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Linking to the Government’s core expenditure management system

Much of the success to date in bringing sustainable development issues into the government's overall decision-making comes as a result of incorporating the FSDS into the government's Expenditure Management System (EMS). This integration began in 2011, when annual Reports on Plans and Priorities (RPPs) and the websites of each federal department and agency were required to incorporate elements of the FSDS. Taken together, these are considered to be Departmental Sustainable Development Strategies (DSDSs).

A valuable outcome of integrating the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy into the Expenditure Management System is the opportunity to use existing departmental commitments and performance measures to inform the horizontal, whole of- government approach of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

The integration of sustainable development practices into departmental RPPs occurs at many levels, including:

  • An overview of departmental contributions in support of the FSDS;
  • Visual identifiers and descriptions of key FSDS contributions, such as implementation strategies; and
  • Hyperlinks to the Greening Government Operations (GGO) supplementary tables and DSDS websites.

The departmental website component of the DSDS, reported annually, provides detailed descriptions of the departmental contributions towards the FSDS. In particular, the website highlights a department's sustainable development vision, describes departmental decision-making and sustainable development practices, provides more details regarding the implementation strategies identified in the first three themes of the FSDS (and briefly described in the RPP), and describes additional departmental sustainable development activities/initiatives that were not captured in the FSDS. Departments' and agencies' GGO targets, performance measures and implementation strategies are captured in RPPs and Departmental Performance Reports (DPRs) in the GGO Supplementary Table.

FSDS performance reporting is also incorporated into the EMS through the DPR and performance reports on departmental websites.

Integration of the FSDS throughout a department's activities is an ongoing process. Aligning FSDS goals, targets and implementation strategies with the departmental Program Alignment Architectures (PAAs), required under the Treasury Board Policy on Measurement, Resources and Results Structures, represents a critical step forward. The "plan, do, check, improve" approach of the FSDS will lead to minor structural changes to FSDS departments' PAAs over several cycles of the FSDS. Targets and implementation strategies will be added and moved, for example, to facilitate effective alignment with departmental PAAs.

Departments and agencies have reached various stages in aligning the FSDS with their departmental planning and performance information, and this process will continue over time as departmental commitments evolve to support government priorities. This deeper integration will also provide the basis for eventually identifying appropriate financial information to round out the measures of performance and progress towards FSDS goals and targets, and support more efficient and coherent reporting by the federal government.

Measuring, monitoring and reporting on progress

As part of its broader commitment to transparency in environmental decision-making, the government has made the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI) program a permanent feature of its environmental reporting. CESI has significantly expanded its suite of indicators to measure progress towards the goals and targets of the FSDS, and these indicators are found throughout this report. Indicators tracking the progress of the FSDS are prepared by Environment Canada with the support of other federal government departments, such as Health Canada, Statistics Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, as well as data from provincial and territorial government departments. Designed to be relevant to government policy, the indicators are built on rigorous methodology and high-quality, regularly available data from surveys and monitoring networks.

Another commitment to transparency in environmental decision-making relates to the attributes of the targets. The FSDS is committed to using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) criteria when developing and refining targets. As FSDS targets become SMART or move towards SMART, they enable more effective reporting on progress towards environmental outcomes, particularly when the targets and indicators provide greater specificity, such as measuring components by how much and by when. Work will continue in future cycles of the FSDS to bring greater focus on environmental outcomes.

When measuring, monitoring and reporting on progress, it is also important to note that the 2010 FSDS sets out goals and targets that the federal government supports within the constraints of its jurisdiction and authorities. In many cases, the impacts take time to realize. Outcomes often depend on the contributions of many others, such as foreign, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, businesses, and individuals. In other cases, the federal government contributes by providing scientific expertise and knowledge, but, in some cases, other jurisdictions implement specific program measures. It often enacts environmental regulations, but the concrete results will only be known once the implementation of the regulations is well underway. As a result, it is often difficult to make direct links between federal government actions and how those actions affect particular environmental outcomes.

The performance information provided to describe how the federal government is meeting its commitments can be improved. Financial information about federal investments in programming, for example, can help a reader better understand the extent of commitments made. But to deliver this information on a systematic basis over time requires changes to how initiatives are presented and tracked. This report takes a step toward this practice by including financial information on the Clean Air Agenda programming in the Annex to this report.

Work will continue in future cycles of the FSDS, to adjust and align DSDS with departmental PAAs , to deliver this level of information accurately on an ongoing basis.

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