How citizens and the UK government can impact sustainable development through legislation

The citizens of the UK need to start thinking about how they can get their act together and make sustainable development a high priority in their lives. Whether through personal or business decisions made daily, citizens make a significant impact on the futures of generations to come. Currently government organizations are discussing ways to shape up and ship out key contributors that enhance climate change and hinder sustainable living.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, the UK has agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 percent by 2012. The government has also set targets which include achieving carbon neutrality for the government office estate by 2012 and 30 percent reduction of emissions by 2020. The Climate Change Act of 2008 was introduced into parliament November 14, 2007 and was made law by November 26, 2008; and according to the background information provided on the DEFRA website its new approach will enhance the UK’s ability to adapt to the impact of climate change, establishing clear and regular accountability to the UK, parliament and devolved legislatures.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have taken the departmental lead on energy efficiency after the implementation of the Article V of the Energy Services Directive, which now requires the public sector to lead by example in reducing carbon emissions and targeting climate change. As a result, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) and other government departments will now work together to strengthen their strategic engagement with key sectors to ensure that their key suppliers and their supply chains have plans or have policies already in place that demonstrate their commitment to government specific CSR and sustainable development agendas.

Suppliers to government organizations will now be asked to undergo preliminary assessments to ascertain their current level of commitment and identify what impacts they are having on the environment; and consequently, their local communities. The information provided is planned to be used in formulated solutions geared towards aiding suppliers with the government supply chain in improving their performance in these areas. Suppliers are assessed on an organization’s awareness of current environmental & social concerns, such as carbon dioxide emissions and working conditions in the supply chain. The assessment explores seven key business areas (Code of Ethics, Governance, Personnel, Finance, Supply Chain, Operations & Communications) and assesses them against a general context of CSR (looking at key CSR themes e.g. Fair trade, protecting the environment), the Government’s agenda on sustainable development and how well an organisation engages with its stakeholders.

At the moment participation in these initiatives are not a mandatory requirement but new legislation may be in the works in the foreseeable future as the government acknowledges the growing importance of these agendas.