Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2016 to 2019 management framework: chapter 3

Roles and responsibilities

This section provides an overview of the current roles and responsibilities of the various departments and agencies, central agencies, Federal Sustainable Development Strategy committees, and stakeholders bound by the 2008 act and those that contribute voluntarily to the strategy.

It is acknowledged that the current act is under review. Any potential changes resulting from this review will be reflected in a subsequent management framework.

3.1 Environment and Climate Change Canada

3.1.1 Minister

Under the act, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change has primary responsibility for coordinating development of and reporting on the strategy. The act requires the Minister to:

  • establish a Sustainable Development Office (SDO) within Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) [(Act, 7(1)]
  • establish a Sustainable Development Advisory Council (the council) [(Act, 8(1)]
  • develop a Federal Sustainable Development Strategy every three years [Act, 9(1)]
  • consult with the council, the appropriate Parliamentary committees and the public on the draft strategy [Act, 9(3)]
  • submit the draft strategy to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (the commissioner) for review and comment [Act, 9(4)]
  • seek the Governor in Council’s approval of the official strategy [Act, 10(1)]
  • table the strategy [Act, 10(2)], and a report on the federal government’s progress in implementing the strategy, in both Houses of Parliament [Act, 7(2)]

As with all other ministers of departments and agencies subject to the strategy, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change is also required to develop a departmental sustainable development strategy (DSDS) [Act, 11(1)].

3.1.2 Sustainable Development Office

The Sustainable Development Office is responsible for developing and maintaining systems and procedures to monitor progress on implementing the strategy [Act, 7(1)]. 

Specifically, it must, at least once every three years, provide the Minister with a report on implementation of the strategy [Act, 7(2)]. In addition to its legislated responsibilities to support implementation, the Sustainable Development Office also:

  • provides overall leadership and coordination on matters related to the strategy
  • supports the Minister in developing a strategy once every three years and in meeting other requirements of the act
  • implements and maintains the management framework, including tracking and reporting on risks and performance measures
  • develops and coordinates reporting on the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators
  • acts as a key interlocutor on behalf of ECCC with the commissioner, Parliamentarians, other government departments, key stakeholders and citizens
  • reaches out across government, to international agencies and to stakeholders to build awareness of the strategy and its contribution to progress on sustainable development
  • contributes to the development of guidance and direction to departments and agencies on meeting the requirements of the act
  • reviews and/or responds to comments received from, and/or audits conducted by, the commissioner with respect to implementation of the act
  • provides guidance and advice to departments and agencies in the development of their DSDSs
  • promotes and raises awareness of the strategy and related environmental sustainability issues
  • provides direction on implementing the Federal Sustainable Development Act 

The Sustainable Development Office is housed in the Strategic Policy Branch of ECCC under the responsibility of the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) of the branch and the Director General (DG) of the Sustainability Directorate. 

3.2 Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) is responsible for the Government of Canada’s annual reporting processes and provides advice on the integration of Federal Sustainable Development Strategy-related reporting in support of the regular department reports process. TBS releases guidance, developed by the Sustainable Development Office, to departments and agencies so they may meet their requirements for planning and reporting on sustainable development activities through the statutory departmental corporate reporting processes.

Under the strategy, TBS is responsible for developing and maintaining systems and procedures that support the leadership of the President of the Treasury Board in improving the environmental performance of operations of the Government of Canada.

The President of the Treasury Board is also responsible for reporting on the progress of the federal government in improving the environmental performance of its operations in support of the strategy’s Low-Carbon Government Goal, in such time that this information can be included in the government-wide report on progress in implementing the strategy.

As with all other ministers of departments and agencies subject to the strategy, the President of the Treasury Board is responsible for developing a departmental sustainable development strategy [Act, 11(1)] for TBS.

3.2.1 Centre for Greening Government

Established in 2016, TBS’s Centre for Greening Government, tracks the federal government’s emissions centrally, coordinates efforts across government, and drives results to make sure the Government of Canada meets its objectives.

The Centre for Greening Government engages in the following government-wide activities:

  • analyzing and reporting
  • providing policy and operational support
  • setting requirements for federal organizations to deliver results and achieve performance goals
  • establishing communities of practice to identify best practices and lessons learned in greening actions from federal partners and provincial, territorial and other jurisdictions

3.3 Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) supports the Minister of Environment and Climate Change by promoting the application of SEA to federal government policy, planning and program proposals by providing departments and agencies with SEA guidance and training. CEAA will encourage departments to apply SEA to Memoranda to Cabinet and documents that provide advice to Cabinet.

The guidelines for implementing the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals were updated with the tabling of the first strategy in Parliament in 2010.The guidelines instruct departments to consider a proposal’s impact on the achievement of the strategy’s goals and targets when undertaking an SEA. In order to make environmental decision-making more accountable and transparent to Parliament, SEA public statements should include a description of a proposal’s important environmental effects and potential impacts on the goals and targets of the strategy.

3.4 Government departments and agencies

The act mandates agencies named in the act’s Schedule and departments named in Schedule I of the Financial Administration Act to prepare departmental sustainable development strategies (DSDSs) that comply with and contribute to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. Annex 4 of the 2016 to 2019 strategy contains a list of departments and agencies required to produce DSDSs.

2017 to 2020 DSDSs must be tabled within one year of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (by October 6, 2017).

In support of transparency and consistency with departmental reporting, departments and agencies commit to the full three-year cycle of the strategy and to reporting information and results annually. Departments and agencies are encouraged to develop and implement systems and procedures to monitor DSDS progress and results. 

In addition, departments and agencies:

  • participate in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy Interdepartmental DG and ADM Committees and working groups that may be established to support the strategy’s development, implementation and reporting
  • provide the Sustainable Development Office with information and approvals required to develop updates to the e-strategy, the Progress Report, and any other related work products
  • select and/or use indicators that will monitor, measure and report on progress of the goals and targets to which they contribute or lead
  • deliver on the sustainable development targets they contribute to or lead
  • review and comment on draft strategies and progress reports
  • track progress toward completion of their respective departmental actions [Act, 9(2)]
  • implement guidance developed by ECCC, TBS, Privy Council Office and/or CEAA in support of the strategy
  • report annually on their specific contributions to the strategy
  • respond to requests for information in support of the performance measurement framework
  • assist organizations within ministerial portfolios that are not subject to the act in identifying and reporting on strategy-related activities
  • work with the Sustainable Development Office, as required, to engage the public and stakeholders and to incorporate public comments into the strategy
  • conduct SEAs for policy, plan and program proposals, and consider the scope and nature of the likely environmental effects, including impacts on the goals and targets set out the strategy

3.5 Voluntary departments or agencies

The act strives to improve the transparency and accountability of environmental decision-making by providing a whole-of-government picture of actions and results to achieve environmental sustainability. Federal departments or agencies that are not named in the act are encouraged to participate to ensure that all relevant federal actions are reflected in the strategy and subsequent progress reports.  

Organizations not subject to the act can contribute targets, indicators, short-term milestones, and/or contributing actions to the strategy. In support of transparency and consistency with departmental reporting, such organizations commit to the full three-year cycle of the strategy and to reporting information and results annually through existing organizational reporting processes. This will ensure the robustness and completeness of data when aggregated results are reported. 

3.6 Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (the commissioner) provides Parliamentarians with objective, independent analysis and recommendations on the federal government’s efforts to protect the environment and foster sustainable development. As required under the act [section 9(4)], the commissioner is legally mandated to review the draft strategy and comment as to whether the targets and implementation strategies can be assessed.

The commissioner is also required under the Auditor General Act [section 23(3)] to review and comment on all Federal Sustainable Development Strategy progress reports, focusing particularly on the fairness of performance information.

The commissioner is mandated to review DSDSs and sustainable development reports to determine the extent to which departmental objectives, plans, actions and results contribute to implementing the strategy and meeting its targets. Recent departmental audits have focused on the implementation of the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals and its related guidelines.

3.7 Governance: committees and working groups

3.7.1 Interdepartmental Assistant Deputy Minister Committee

The Interdepartmental ADM Committee, chaired by the ADM of the Strategic Policy Branch at ECCC, provides strategic direction, advances thinking, and makes decisions on key issues associated with implementing the act. ADMs provide advice to ministers on key issues including, for example, the management framework, goals and targets, and the content and structure of the strategy and progress reports.

The committee is composed of an ADM from each of the departments and agencies bound by the act as well as those participating on a voluntary basis. Representatives are expected to brief their respective ministers on a variety of decisions including final decisions related to the act, strategy or progress reports. The committee is supported by the Sustainable Development Office.

3.7.2 Interdepartmental Director General Committee

The Interdepartmental DG Committee, chaired by the DG of the Sustainability Directorate at ECCC with input from the Executive Director of the Centre for Greening Government at TBS, provides operational direction and guidance. It also discusses key issues including, for example, the implementation of the act and development of goals, targets and implementation strategies for the strategy. 

The DG Committee is a venue for the Sustainable Development Office and Centre for Greening Government to share information related to the strategy and/or the progress report, including such items as audits by the commissioner, communication plans and environmental indicators. The committee plays additional roles as necessary.

This committee serves as a “plenary” forum with any policy, planning and management framework working groups that may be established under them. The committee is composed of a DG from each of the departments and agencies bound by the act as well as those participating on a voluntary basis. Representatives are expected to brief their DGs in preparation for DG Committee meetings. The committee is supported by the Sustainable Development Office.

The Centre for Greening Government also coordinates DG and ADM Committees on Greening Government that meet at least monthly.

3.7.3 Other working groups

Other working groups may be established and led by the Sustainable Development Office or the Centre for Greening Government as required to carry out certain tasks and facilitate interdepartmental engagement. These may be established at any level, for example, at the director or working level, and will meet on mutually agreed upon schedule to achieve goals outlined by Sustainable Development Office or the Centre for Greening Government.

3.7.4 Key operating principles for committees

  • a) Decision-making: Committees operate, to the extent possible, on a consensus basis. The decision-making process is practical, transparent, inclusive, and in the interest of meeting the requirements of the act while balancing the needs of departments/agencies. As appropriate, information is presented to relevant Deputy Minister Committees (such as the Public Service Management Advisory Committee) for issues management. In the event that consensus cannot be reached, ECCC will make decisions that uphold the requirements of the act as the highest priority. 
  • b) Frequency of meetings: The DG Committee will meet at least quarterly and more frequently when required prior to the tabling of each strategy and progress report. ADM Committee meetings will be on an ad-hoc basis at the recommendation of the DG Committee.
  • c) Call to action focus: meetings should have clear agenda, be short, and include a call to action focus and next steps.  

3.8 Parliamentarians

The act requires that the strategy be tabled in both the House of Commons and the Senate. The act also requires that a committee from the House and the Senate review the development and implementation of the strategy. The House Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development and the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources are the principal venues for review of the strategy by Parliamentarians. In compliance with the act, both committees receive the draft strategy at the start of the legislated 120-day public consultation period.

3.9 Sustainable Development Advisory Council

In compliance with the act, the Sustainable Development Advisory Council (the council) is created and chaired by the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. The council is responsible for providing advice to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change on drafts of the strategy. Members represent each province and territory as well as Indigenous peoples, environmental non-governmental organizations, business, and labour. Members are appointed by, and report directly to, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change as prescribed by the act.

3.10 Stakeholders, Indigenous Peoples, and the public

Stakeholders, who include Parliamentarians, the council, the commissioner, Indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations, academia, business and industry associations and Canadians, play a major role in developing the strategy by providing input and feedback on draft strategies. As mandated by the act, the Sustainable Development Office must consult with stakeholders and Canadians for feedback and input into the strategy for a period of not less than 120 days. Comments received are summarized in a consultation synthesis report produced and posted online by the Sustainable Development Office, and inform the final strategy and subsequent progress reports.

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