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Moves towards greening government already saving £60-70m a year

22 July 2010

Stepping up scale of ambition for sustainable government is “immediate financial imperative”, says new report. 

A new report published today (Thursday 22 July) by The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) shows that moves towards greater sustainability made by the previous administration already save government £60-70 million every year (iii), and calls for the Coalition Government to step up its green ambitions in order to benefit from further efficiency savings.

Becoming the ‘Greenest Government Ever’: achieving sustainability in operations and procurement, is the fifth of the SDC’s annual watchdog reports which scrutinise Government’s progress towards more sustainable operations. It finds that the savings made to date are only the tip of the iceberg, and concludes that by extending its commitment to become the “Greenest Government ever” beyond carbon to a wider range of sustainability issues including water and waste - would enable the new Government to save hundreds of millions more over the course of this Parliament.

Analysis of progress made under the previous Government suggests that, despite the slow pace of change, improvements in energy and water consumption, waste, recycling and road transport performance are likely to add up to £300-350 million over the next five years, even if no further progress is made. This includes:

  • £13.7M fuel savings from reduced road travel in 2008-09 alone. This also saved the equivalent of 1.7million hours of staff time – over 1,000 full time staff working a full year – without counting the savings from reduced car purchases, repairs and administration (iv)
  • Savings of 18 million cubic metres of water – the equivalent of 7,200 Olympic swimming pools, adding up to £13M worth of water bills in 2008-09(v)
  • Landfill cost savings from reducing waste by 126,000 tonnes in 2009-08 – the equivalent of the total waste produced by over 250,000 UK individuals(vi)

The report estimates that, if the new Government succeeds in meeting its commitment to cut carbon emissions from Government offices by 10% over 12 months, this will result in benefits to society equivalent to £13 million, in addition to any reduction in energy bills(vii).

However, it argues that focusing on carbon alone is not enough, calculating that:

  • Cutting road transport by Government staff by a further 10% could save £7.5M in fuel costs, 14,927 tonnes of carbon, and around 102,000 days of employee time with minimal investment
  • A further 10% reduction in waste arisings and water consumption would allow Government to benefit from savings of a further £6.5 million annually(viii)
  • Increasing the lifespan of staff computers from three to five years is already saving the Department of Work and Pensions £35 million. Adopting similar approaches to demand management across Government could multiply the savings many times
  • Meeting the 2022 target for energy usage set out in the Low Carbon Transition Plan would deliver between £79 million and £235 million savings from reduced electricity, gas and petroleum bills(ix)

Sustainable Development Commission Chair Will Day said:

“The Coalition Government’s commitment to become the ‘greenest Government ever’ is a vitally important move if the decisions we make now are to hold good in the long term. Beyond the general environmental, social and economic benefits of greening government, there is an immediate financial imperative to do so.

“Sustainable development is no peripheral, nice-to-have concept for prosperous times. It is the best way of delivering more for less, while ensuring that the drive for efficiencies doesn’t cost more in the long run.”

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