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Sustainable Development Strategy
The ability to measure progress towards goals is essential to success within any organization, and it is a key aspect of good governance in the context of sustainable development. To ensure that NRCan’s actions are contributing to sustainable development on a broader level, transparent verification and evaluation of the Department’s performance underpins our approach to sustainable development.
NRCan is committed to raising the bar for sustainable development. In fact, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, the Treasury Broad Secretariat, and the Office of the Auditor General have all recognized NRCan as a best-practice department for its innovative and accountable approach to performance measurement. NRCan shares its expertise and unique approach with other organizations.
As NRCan has a mandate for ensuring the sustainable development of Canada’s natural resources, a great deal of the Department’s day-to-day work contributes to sustainable development. However, the purpose of the Sustainable Development Strategy is to put forward the ‘transformative pieces’—the guideposts that will stimulate action taking sustainable development to the next level, inspiring Canadians and influencing change in those critical areas where the Department is best positioned to make a real difference. In keeping with this purpose, NRCan—with guidance from our stakeholders—has chosen four key results to be the focal points for Moving Forward. NRCan’s approach to reporting on the Strategy is grounded in our experience and expertise in reporting on all departmental activities through the Performance Measurement Framework (PMF).
Assessing progress towards the four key results
Moving Forward presents commitments—actions supported by specific, time-bound targets—arrayed around the four key results that were deemed the most important objectives to be achieved within the timeframe of the Strategy. These commitments represent NRCan’s part in moving Canada towards the Department’s long-term vision of sustainable development. While NRCan has a significant role to play in realizing the key results for Canada, they cannot be attained by NRCan acting alone.
For that reason, we selected a suite of macro-level metrics to illustrate progress towards achieving the four key results. These metrics are listed on the Strategy’s Summary Chart (see pages 23-25). Actions undertaken by NRCan may contribute to more than one macro-level indicator; for example, building skills and providing information can both contribute to increased SD capacity within the natural resources sector. However, as skills themselves are difficult to measure, we will be looking at broader metrics such as employment opportunities.
These metrics are complemented by verification of progress on the targets set out for each of the actions in the strategy. This progress is reported semi-annually through the Department’s online tracking system, the Sustainable Development Action Items Management System (SD-AIMS). Quite simply, if our micro actions are aligned to our broader indicators, and if we can answer the question: “Did we do what we said we would do?”, then we are positioned to make adjustments to our actions in support of our longer-term vision.
Performance Measurement Framework
This two-tiered approach will be complemented by NRCan’s Performance Measurement Framework (PMF) established in SDS 2001. The PMF is the foundation for all of the Department’s planning and reporting documents. It articulates a set of Department-wide strategic outcomes, with associated objectives and performance. The Framework is designed to increase NRCan’s accountability to Canadians and parliamentarians by providing a transparent set of measures against which NRCan’s progress and direction can be charted over a four-year reporting cycle.
As part of the continuous-improvement philosophy, NRCan is currently in the process of assessing these indicators. A four-year cycle was completed in October 2003; therefore it will be necessary to examine the indicators within the SDS to establish which are relevant for the updated PMF. (The PMF is currently under review. It is due to be formalized in 2004 and set out in the 2005-06 departmental Report on Plans and Priorities).
Performance indicators may also be used to assess how the SDS actions are contributing to achieving the four key results. Each indicator is an objectively assessable measure: either a numerical target, a directional target (i.e. maintain or improve performance), or a finding based on trend analysis and monitoring (used when it is difficult to determine the Department’s contribution to a ‘macro’ indicator of high importance to NRCan).
This process of accountability and transparency allows Canadians to verify whether NRCan is meeting its mandate, and whether that mandate is contributing toward the broader goals of sustainable development.
By monitoring the performance of the SDS, Natural Resources Canada is demonstrating our commitment to making measurable progress towards the sustainable development goals that are important to Canadians.