Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy: Departmental Website Component of the 2012-2013 Report on Plans and Priorities
The concept of sustainable development rests at the core of the Department’s mandate. A flexible, yet robust decision-making process is, therefore, essential for the department to consider the social, economic and environmental dimensions of strategic, policy and program issues as they arise. To this end, the department’s decision-making process, within an established corporate governance structure, allows both formal and informal opportunity to consider issues, set priorities, and render either decisions or recommendations as necessary. Issue-specific committees, led by either an Assistant Deputy Minister or a Director General, are integral elements of the department’s governance structure, and are the front lines for horizontal discussion and integration of issues. Recommendations emerging from these committees must be presented to and considered by the Executive Management Committee (EMC). The EMC (chaired by the Deputy and/or Associate Deputy Minister) is the collective senior executive body of the Department which promotes approval, through building consensus, on issues put before it.
The EMC provides strategic guidance and oversees the integrated management of departmental activities, including both the results made toward the DSDS commitments, and those pertaining to risk management. The EMC also provides recommendations to the Deputy Minister and/or the Associate Deputy Minister to consider prior to their rendering a decision. The EMC includes all Assistant Deputy Ministers (ADMs) or key Branch Heads (e.g. Communications, Audit and Evaluation and Corporate Secretariat), and Regional Directors General (RDGs). Decisions taken by the Deputy and/or the Associate Deputy Minister are communicated through various means (e.g. Deputy’s message, posting to the departmental intra/internet website, webinars, etc.) to departmental staff.
Finally, the Deputy Minister and the Associate Deputy Minister have a shared responsibility for providing advice to the Minister on progress made both through the FSDS (as federal lead) and the DSDS (for departmental obligations).
The Assistant Deputy Minister of the Strategic Policy Branch is the Sustainable Development Champion and has overall leadership of the Departmental responsibilities related to sustainable development. The Champion:
- coordinates the formulation and implementation of the triennial FSDS, and plays a key role in the formulation of the annual departmental sustainable development strategy;
- ensures the Department’s implementation of the Federal Sustainable Development Act, including chairing the interdepartmental ADM meetings;
- provides overall leadership and coordination on matters related to the FSDS across federal government departments including the Sustainable Development Office; and,
- plays a key role in monitoring progress of the departmental sustainable development strategy.
To ensure that environmental considerations receive an appropriate level of attention in decision making, the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (the Cabinet Directive) was issued to all government departments and agencies, setting out clear obligations regarding strategic environmental assessments (SEAs). According to the Cabinet Directive, ministers expect a SEA of a policy, plan or program proposal to be conducted when the following two conditions are met:
- the policy, plan or program proposal is submitted to Cabinet or to an individual Minister for approval; and
- implementation of the proposal may result in important environmental effects, either positive or negative.
The Cabinet Directive requires the consideration of the scope and nature of any likely positive or negative environmental impacts generated by these proposals, as well as potential for mitigation and enhancement. The FSDS committed the federal government to consider the FSDS goals and targets when undertaking SEAs.
Environment Canada will ensure it continues to comply with the Cabinet Directive and develop quality SEAs that take the FSDS goals and targets into consideration. A Departmental Policy on SEA is in place to establish the key elements of a well functioning SEA management system. These include clear accountabilities and procedures, updated guidance materials, and a comprehensive SEA tracking system.
Environment Canada will continue to implement its SEA policy and further strengthen its SEA performance. In particular, the Department will ensure that:
- High quality SEAs are completed for policy, plan and program proposals as required under the Cabinet Directive;
- SEAs include a detailed analysis of a proposal’s potential effects on the achievement of the FSDS goals and targets;
- SEAs include measures to mitigate negative environmental effects (including effects on the achievement of the FSDS goals and targets) and enhance positive environmental effects;
- Public statements are issued where SEAs have been conducted; and
- In accordance with the Cabinet Directive, Environment Canada responds to requests from other departments and agencies to provide expert policy, technical and scientific analysis on sustainable development and the potential environmental effects of initiatives.
The Environment Canada 2012–2013 Departmental Performance Report will provide a description of actual and/or expected effects of Departmental proposals on the achievement of the FSDS goals and targets, as identified in SEAs conducted over the coming year.
Environment Canada uses regulatory impact assessment summaries (RIASs) to determine the expected impact of regulatory initiatives that address each of the requirements of the federal government’s regulatory policy, namely the Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulation. The use of regulatory impact analysis has long been recognized as an international best practice, and RIASs have been used in Canada for over 20 years.
A RIAS provides a cogent, non-technical synthesis of information that allows the various audiences to understand the environmental issue being regulated. It allows audiences to understand the reason the issue is being regulated, the government’s objectives, and the costs and benefits of the regulation, including the effectiveness of the regulation from an environmental objective standpoint. It also addresses who will be affected, who was consulted in developing the regulation, and how the government will evaluate and measure the performance of the regulation against its stated objectives. The RIAS is, in effect, a public accounting of the need for each regulation.
Environment Canada's sustainable development decisions and actions require collaboration, partnership and information exchange with key partners and stakeholders, including other levels of government, Aboriginal peoples, industry, environmental non-governmental organizations and Canadian citizens. As such, Environment Canada aims to foster positive, long-term relationships with these key constituencies in all of its activities. For example, relationships with provincial and territorial partners are advanced through bilateral agreements, as well as through multilateral participation in the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. In addition, the Department consults and engages with Aboriginal peoples and stakeholders to deliver on core priorities such as protecting and conserving our air, water, wildlife and natural areas.
Performance measurement and evaluation are complementary. While performance measurement is ongoing and focuses on quantification of certain aspects of performance, evaluation is a snapshot in time. Regularly collected performance measurement information is used in periodic evaluation that provides, when analysed in the context of evaluation specific data collection, a more in-depth and independent assessment of the outcomes achieved.
Implementation of the departmental sustainable development strategy will be monitored and reported on an ongoing basis in two ways:
- periodic reporting to Executive Management Committee by the Sustainable Development Champion; and
- reporting in the departmental Reports on Plans and Priorities and Departmental Performance Reports.
Evaluation relies on sound, reliable and credible performance measurement information to demonstrate progress toward intended program outcomes. Using performance information and other evidence, evaluations can be helpful in identifying opportunities to improve the manner in which future sustainable development activities are designed and delivered so as to enhance the achievement of intended outcomes. In addition to design and delivery, evaluation can also be used to identify potential improvements to program efficiency, economy, and oversight.
The FSDS1 will be evaluated as part of the evaluation of Environment Canada’s Sustainability Reporting and Indicators Program, scheduled for evaluation in 2014–2015. The evaluation will address issues related to relevance and performance (including economy and efficiency), in compliance with the Treasury Board’s Policy on Evaluation (2009).
An internal audit of the FSDS will be considered in the context of the Departmental risk-based audit plan, as required by the Treasury Board Policy on Internal Audit and the Directive on Chief Audit Executives, Internal Audit Plans, and Support to the Comptroller General. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is also planning an audit of the FSDS.
In the follow-up to the 2014–2015 evaluation, the management team leading Environment Canada’s contribution to the FSDS will develop a management response with clear and concise management commitments to address evaluation recommendations. This response will allow management and evaluators to better ascertain progress and will facilitate the evaluator’s ability to recommend the disposition or closure of evaluation recommendations.
The Evaluation Division regularly monitors and reports on the status of management commitments made in response to evaluation recommendations. Doing so provides Environment Canada’s Departmental Evaluation Committee (chaired by the Deputy Minister) with timely information on how well the Department is addressing and resolving risks or deficiencies and acting on identified opportunities that have been raised in evaluations.
The External Audit Advisory Committee also provides a challenge function to the program, and independent, objective advice and recommendations to the DM on this matter.
1 The internal evaluation will include both the secretariat function, which Environment Canada holds, as well as Environment Canada-specific elements within the FSDS.
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