Behind the scenes

About the contents

The Executive Summary provides high-level snapshots as of 2015 of the progress of the implementation of the 2013–2016 Strategy. The goals and targets presented in the report were included in the 2013–2016 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy that was tabled in Parliament in November 2013; they will remain in effect until the next FSDS is tabled in Parliament.

Subsequent sections provide contextual information about the challenges being addressed—as well as those remaining—to support a fair and balanced presentation of the extent and nature of progress made. Links throughout the report ensure that readers can access further detail and updates as these become available. Annex D of this report also sets out notes and data considerations that supplement the information provided by the indicators.

For specific information about the programming contributions and financial commitments made by the 33 participating federal departments and agencies toward their commitments in the 2013–2016 FSDS, readers are also encouraged to explore the departmental websites of FSDS departments and agencies. Departments report annually on their progress under the FSDS through Departmental Sustainable Development Strategies. These reports provide the most detailed and current information on what departments have taken on and what they have done to support the implementation of the 2013–2016 FSDS.

What we know: Indicator updates

This progress report presents the federal government’s progress in implementing the FSDS as shown by the indicators of the 2013–2016 FSDS. To put the indicator results into context, it should be noted that while federal actions contribute to the achieving environmental outcomes, many other factors also play a role, including time. In some cases, results of initiatives may quickly become evident, while in other cases considerable time may be required for the environment to recover from a particular state or respond to specific efforts.

The indicators used to track progress were identified over the course of the development of the 2013–2016 FSDS. Many are part of the suite of indicators provided by the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI) program; others are drawn from departmental performance reporting. In a few cases, interim indicators are presented to provide some meaningful information about targets while the development of more comprehensive indicators is still under way (for example, the indicators concerning climate change adaptation).

While specific notes on data considerations are provided in Annex D, some broad principles and issues about the data sources and methods used by CESI are provided below for additional context about the results reported.

CESI indicators are developed using scientifically recognized and valid methodology. The data used to calculate indicators are credible, robust and of high quality; they originate from a variety of sources.

In most cases, the data collected are subject to rigorous data quality assurance and quality control processes and are also reviewed and validated by experts. Nevertheless, detailed and robust data are not always readily available to develop “state-of-the-art” indicators—sometimes proxy or representative data sources must be used even though they do not permit an assessment of the full area under examination.

There is often a time lag between the last year of data available and the year of publication of the indicators. The time lag is due to several important but time-consuming operations such as verification of data, databases compilation, data analysis and reporting. The indicators are then developed, validated, and material is drafted. The indicators then undergo a thorough technical review before final approval and publication. Indicator values may also be influenced over time by one or more factors, including economic conditions, natural variation, weather and global developments.

Each CESI indicator is accompanied by a data sources and methods (DSM) document that includes the rationale for the indicator, a description of methods used to develop it, the spatial and temporal coverage of the data, and caveats and limitations. The DSM provides users of the data and indicators with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the information presented.

The performance measures related to the greening of government operations, established over the course of the development of the 2010–2013 FSDS and the 2013–2016 FSDS, are drawn from the information contained in the Theme IV section of the Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy (DSDS) Supplementary Information Table in annual departmental reports. Where there are common indicators specified, the data are aggregated to indicate government-wide progress. In other cases, such as for green procurement, unique departmental mandates and activities lead to varying departmental performance measures, which do not allow for compilation of government-wide results.

Assessing progress on greening government operations relies on either measuring the outcome or a proxy for an outcome. For example, the federal government measures the overall federal achievement in reducing GHG emissions from data supplied by departments using a standardized methodology, while other indicators require departments to demonstrate the implementation or completion of specific activities that will contribute to reducing the government’s environmental footprint (for example, that departments have a plan in place to deal with electronic and electrical surplus equipment).

For greening government operations, 26 departments and agencies are responsible for gathering the data and performance information and reporting on the applicable performance measures outlined in the DSDS Supplementary Information Table. These data allow the government to aggregate the information and prepare a complete, accurate and balanced account of overall progress by the government in reducing its environmental footprint.

Who was involved

Under the Federal Sustainable Development Act, the Sustainable Development Office (SDO) is responsible for providing the Minister of Environment and Climate Change with a Progress Report every three years for tabling in both Chambers of Parliament. The SDO led the development of this report, working with the information provided by the 33 FSDS departments and agencies; however, specific departmental contributions to progress under the 2013–2016 FSDS are fully presented on the websites of departments listed in Annex B.

For more information about how the FSDS departments and agencies support FSDS implementation and monitoring, please see the FSDS Management Framework.

A word about timing

While much of the report was completed over the summer of 2015, more recent data has been included where possible. Readers are encouraged to consult the CESI website for the most up-to-date information on environmental sustainability indicators included in the CESI suite as it becomes available.

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