Assessment of the Sustainable Development Strategy 2001-2004

To prepare our new strategy, it was important for us to review our past sustainable development performance and lessons learned. We assessed the Sustainable Development Strategy 2001-2004 in two ways: first, our performance in implementing the targets of the strategy; and second, the results of internal and external reviews.


The Sustainable Development Strategy 2001-2004 was built on the foundation of the 1997 strategy. It put forward four goals to contribute to sustainable development: prepare managers, enable employees, establish green operations, and enhance programs. The first two goals were intended to help managers and employees integrate sustainable development "thinking and doing" into all aspects of the CRA's business. They were geared to prepare the way for positive outcomes on the other two substantive goals, where we took action to reduce the negative impacts of our operations and programs on the environment.

The strategy enabled us to substantially complete the framework that manages the development, implementation, and measurement of sustainable development at the CRA. With the combined effort of our national SD Network and employees, we completed the majority of the targets in the Sustainable Development Strategy 2001-2004.


Goal 1 - Prepare Managers: By finalizing the Sustainable Development Policy, we outlined the responsibilities of the various agency stakeholders, including employees. We formalized a Learning Strategy for Sustainable Development, which directs how to integrate sustainable development into our learning culture. We improved the performance reporting process by developing an electronic reporting tool for use by the SD Network - further improvements will continue into the next strategy. We continued work to include sustainable development considerations in the business planning process by providing a sustainable development checklist for use by planners, and by piloting the SD Lens 4 to enhance its application.

Goal 2 - Enable Employees: We sought to engage employees through awareness tools, events, and other initiatives. We established a sustainable development knowledge centre on our internal Web site by launching the SD Toolkit. It was designed to be a fun and interactive electronic learning tool, packed with information and practical tips for the workplace, at home, and when traveling. We also prepared a sustainable development orientation manual for new employees. We promoted three annual Agency-wide events-Earth Day, Canadian Environment Week, and Waste Reduction Week. Environment Week was the most widely supported event, with employee participation for Commuter Challenge-an activity for the Week-continually increasing. Finally, we responded to our legislated responsibilities by providing specialized environmental training for targeted employees.

Goal 3 - Green Operations: We progressed further on developing our Environmental Management System (EMS), which is our way to systematically manage our environmental issues 5 . We developed Environmental Management Programs (EMPs) for the significant aspects of our operations. These range from fleet management, procurement, and paper, to facility issues such as solid waste. Each EMP includes targets and measures to effectively manage each environmental aspect. The EMPs are updated annually, and in 2002-2003, we completed the inaugural year of implementation. Achievement highlights included:

Goal 4 - Enhance Programs: In rolling out the 3-year strategy, we had planned to use the first two years to focus our efforts on capacity building, and the last year to address our program areas. Most program targets in the strategy related to initiatives that would have been pursued within the normal course of business and cannot be solely credited to the influence of the sustainable development strategy. These mostly relate to the Government Online drive towards electronic service delivery that supports ad-hoc paper savings. We are not yet in a position to systematically measure paper savings resulting from electronic services; however, this is an issue that will be addressed in the third strategy.

Assessments and lessons learned

The assessment of Sustainable Development Strategy 2001-2004 included an independent external assessment, an internal audit 6 of the sustainable development program, consultations with the SD Network, discussions with the Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, direction from senior management, and the experience of the SD Division in implementing targets.

An independent external assessment was done to compare the strategy to other national and international strategies; interviews were conducted with members of the SD Network; and a plan and direction for preparing the third strategy proposed. The main conclusions of the assessment were that we are on the right track and should not change the formula of the strategy. It was suggested that we strengthen the strategy's action plan by adopting a results-based approach. This approach shows the logical progression of how activities link to targets, objectives, goals, and, ultimately, longer-term outcomes.

We conducted an internal audit of the sustainable development program from December 2002 to February 2003. The objectives were to:

The internal audit reported that major successes were achieved in developing the sustainable development program and in planning, while reasonable success was achieved in implementing the strategy. Monitoring and reporting on sustainable development progress were less successful as was integrating sustainable development into our business. Several of the recommendations proposed in the audit are being addressed as targets and activities in the third strategy.

Our consultations with the SD Network confirmed that it was essential that we continue to increase employee awareness of and engagement in sustainable development. This would be greatly helped by providing more tools and guidance for employees responsible for integrating sustainable development into planning, reporting, and auditing processes.

We solicited the advice of the Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development on ways to improve our strategy. The Office confirmed the value of using a results-based approach and encouraged us to clearly demonstrate how the strategy would support and link to our corporate objectives and initiatives. They also suggested that we clearly explain the context and horizon for our goals and objectives and show their evolution from one strategy to the next.

The findings from these sources confirmed many of our own observations, and consequently, we identified areas for improvement that have been addressed in the third strategy.

Since our first strategy in 1997, we have learned a tremendous amount and garnered increased support along the way. To date, most progress has been realized during implementation of our second strategy (2001-2004), and we are improving each year.

Visit the sustainable development page on the CRA Web site for more information on its annual performance on sustainable development at

4 A federal interdepartmental working group developed the SD Lens. The CRA tailored it for internal use.

5 The EMS is comparable to the ISO 14001 standard.

6 The Office of the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development recommends that Departments/Agencies conduct an internal audit and use the findings to update their strategies.

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