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Preparations for Sustainable Development Strategy – Now and for the Future
Preparations for Natural Resources Canada’s second Sustainable Development Strategy began immediately after tabling the first. During the three year period since the initial strategy was launched, NRCan has:
- revisited and evaluated Departmental goals and objectives;
- established time-bound, measurable targets;
- identified natural resource reliant communities, in order to establish a dialogue with representatives from these communities;
- consulted with stakeholders on a performance measurement framework;
- strengthened the Department’s management system;
- reported to stakeholders and Parliamentarians on progress;
- conducted an internal review of the Department’s first SDS;
- evaluated changing circumstances that have influenced the development of the second SDS.
Central to these preparations has been an ongoing process of citizen engagement. Indeed, over the three-year period, a broad range of participants throughout the country have been involved in the process of implementing and developing the Sustainable Development Strategy, providing NRCan with valuable advice and information from each sector of society.
Review of Goals, Objectives and Targets
Early in 1998, senior management saw a gap in the performance measurement framework introduced in the first SDS. The Department’s efforts to contribute to the safety and security of Canadians were not adequately integrated into the goals structure. In response to this gap, a new goal and associated objectives were developed in order to capture this important social dimension of sustainable development. As well, the Department’s performance measurement framework was amended to include these changes. In addition, draft performance indicators were developed to respond to the new goals and objectives while draft indicators for the existing goals and objectives were revisited. Following these revisions, the Department consulted with stakeholders on the performance measurement framework, to arrive at a meaningful set of indicators that would effectively communicate progress and results.
The Report of the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development, in May 1998, recommended that departments establish clear targets to measure progress towards sustainable development. NRCan addressed this recommendation by establishing 125 time-bound, measurable targets for the 68 action commitments within the first SDS. In addition, targets responding to the performance measurement indicators were established.
Further to this recommendation, NRCan developed a Sustainable Development Action Items Management System (SD-AIMS) in 1999. This system is a Web-based tracking and reporting tool that has enabled the Department to expedite reporting of progress and performance on Sustainable Development Strategy action commitments to senior management, staff and stakeholders.
A Continuing Dialogue with Stakeholders
In January 2000, a report entitled Sustainable Development: From Commitment to Action was distributed from the Minister of Natural Resources to the Department’s stakeholders, including industry, academic institutions, communities, environmental groups, other governments, aboriginal associations, Members of Parliament and Senators. A message from NRCan’s Deputy Minister was sent to all NRCan employees to notify them of the document on the Department’s Web site.
This progress report was accompanied by a short questionnaire, Issues and Expectations. It intended to gain feedback on progress made to date on the first SDS, to understand the key issues and concerns of Canadians regarding the sustainable development of natural resources, and to gauge expectations for the Department’s second SDS. The progress report and questionnaire were also made available on the sustainable development page of NRCan’s Web site (http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/dmo/susdev).
We received a total of 105 responses to the questionnaire, by e-mail, fax and mail. Although over 80 percent of responses indicated that NRCan is meeting or exceeding expectations with respect to progress, a number of suggestions were made on ways to improve. The most common suggestion was the need for more detailed reporting of progress.
Also in January 2000, a presentation was made to NRCan’s management committee on the progress made toward implementing the first SDS and the path forward for developing SDS – Now and for the Future. The committee provided direction on areas of focus for the new strategy, including the need for an expanded focus on the social dimension of sustainable development.
An independent Advisory Panel composed of thirteen representative stakeholders was then assembled in the spring to review the results of Issues and Expectations and to provide guidance for preparing SDS – Now and for the Future. This advisory panel identified specific areas where NRCan leadership is important, a number of domestic and international changes that have influenced the issues and approaches that NRCan should consider, themes to address in SDS – Now and for the Future, and desired outcomes for 2003. The approach to SDS – Now and for the Future was then presented to key stakeholder groups, including the Minister’s Advisory Council on Science and Technology and the Environment Committee of the Canadian Council for International Business, and other federal departments. This approach described the outline for the discussion paper, identifying the key areas for action that we would take as well as our plan to distribute the document and to meet with stakeholders, and then to develop the final document for tabling in Parliament.
Review of the 1997 Sustainable Development Strategy
In the spring of 2000, NRCan’s Audit and Evaluation Branch conducted a review of the implementation status of the Department’s first SDS. The review concluded that NRCan has achieved much of what was committed to in the first SDS, and that the Department was well positioned to develop its successor.
However, the review identified five areas that would further enhance NRCan’s ability to respond to its sustainable development goals:
- NRCan would benefit from complete reporting of progress made against all of its SDS commitments, by providing explanations in cases where commitments have not been fully completed at the time of reporting, in addition to reporting on targets that have been met. The process for completing status or progress reports should also include clarification of the criteria used to determine whether commitments have been completed.
- NRCan should ensure that there is a framework in place to document the progress made against commitments, using consistent measurement criteria and documentation standards throughout the Department.
- NRCan should ensure that officers responsible for implementation are identified for future SDS commitments, and that the SDS-related accountabilities are clear and accepted by these individuals. This includes ensuring that such accountabilities are transferred to other individuals subsequent to staff changes and that the accountabilities are clearly documented.
- In developing the second SDS, NRCan should ensure it integrates the lessons learned from this exercise. This exercise would help managers draw from experiences of the first SDS. In turn, this knowledge could help ensure an appropriate balance between achievability of commitments and the need to “push the envelope” in terms of the Department’s response to the goal of sustainable development.
- NRCan’s electronic system for reporting on SDS commitments, SD-AIMS, should ensure that the system responds to users’ requirements.
As continuous improvement is key to advancing sustainable development, these suggestions will strengthen NRCan’s ability to implement the SDS. The recommendation to report on all commitments of the SDS in status or progress reports will be addressed through an upgrade to the Department’s Sustainable Development Action Items Management System (SD-AIMS).
We recognize the need to ensure consistent measurement standards and documentation, across all sectors, on the status of work against each commitment. We also recognize that individual sector coordinators and accountabilities could be more clearly documented. This will be addressed in the enhancement to SD-AIMS, and in the implementation of SDS – Now and for the Future.
Gearing up for SDS – Now and for the Future – Discussion Paper and Consultations
In the Spring of 2000, NRCan took the preliminary input from Issues and Expectations and the Advisory Panel to develop a discussion paper that would be used to conduct further consultations with stakeholders. The Department’s Sustainable Development team reviewed the action commitments from the first SDS with a view to building on existing commitments. In this regard, actions were analyzed to assess strategic opportunities for SDS – Now and for the Future.
The Path Forward to SDS 2000 – A Discussion Paper was distributed from the Minister to NRCan stakeholders in August 2000. The discussion paper proposed areas where NRCan could best make a difference, and laid out proposed actions that described how NRCan would make a difference. This enabled us to engage in a more complete discussion with our stakeholders – to determine what had really changed over the first three years, to propose actions that would address the most important sustainable development issues, and to evaluate these proposed actions with our stakeholders.
The discussion paper was accompanied by a short questionnaire, Actions and Expectations, intended to gather input from stakeholders on the actions that NRCan proposes to undertake for SDS – Now and for the Future. A message from NRCan’s Deputy Minister was sent to all NRCan employees to encourage them to read the document and to participate in the development of the new SDS. A second Advisory Panel was held to review The Path Forward in advance of distribution.
In summer/fall 2000, consultations with external stakeholders were held in Calgary, Halifax and Ottawa to obtain input on The Path Forward and proposed actions. Individuals representing academic institutions, private companies, industry associations, non-government organizations, aboriginal groups, municipalities, and provincial and federal departments attended the three sessions. Consultations were also held with NRCan staff in Edmonton, Dartmouth and Ottawa. NRCan’s sustainable development team met with other federal departments to identify proposed actions that may be undertaken jointly. As part of the consultation sessions, NRCan distributed the results of a review undertaken by the Department’s Audit and Evaluation Branch of the first Sustainable Development Strategy. The results of the consultations were published in a summary document entitled What You Said 2000 and distributed to participants. The Advisory Panel reviewed the final draft SDS – Now and for the Future in January 2001 to provide input prior to the document being tabled in Parliament.
Northern Sustainable Development Strategy
NRCan has been an active participant in the development of a federal Northern Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS), led by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Representatives of Environment Canada, NRCan, INAC, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Health Canada met with northerners in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit. These consultations gave these departments an opportunity to present their departmental sustainable development strategies, and to seek guidance on how to develop the NSDS.