Amending the Federal Sustainable Development Act

A review of effects on the environment of amending the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

This initiative amends the Federal Sustainable Development Act (the Act), which requires the Government of Canada to develop and implement a Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS), once every 3 year period. The FSDS outlines the federal government’s sustainable development priorities, establishes goals and targets, and lists actions to achieve them.

Through past consultations, stakeholders, including the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD), asked for an Act and future FSDSs that:

  • strengthen transparency and accountability
  • focus on sustainable development
  • support a whole-of-government approach to sustainable development, and
  • include actions taken by others outside of the Government of Canada

In June 2016, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (ENVI) introduced a report with 13 recommendations to amend the Act. In support of the Committee’s report, the government introduced Bill C-57, an Act to Amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act in June 2017.

Overall, the amendments will modernise the Act by:

  • clarifying its purpose
  • strengthening transparency and accountability
  • improving the reporting and planning cycles
  • expanding departmental participation
  • focusing on results and delivery
  • increasing stakeholder participation

Expected outcomes of the initiative

The amendments to the Act will have several outcomes, all of which could result in environmental benefits. These include:

  • strengthened accountabilities to parliament and Canadians on environmental-related goals and targets
  • coverage of a broader range of departments and agencies, which will support greater policy coherence across the government on a wider range of environmental and sustainability issues
  • a more collaborative and inclusive approach to developing future FSDSs, which will lead to more effective action and encourage departments and agencies to identify and address a broader range of environmental effects within their work
  • greater participation from stakeholders to ensure a wider range of stakeholder views will be considered
  • flexibility within the Act to address future opportunities presented by any domestic or international initiatives

The amendments made through this initiative are expected to result in stronger FSDSs, and will build on past FSDS progress related to goals such as:

  • effective action on climate change
  • low-carbon government
  • clean energy
  • healthy coasts and oceans
  • sustainably managed lands and forests
  • connecting Canadians with nature
  • safe and healthy communities

Measures are also in place to monitor and report on the FSDS’s progress. Results of the FSDS will continue to be communicated at least once every 3 years through the FSDS progress report, and departmental sustainable development strategies will be reported on annually through Departmental Results Reports. Amendments to the Act also require that it be reviewed every 5 years to ensure continuous improvement.


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