the tabling of the FSDS, PWGSC consulted with departments and agencies to develop the Theme IV targets, implementation strategies and performance measures.

PWGSC continues to support departments and agencies in the implementation of FSDS greening government operations targets by providing a series of implementation guidelines and hosting interdepartmental meetings, presentations, workshops, and conference calls.

PWGSC also continues to help departments and agencies report on their plans and progress with respect to the Theme IV targets.  For more information on the reporting against the Greening Government Operations Targets, please refer to Section 3.3 of this document.

2.5 Improving Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs)

In the FSDS, Ministers and Cabinet took a major step forward by committing to strengthening the application of SEA in the federal government by ensuring that the Government of Canada’s environmental goals are taken into account when pursuing social and economic goals. The Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals sets out clear obligations for federal departments and agencies to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of policies, plans and programs through use of SEA . On October 6, 2010, at the same time as the tabling of the FSDS, revised guidelines on implementing the Cabinet Directive were published. There are three important changes to the guidelines:

  1. Applying FSDS goals and targets when undertaking SEAs
  2. Reporting on the results of SEAs in Departmental Performance Reports
  3. Describing positive or negative contributions of the proposals to the achievement of the FSDS goals and targets in SEA public statements

As well, the language in the guidelines has been strengthened throughout to support the overall changes. For example, it is now explicitly clear that it is the responsibility of the sponsoring minister or ministers to ensure that the environmental implications of the proposed initiative are fully reflected in their policy, plan, or program proposal.

Since tabling the FSDS and publishing the revised guidelines, Environment Canada and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency have assisted a number of departments and agencies in updating their internal SEA guidance documents to reflect the updated Guidelines. The Guidance on SEA Public Statements has also been updated to reflect the new requirements to report on the impact of a proposal on the FSDS goals and targets.

Moreover, an analytical framework and evidence base to support departments in considering the potential impacts of their proposals on the FSDS goals and targets has been developed. The framework and evidence base will ensure that departments will be able to provide analysis of these potential impacts. Further, the evidence base will support the consideration of policy alternatives and instrument choice regarding environmental impacts of economic and social decisions.

2.6 Establishing Performance Measurement for the FSDS

Performance measures and environmental indicators make up the performance measurement system of the FSDS and underpin the “Check” part of the “Plan, Do, Check, Improve” system. Performance measures provide the ability to measure progress on how the FSDS is being managed. Environmental indicators help us to understand changes in the state of the environment.

Performance measures track progress towards making environmental decision-making more transparent and accountable. As described in the FSDS Management Framework, performance measures were established to measure progress in implementing the FSDS and are key elements of the FSDS Logic Model and FSDS Performance Management Framework. 

Performance measures provide fact-based information that will show whether the outcomes described in the FSDS logic model are unfolding as expected and will help in identifying gaps and areas for possible adjustment in how the FSDS is being managed.  Several different methodologies will be used to gather information related to these measures, including web analytics, stakeholder reports and comments, surveys, and reviews of departmental/agency RPPs and DPRs.  Performance measures are further outlined in the Management Framework (Annex 1 – section 5). Results of these measures, where appropriate, will be included in future reports on progress.

Environmental indicators and performance measures contribute to measuring results on the FSDSAnnex 2 provides an example of the performance measurement system for one of the issues included in Theme I: addressing climate change and air quality. Given the FSDS 2010-2013 was released on October 6, 2010 and that reliable data from the 2010 period will not be available for another two years the details of the measurement system can, at best, only be illustrative at this point. 

2.6.1 Establishing Environmental Indicators and Performance Measures for Air, Water & Nature

In the past, federal departments and agencies had independent sustainable development strategies and individual methods for tracking progress. Without a centralized measurement approach, there was no standard, consistent, and comprehensive performance measurement, monitoring, and reporting system to render environmental decision-making more transparent. Consequently, it was challenging to determine whether initiatives were working or should be adjusted over time. 

A new approach to monitoring and reporting on results under the FSDS is being implemented to measure progress against objectives. Establishing this sound and well-managed measurement system is important for the results-based FSDS which embodies a government-wide "Plan, Do, Check, Improve" system. The Commissioner has noted that good information, well-founded science, measurement based-data, and statistics (set out in advance of an initiative being implemented), are necessary to gauge how much progress has been made towards achieving sustainable development goals and targets. Having multi-departmental FSDS environmental indicators and performance measurements accessible in one place allows Canadians to readily see progress of the FSDS.

The current FSDS indicators were identified through a process whereby Environment Canada worked closely with Natural Resources Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Health Canada, and Parks Canada. Indicators were selected based on discussions between scientists, indicator specialists, other experts in relevant government departments and agencies, and the SDO.   Criteria adopted from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Bellagio Principles, and the Statistics Canada Quality Assurance Framework, were applied in choosing appropriate indicators.  

These criteria include:

  1. Policy Relevance: indicators should be representative of key policy directions and priorities; and few in number to be manageable as a means to inform decision-making.
  2. Utility: indicators should meet the needs of the target audience in order that different user groups find the indicators meaningful.
  3. Indicator Soundness: indicators should be consistent and comparable over time and space, backed by credible science and methods.
  4. Data Availability: indicators should be fed through existing high-quality data with adequate coverage over time and space.

The SDO will continue to work with scientists and other experts to develop and evaluate a fuller set of FSDS environmental indicators. This work includes testing, verifying, and improving methodologies for gathering data and presenting it in an understandable way.

2.6.2 Establishing Performance Measures for Greening Government Operations

In consultation with departments and agencies, a new reporting template (i.e., the Greening Government Operations Supplementary Table) and supporting guidelines have been developed for greening government operations. Specifically, the new reporting requirements establish over 20 common performance measures, a standardized reporting format / methodology and a target status element, which allows departments and agencies to self-assess their progress on achieving each target by selecting one of five traffic light indicators

This new reporting approach marks the first time that departments and agencies will publicly report in RPPs and DPRs in a consistent manner on greening government operations and therefore allow for the “roll-up” of Government of Canada greening government operations efforts. 

Performance measures used in the Greening Government Operations Supplementary Table, as well as the FSDS-Wide “Roll-up” Target Indicators for Greening Government Operations are included in Appendix 3 of the Management Framework (Annex 1).




[1] The Department of Human Resources and Skill Development merged with Department of Social Development to form HRSDC.  This adjusts the original number of required departments and agencies from 28 to 27.  Additional departments and agencies are also involved on a voluntary basis.

[2] Departments and agencies named in the annex of the Federal Sustainable Development Act or under schedule 1 of the Financial Administration Act.

[3] This was a previously stated commitment that pre-dates the FSDS. For major renovation of existing office buildings and for the new construction, build-to-lease or major renovation of other building types (as determined by individual departments and agencies), the FSDS requires that LEED NC Silver, Green Globes Design 3 Globes, or equivalent be achieved.