Sustainable Development Strategy for the Office of the Auditor General of Canada—2020–2023
Section 1: Introduction to the Office of the Auditor General of Canada’s Sustainable Development Strategy
The 2019 to 2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy presents the Government of Canada’s sustainable development goals and targets, as required by the Federal Sustainable Development Act. The Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG) adheres to the principles of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and has drafted this Sustainable Development Strategy for the OAG. Since 1997, the OAG has voluntarily prepared and issued sustainable development strategies. Its 2020–2023 strategy continues this practice.
Section 2: Sustainable Development Context in the Office of the Auditor General of Canada
The OAG contributes to sustainable development primarily through its direct audit engagements (performance audits and special examinations) and financial audits of federal and territorial departments, agencies, and Crown corporations. The OAG’s audits and reviews assist Parliament and territorial legislative assemblies in their oversight of government spending and operations.
On behalf of the Auditor General of Canada, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is responsible for auditing the federal government’s management of environmental and sustainable development issues, reviewing the implementation of federal departments’ sustainable development strategies, and overseeing the environmental petitions process. Among other things, the Commissioner’s audits and reviews examine whether the government takes a coordinated, government-wide approach to managing sustainable development and takes sustainable development issues into account when planning and delivering programs and services.
Section 3: Contributions to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Its 17 Sustainable Development Goals
The OAG is committed to aligning its audit work with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the underlying 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Appendix A). It does this by supporting the 4 approaches to the agenda, as defined by the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI). Canada is a member of INTOSAI, which is an umbrella organization for national government audit offices. The 4 approaches were set out in the INTOSAI link to a portable document format (PDF) fileStrategic Plan 2017–2022 and are reflected in the INTOSAI link to a portable document format (PDF) fileAbu Dhabi Declaration of 2016.
In summary, the 4 approaches that INTOSAI has established for its members are as follows:
- Assess the preparedness of national governments to implement the SDGs.
- Undertake performance audits of key government programs that contribute to specific SDGs.
- Contribute to the implementation of SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
- Act as models of transparency and accountability in members’ own operations.
The Auditor General of Canada, deputy auditors general, assistant auditors general, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, and engagement leaders are responsible for supporting INTOSAI’s 4 approaches.
Highlights since the release of the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Office of the Auditor General of Canada—2017–2020
- In 2018, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development presented for tabling in Parliament an audit report on the Government of Canada’s preparedness to implement the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
- The Auditor General and the Commissioner presented for tabling in Parliament performance audits that considered progress on issues and targets related to the SDGs, such as Good Health and Well-Being (SDG 3), Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10), Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG 12), and Life Below Water (SDG 14).
- The Commissioner participated in the United Nations’ High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in 2017, 2018, and 2019 and, on behalf of INTOSAI, presented results of SDG implementation audits at the 2019 forum.
- The Commissioner played an active role in the INTOSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing. The Working Group provides research, guidance, and training to support the auditing of environment and sustainable development matters around the world.
- The OAG updated its guidance material, templates, and methodology to help auditors consider the SDGs in their direct engagement work.
- Each year, the OAG conducted about 90 financial audits that supported federal and territorial governments, Crown corporations, and other federal and territorial organizations in their efforts to maintain sound financial management systems.
- The OAG underwent a quality assurance review conducted by external peer organizations, in accordance with the INTOSAI approach on transparency and accountability (approach 4).
The following commitments are planned for the 2020–2023 period. They support the OAG’s contribution to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and are consistent with INTOSAI’s 4 approaches. For details on these commitments, including desired results and performance indicators, see Appendix B.
3.1.1 In 2021, present for tabling in Parliament an audit that will examine the federal government’s progress toward the overall implementation of the SDGs.
3.1.2 Ensure that all direct engagements (performance audits and special examinations) contribute to progress toward the SDGs and related targets, and that the contribution of direct engagements is discussed in final performance audit and special examination reports.
3.1.3 Ensure that the contribution of financial audits to progress toward SDG 16 and target 16.6 (Develop effective, accountable, and transparent institutions at all levels) is discussed in the OAG’s commentaries on financial audits.
The contribution of special examinations to the SDGs and related targets would also be discussed in these commentaries.
3.1.4 By December 2021, use SDG logos to help illustrate the contribution of financial audits (financial audit commentaries) and direct engagements (performance audits and special examinations) to progress toward the SDGs and related targets.
3.1.5 By December 2021, enhance guidance material for further prioritizing the SDGs and incorporating related targets into strategic audit planning and individual direct engagements. This would include enhanced identification and assessment of sustainable development risks and their integration into performance audit and special examination work.
3.1.6 Provide ongoing support to INTOSAI efforts to audit and report on progress toward the SDGs.
3.1.7 On an ongoing basis, work with provincial audit offices in Canada to encourage audit work related to the SDGs.
3.1.8 Through leadership at the Working Group on Environmental Auditing and other INTOSAI committees, continue to contribute to INTOSAI’s ongoing efforts to develop guidance and methodologies for auditing and reporting on progress toward the SDGs and related targets.
Section 4: Contributions to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy’s Goal of Greening Government
As part of its commitment to implementing sustainable development principles, the OAG will contribute to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy’s goal of greening government along with the Government of Canada’s Greening Government Strategy. The OAG will build on existing efforts that have been advanced by its employees, notably through the Sustainable Development Champion and the OAG Green Team, to incorporate sustainable development measures into its operations and to help employees live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. In addition, the Green Team will explore options and opportunities to help the OAG incorporate green practices in its operations, as well as educate and engage employees in contributing to sustainable development and the SDGs.
The Office of the Auditor General of Canada’s Green Team
The OAG’s Green Team, together with the OAG’s Sustainable Development Champion, provides leadership on environmental and sustainable development matters within the OAG. The Green Team’s goal is to help minimize the environmental impact of both employee lifestyle choices and the OAG’s operations.
Consisting of a group of volunteer employees, the Green Team raises awareness about sustainability issues, such as waste reduction and waste management, energy conservation, and active transportation. Green Team members come from various sectors of the OAG’s Ottawa and regional offices.
The Green Team has spearheaded the following initiatives:
- holding OAG-wide events to raise awareness during Waste Reduction Week in Canada
- sharing information and resources (including compostable dishes) to promote minimal waste at OAG functions
- expanding waste diversion efforts using the TerraCycle© system for plastic wrapper recycling boxes in OAG kitchens
- producing EnviroTips, which offer suggestions to OAG staff on how to incorporate sustainable practices at work and at home
- organizing OAG participation in the annual Bike to Work Month
- working with building management and co-tenants to improve sustainability practices in the OAG’s Ottawa office
4.1 Greening government commitments
The OAG will engage in the following activities during the 2020–2023 period to advance various aspects of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy’s goal of greening government and the Government of Canada’s Greening Government Strategy. These commitments are intended to help the OAG reduce its ecological footprint and better withstand the impact of climate change. For more details on these commitments, see Appendix B.
4.1.1 By December 2022, review the OAG’s practices against the federal Policy on Green Procurement, with the aim of identifying additional measures that can be taken to further reduce the OAG’s ecological footprint.
4.1.2 By March 2021, determine the feasibility of conducting a combination waste audit / sustainability assessment of OAG operations, to be completed by December 2022.
4.1.3 By December 2022, complete an assessment of remote working practices and their impact on the OAG’s ecological footprint, space utilization, and other operational and employee considerations.
4.1.4 By December 2021, review options for incorporating carbon offsets into OAG business travel.
4.1.5 As of September 2020, adopt low-carbon mobility solutions when purchasing or leasing executive vehicles.
4.1.6 Build on existing efforts to minimize waste at OAG events (including reducing and, if possible, ultimately eliminating the use of non-compostable plates and cutlery), using the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat green meetings guide and OAG-specific material.
4.1.7 By December 2021, undertake a risk assessment on how climate change could affect assets, services, and operations in all OAG offices across Canada.
4.1.8 By December 2022, begin implementing measures to reduce climate change risks to assets, services, and operations.
While the focus is on internal procedures, OAG representatives in the Ottawa office also collaborate on greening efforts with building management and other co-tenants of the C.D. Howe Building, which is 1 of 6 federal facilities officially announced in early 2020 as Public Services and Procurement Canada innovation hubs for sustainable projects.
4.2 Knowledge and awareness commitments
In addition to the current awareness-raising initiatives, such as the annual Bike to Work Month and producing EnviroTips, the OAG will implement other activities to educate and engage employees on sustainable development, for both their professional and personal lives. For more details on these commitments, see Appendix B.
4.2.1 By March 2021, review the OAG’s existing internal Fundamentals of Environment and Sustainable Development training course to identify other training options to be developed by 2023. These will help increase staff members’ knowledge of environment and sustainable development issues, and ways to incorporate these issues into their work.
4.2.2 By June 2021, begin implementing new awareness-raising events for employees on environment and sustainable development issues, including the SDGs.
4.2.3 Beginning in October 2020, explore the feasibility of organizing volunteer community service activities based on specific SDGs and related targets as a means of educating and engaging employees. If feasible, begin implementing activities by fall 2021 to coincide with the annual Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign.
4.2.4 On an ongoing basis, identify opportunities for contributing to the activities of accounting standards–setting bodies, such as those led by the Public Sector Accounting Board, related to the environment and sustainable development, including the SDGs.
Results of actions related to these activities would, as appropriate, be referenced on the OAG’s Sustainable Development hub.
Section 5: Monitoring and Reporting
The OAG will provide details in its yearly Departmental Plan on specific activities and commitments and will report on progress over the next 3 years through its Departmental Results Report. The COVID-19 pandemic may affect commitments and related timelines in this Sustainable Development Strategy due to the impact on OAG operations and priorities. Any changes to timelines and commitments will be reflected in the OAG’s Departmental Plan or Departmental Results Report, both of which are produced annually.
In support of the INTOSAI approach on transparency and accountability (approach 4), the Sustainable Development Champion will provide annual updates on the Sustainable Development Strategy and will seek feedback on implementing appropriate measures from the OAG’s Executive Committee, External Audit Committee, the Panel of Senior Advisors, the Advisors on Indigenous Issues, and the Independent Accounting and Financial Auditing Advisory Committee. A review of the strategy’s implementation will also be undertaken before preparing the next strategy.