Sustainability at the Heart of UK Government Strategy

This post examines how the UK Government has put sustainability reporting at the heart of its efforts to improve environmental performance

Although it receives little media attention, in many respects the UK Government is a leading example in terms of transparent sustainability.

The Government is encouraging all Central Departments, Executive Agencies, Executive Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) and non-Ministerial Departments in England – a total of 21 institutions – to sign up to The Greening Government Commitment Plan, whose first results were disclosed just a few months ago.

Reporting Requirements

By establishing principles, key performance indicators and individual targets, every government entity has an obligation to report its environmental performance on a yearly basis. This helps to track annual progress towards the reduction of their 2009-10 greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) emissions, and meeting their 2015 targets.

The Government’s ambitious strategy covers climate change adaptation, GHG emissions, business travel, waste, water, electricity, paper consumption and sustainability purchasing in all their buildings, suppliers and departments.

Some detailed targets for 2015 are as follows:

  • GHG emissions and Waste: a 25% reduction from all buildings and business-related transport (increased from a target of 10% in 2010)
  • Water: Reduce consumption and report on office water use against best practice benchmarks
  • Sustainable Purchasing: Ensure that Government buys more sustainable and efficient products and engages with its suppliers to understand and reduce the impacts of its supply chain

Reported Results

Some headline results from the report include:

  • Target met or exceeded in eight out of 21 departments with a 12% reduction in carbon emissions across the Government estate
  • 36% reduction in the number of domestic flights taken by Government employees
  • 24% reduction in paper consumption – reflecting real focus in this area

These results are shown in the following chart:

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) performed best with a 37% GHG reduction. This was followed by the Department for International Development (DFID), which achieved a 35% GHG reduction, mainly driven by changes in their energy consumption strategy.

Although the Department for Business, Innovations and Skills (BIS) recorded a poor performance in reducing GHG emissions (a 23% increase), this was attributed to the acquisition of the UK Atomic Energy Agency (UKAEA), which increased baseline emissions by 165%.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has planned to implement more energy saving measures in order to remain constant towards the 2015 target.

The financial benefit from these carbon savings has been estimated at £40 million. Reductions in waste only represent estimated savings of almost £4.7 million against 2009-10 baseline figures, indicating that although there is room for improvement, the Government’s initiative has been beneficial.


The Government has reduced emissions by 12% compared to its 2009-10 baseline. This means that there are still nearly 54,000 tonnes of CO2 to be tackled across Government by 2014-15:

Emissions Tabkle

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