How central government can meet ESG demands

Central government is naturally the point from which all key decisions in the UK start. Whether it’s defence, international relations, public order, the economy or healthcare, it’s directly responsible for the wellbeing and prosperity of more than 65 million people. In a world where climate change is becoming more and more of a focal point over time, it is driving the public sector to seriously consider the sustainability of their processes.

The Government has already made its long-term commitment of getting the country as a whole to Net Zero carbon emissions by 2025. But beyond this, it’s also important that it’s seen to be taking meaningful action in many different areas, and to embrace more sustainable ways of running and delivering public services. This is vital in driving towards the Net Zero ambition, as it sets an example and encourages the public and British businesses to play their part.

Why ESG targets are so important for central government

The Government has firm ESG goals in place, in the form of the commitments set out in the Greening Government policy paper. The current edition, covering the period between 2021 and 2025, features several key areas where the Government and public bodies need to take action. Three in particular stand out:

  • Procuring sustainable products and services: continuing to buy more sustainable and efficient products and services wherever possible, and reporting on the extent to which this has been achieved
  • Reducing emissions: ensuring the entire Government car and van fleet is zero emissions at the tailpipe by the end of 2027; reducing emissions from domestic business flights by at least 30%; and encouraging regular reporting on the success of sustainability policies already in place
  • Minimising waste and promoting resource efficiency: this includes; cutting overall waste generation by 15%, increasing recycling rates to 70%, eliminating single-use plastics, measuring and reporting on food waste, and halving paper use

As the above goals demonstrate, there is much for the Government to do in order to meet these targets. No stone must be left unturned in looking for ways to reduce emissions, cut energy and water use, reduce waste and operate more efficiently.

Using sustainable processes to improve efficiency in central government

Technology can make a major contribution to enabling the achievement of these objectives. This is not only directly, but indirectly, through analytical insights that can identify where improvements can be made.

With regards to more direct changes being made, striving to halve paper use can make a significant difference to waste reduction, and to reducing the emissions created by paper manufacturing, distribution and the act of printing. However, central government still has the need to create, maintain, distribute and secure large volumes of documents. On-site scanning can digitise these operations and enable the storage of documents in secure digital archives, in turn this can help with compliance for public-interest documents being moved to the National Archives after 20 years.

Consumption monitoring is a vital part of helping Government bodies meet many of the reporting and assessment requirements set out in the Greening Government policy paper. If Government bodies can accurately quantify metrics around energy use, waste, recycling and so on, they can track the sustainability implications of different decisions. This makes it easy to make changes over time to drive new efficiencies and better sustainability rates.

How central government can benefit from sustainable IT

The two solutions above are leading examples of how technology and more sustainable approaches to IT can support a wider drive towards Net Zero and similar objectives. But the potential benefits don’t stop there – with the right solutions in place, Government should also gain from:

  • Better public engagement and transparency: with a clearer and more demonstrable commitment to sustainability, the public should have a better perception of Government and feel empowered to take similar action themselves
  • Stronger international relations: taking the lead on sustainability internationally will encourage other countries to look towards the UK as a way of informing their own strategies to fight climate change
  • More informed setting of future targets: with detailed reporting on consumption and efficiency, it becomes easier to understand how realistic future targets would be, and to set them based on empirical evidence

SCC has worked with central government for several years, providing various solutions including our suite of Document Services. 

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