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New Inquiry Launched on Sustainability in BIS

17 July 2013

The Environmental Audit Committee is today launching a new inquiry into Sustainability in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).  

The National Audit office has produced for the Committee a briefing on BIS (published on the NAO website), which examines the extent to which sustainability is embedded in the Department’s governance, policy making, operations and procurement.  The briefing includes an analysis of the potential impacts of BIS policies and examples of the range of initiatives within the Department which are intended to promote sustainable economic growth (Figure 7 of the briefing). The NAO  has identified that BIS could do more to assess the range of impacts associated with its activities on a systematic basis, identify priority areas for embedding sustainability, and consider the potential for mitigating potential negative impacts.

The NAO also examined the process of policy appraisal and the evidential basis for new initiatives in relation to three case examples — the (i) Regional Growth Fund, (ii) higher education funding reform (including student fees changes),  and (iii) the Government’s Industrial Strategy.  These highlight the kinds of policy impacts which the department has taken into account and the difficulty of evaluating longer term indirect impacts such as, for example, potential negative environmental impacts arising from economic growth.

The Committee will examine the issues raised in the NAO briefing in early September. To assist that examination, the Committee is inviting written evidence on the matters and issues in the NAO brief.  Submissions should be sent to the Committee by 23 August (guidance on how to submit evidence is available on the Committee’s website). In particular, we would welcome observations on:

(i) the extent to which BIS has adequately identified priority areas for embedding sustainability and sought to promote positive sustainability impacts and mitigate negative impacts (Figure 7 in the NAO brief); and

(ii) the extent to which sustainability has been considered in the three case examples cited in the NAO briefing.

Further information

This inquiry by the Committee follows a recent report examining progress across Government departments in embedding sustainable development structures and processes, which signalled that this BIS-focused inquiry would be undertaken (First Report of Session 2013-14, HC 202, June 2013) (PDF 1.93 MB).

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