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ARCHIVED - Sustainable Development

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Sustainable Development Strategy 2007- 2009
Achieving Results

Measuring our Performance

Like all public organizations accountable to the government and responsible for the management of public goods, resources and facilities in the interest of Canadians, NRCan is expected to be transparent in its programs and initiatives.

Performance Measurement Glossary

Goal - A long-term and enduring benefit to Canadians that stems from NRCan’s mandate, vision and efforts. It establishes an overall sense of direction and sets the parameters for action.

Objective - The overall aim arising under each goal. Specifically, this will be the accumulation of successful actions, confirmed by the completion of stated targets and performance measures.

Outcome - An external consequence attributed, in part, to a policy, program or initiative resulting from the completion of associated targets. Outcomes are not within the control of a single organization, policy, program or initiative, but are within the area of NRCan’s influence. Outcomes in this strategy have been qualified over a period of three years.

Target - A measurable performance or success level that the Department plans to achieve within a specified time period. Targets can be either quantitative or qualitative and are appropriate for both outputs and outcomes.

Performance measure - An indicator used to provide a sense of the incremental progress, which is required to achieve the stated target.

Output - Direct products or services stemming from the activities of the Department, or its policies, programs or initiatives.

The SDS establishes a vision for sustainable development, and identifies key priorities for the Department to take action on over the three-year period of the strategy. The ability to measure progress towards established goals is a key aspect of good governance and essential to the gauging of success and ability to make adjustments mid-stream as necessary. As sustainable development is a process of change, evaluating progress along the way is critical.

The performance measurements are intended to quantify and qualify achievements. NRCan has benefited from the experience gained by reporting on our activities through the departmental framework in place for previous strategies, by way of the annual Departmental Performance Reports and supplementary on-line Progress Reports.

This experience has provided a sound foundation to enable reporting on the departmental commitments in this fourth Strategy, which contributes to the broader Government of Canada sustainable development goals.

Assessing progress towards the departmental and federal goals

Achieving Results presents commitments in the form of SMART targets—that is, targets that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. NRCan’s performance in meeting the targets will be evaluated by clear performance measures. The targets are arrayed around the three key goals, and their associated long-term objectives, that have been selected as the departmental priorities for sustainable development, providing the focus for the specific tasks to be achieved within the timeframe of this Strategy. These commitments also represent NRCan’s part in moving federal efforts towards the long-term objective of a harmonized approach to sustainable development.

In the context of our action on sustainable development on a broad level—as a key contributor to federal and international progress towards sustainability—the challenge is to ensure that the performance measures employed adequately reflect the intended outputs and outcomes. In order to address the gap between what is measurable and what is meaningful, the Department has taken a balanced approach by focusing on the intermediate steps towards achieving the intended goals.

Following advice offered in the guidance document "Coordinating the Fourth Round of Departmental Sustainable Development Strategies", the Department has identified a basket of key macro-level objectives to illustrate progress towards achieving the three key goals. These goals and objectives are intended to contribute to the six government-wide outcomes identified in the coordination document: Clean Air, Clean Water, Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Sustainable Development and Use of Natural Resources, Sustainable Communities, and Governance for Sustainable Development. The three Greening Government Operations priorities (building energy, vehicle fleet and procurement)are integrated within this suite of desired outcomes. Commitments undertaken by NRCan may contribute to more than one of the Department’s macro-level objectives, and may also reflect several stated federal goals. In Section II of this document, the targets that support progress toward achieving the federal sustainable development goals, as they relate to NRCan’s mandate, have been identified by way of a column marked "FG."

Progress in achieving the Department’s objectives will be verified at two levels first, by tracking progress towards each of the individual targets. Progress on targets is reported semi-annually through the Department’s online tracking system, the Sustainable Development Action Items Management System (SD-AIMS). Quite simply, this process verifies whether our micro actions are aligned to our broader indicators. We ask ourselves the question: "Did we achieve what we said we would achieve?" If necessary, we position ourselves to make adjustments to our actions in support of our longer-term vision. The year of completion for a target refers to fiscal year end. For example, a target scheduled for completion by 2008 will be met by March 31, 2009.

Performance measures are used as a second level of verification to ensure the targets have been completed—moving the general concept of sustainable development to concrete actions that have perceptible impact. They provide an early indication of challenges, and permit opportunities to enact corrective measures at the program level in a timely manner. Performance measurements are used to assess how the SDS actions are contributing to achieving the three goals set by the Department, and how we are performing within the context of the Government-wide priorities. We believe "what gets measured, gets managed, and what gets managed, gets improved." Therefore, 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)).

These two levels of reporting will be complemented by the Department’s work on its Program Activity Architecture (PAA), the foundation for the Department’s planning and reporting efforts. The PAA articulates a set of Department-wide strategic outcomes, and is one of the primary instruments of accountability to Parliament and Canadians; it provides a transparent set of measures against which NRCan’s progress and direction can be charted. This process is linked to the Departmental Performance Report, which employs a single outcome, which is based on a definition that incorporates sustainable development.

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