3. Measuring results

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Much progress has been made in implementing the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy since it was tabled. This progress can be described under two areas: establishing processes necessary in implementing the FSDS, as described in section 2; and, laying the foundation for future reporting by outlining how results against goals and targets will be measured and shared.

Measuring results against goals and targets includes:  

  • Analyzing FSDS targets – Are they SMART?
  • Measuring results with environmental indicators
  • Measuring results on greening government operations

Departments implicated in the FSDS are tracking progress on their own implementation strategies using departmental performance measures and will report progress in their Depertmental Performance Reports and on their departmental websites.

3.1 Analyzing FSDS targets – Are they SMART?

Exhibit 2: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound

SMART diagram

Long description

The image defines each letter of the "SMART" acronym. Specific: should be clear to people with a basic knowledge of the issue, program or initiative and clearly articulated, well-defined and focused. Measurable: should be able to determine the degree to which there is a completion or attainment. Using the same (ideally quantifiable) methodology and information, findings should be able to be replicated. Achievable: should be realistic, practical, and attainable within operational constraints dependent upon availability of resources, knowledge and timeframe. Relevant: should be tied to government priorities and mandate and help or contribute to the bringing about of the desired outcome in the Canadian society, economy or environment. Time-bound: should have clear deadlines expressed.

A key part of measuring performance is starting with targets that clearly set out expectations and indicate how progress can be reported against them. Meeting SMART criteria – whether a target is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (Exhibit 2) – allows the development of quality targets and helps to shape current efforts by identifying areas requiring improvement in the future. 

In its review of the draft FSDS, the Commissioner noted that SMART targets are needed to “clarify expectations for environmental decision-making and transparency, and allow those responsible for assessing progress to know when expected actions have been taken and results achieved”.

The SDO, in collaboration with FSDS departments, analyzed targets against SMART criteria. Working with relevant departments and sharing findings with them is a valuable part of the ‘Check’ stage of the "Plan, do, check, improve" cycle. This initial analysis of the FSDS targets shows about half of targets are SMART or are moving toward being SMART

For example, a SMART FSDS target is: "Target 1.1: Climate Change Mitigation: Relative to 2005 emission levels, reduce Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 17% by 2020." Using the SMART criteria, about 70% of targets were found to be achievable and time-bound; in contrast, only about 30% of targets were specific. 

This first review of FSDS targets provided a necessary baseline level from which to work. It revealed that, in some cases, considerable progress is required to meet the SMART criteria; this will take time. Striving to establish ‘SMART’ targets in future strategies raises the bar on the quality of our targets and our ability to report on them, thereby improving transparency. Development of SMART targets will improve over time; this analysis is a first step in identifying gaps where greater efforts may be required down the road. These criteria will aid in strengthening future versions of the FSDS.

3.2 Measuring results with environmental indicators

Measurement, monitoring, and reporting is an essential component of the FSDS that will allow Canadians to track its progress. Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI) will be the main vehicle for reporting the FSDS environmental indicators. The CESI program tracks and reports on long-term trends related to air, water, and nature issues of key concern to Canadians. These indicators help the federal government measure progress toward its environmental sustainability priorities. 

The CESI program is expanding its original slate of environmental indicators to include a suite of environmental indicators that have been selected to track progress of the FSDS. Some indicators are quite mature while others need further development. In total, there are 43 environmental indicators and performance measures that will be used to measure progress of Themes I–III of the FSDS

Environmental indicators will be reported through the CESI website on an on-going basis as data is gathered, analysed and reported. Approximately 30 indicators will be presented in the FSDS 2012 Progress Report, with the remaining indicators being reported at a later date. The majority of indicators are updated on an ongoing basis through the CESI program and can be found on the CESI website. The website includes data sources and methods documents (e.g. "Air Quality and Air Pollutant Emissions Indicators - Data Sources and Methods"), interactive maps, and a complete list of environmental indicators.

The full suite of FSDS indicators, listed by theme in Annex 3, will be included in future FSDS Progress Reports1.  For more information on these indicators, see Appendix 3 of the Management Framework (Annex 1).  

3.3 Measuring results on greening government operations

When this Progress Report was completed, results against the greening government operations targets in Theme IV were not yet available. Therefore, the 2012 Progress Report will include a comprehensive assessment of available "Greening Government Operations Supplementary Tables", including the aggregation of results into the FSDS-wide “roll-up” target indicators (see Appendix 3 of the Management Framework (Annex 1)).

[1] Note: Indicators included in italics will not be reported on in the second progress report. However, these indicators will be, when ready, available in CESI.

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