Even if you’re not familiar with the acronym ESG, you’ll understand the importance of environmental, social, and governance issues.

While it’s easy to make claims that you’re doing the right thing in these areas, that’s no longer enough. Customers, investors, regulators, employees and others are demanding transparency and accountability around ESG goals, metrics and progress.

The UK Government is tackling environmental issues in public sector activities through what it calls Greening Government Commitments. These set out the actions government departments and their agencies should take to reduce their impact.

New commitments have been set out for the period from 2021 to 2025. They include targets to:

  • Reduce water consumption
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Minimise waste and promote resource efficiency.

They also set out commitments for departments to:

  • Improve sustainable procurement
  • Develop and deliver Nature Recovery Plans
  • Develop and deliver Climate Change Adaptation Strategies
  • Reduce environmental impacts from ICT and digital services.

You can view the details here and compare it to the earlier version here.


Who’s affected

The commitments apply to the office and non-office estate of central government departments and their Executive Agencies, Non-Ministerial Departments and executive Non-Departmental Public Bodies, unless specifically exempted. 

The targets

Except for greenhouse gas emissions, the targets are aggregate central government targets. They are not minimum performance targets for individual departments. They do, nonetheless, act as a guide.

Key changes compared to 2016 to 2020

  • The baseline year is changed from 2009 – 2010 to 2017 – 2018.  This reflects the current government estate and ensures the government builds on the progress achieved since the earlier period.
  • Targets on emissions, water, waste and domestic flights are more stretching
  • New measures are introduced around biodiversity, climate adaptation and food waste
  • There are transparent reporting requirements for biodiversity and climate adaptation
  • Targets are reorganised as either headline commitments or sub-commitments. Departments can commit to common overall objectives, with sub-commitments contributing to the headline goal
  • The target framework applies between April 2021 and March 2025. However, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government may review the framework before 2025.


Sustainability reporting should provide transparency on performance in a public sector organisation year-on-year. Organisations are also encouraged to report beyond the minimum requirements, detailing their economic, social, and environmental impacts. This should include how these impacts are affected by their policies, procurement and operations. 

Organisations are encouraged to show how sustainability is an essential characteristic within their strategic objectives, operations and policymaking. 

It is also important to understand and manage the risks inherent in integrated reporting. Additional context must be given to explain areas of particular focus and those most material to the organisation.

HM Guidance

HM Treasury has published guidance on reporting. It applies to all those bodies that fall within the scope of the Greening Government Commitments and which produce annual reports and accounts per HM Treasury's Government Financial Reporting Manual. 

The guidance sets out minimum reporting requirements, offers best practice examples and details the principles to be adopted when preparing the information.   

We’ve included the link if you want to view the full guidance here.

Contact Us

We can help you understand any part of the revised Greening Government Commitments and the sustainability reporting requirements. 

If you’d like to learn more, just call us.

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