Sustainable Development Commission


The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) was a non-departmental public body responsible for advising the UK Government, Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly Government, and Northern Ireland Executive on sustainable development.

Sustainable Development Commission
Sustainable Development Commission logo
FormationJune 2001
TypeNon-departmental public body
Legal statusClosed as of 30 March 2011[1]
PurposeIndependent adviser on sustainable development.
Region served
United Kingdom
Official language
English, Welsh

It was set up by the Labour Government in June 2000 and closed by the Coalition Government in March 2011.[1]


In 1999 the Labour Government made the policy case for sustainable development in a White paper entitled A better quality of life.[2]

Pressure then came to oversee the Government's progress and develop policy on sustainable development, including from Michael Meacher MP.[3]

Subsequently, the Sustainable Development Commission was founded by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in June 2000.[3] It replaced the UK Round Table on Sustainable Development, a stakeholder body, and the British Government Panel on Sustainable Development, a Government think tank.[4]

Leadership and purposeEdit

Sustainable Development Commission Chair 2000–2009, Jonathon Porritt.

The commission reported directly to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK Government), the First Minister of Scotland (Scottish Government), First Minister for Wales (Welsh Assembly Government), and the First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Executive).[5]

Its responsibilities to the four bodies were broadly similar: it was an official watchdog on sustainability; it scrutinised progress on meeting targets on the sustainable management of the bodies' estates and procurement; and it provided cross-departmental policy advice and assistance.[5]

From 2000 to 2009 the Commission was chaired by the former Director of Friends of the Earth, Jonathan Porritt,[1] and between 2009 and its closure in 2011, it was chaired by Will Day formerly of Comic Relief and the United Nations Development Programme.[6][7] The vice-chair from 2004-2011 was Rebecca Willis, a researcher on environment and sustainability practice.[8]

It produced reports such as Prosperity Without Growth by Prof Tim Jackson in 2009.[9]

Closure and successionEdit

On 22 July 2010, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced that it would stop funding the Commission.[1] The decision was part of the Coalition Government's quango reforms, termed by the media as a "bonfire of the quangos"[10][11] Jonathan Porritt described the decision an "act of ideological vandalism".

This news was criticised by Green Caroline Lucas MP,[3] Guardian journalist and activist George Monbiot,[12] Daily Telegraph journalist Geoffrey Lean,[13] and Friends of the Earth.[14] They claimed the Commission was necessary for the Government to fulfil its ambition to be the "greenest government ever".

The Chair of the Environmental Audit Select Committee, Labour MP Joan Walley, also criticised the decision to close the Commission.[15] She led efforts to ensure the Commission's role had a successor, and in January 2011 the Environmental Audit Select Committee recommended the creation of a new Minister for Sustainable Development.[16]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d BBC, 22 July 2010, UK government axes its sustainability watchdog
  2. ^ UK Government, 1999 A better quality of life - strategy for sustainable development for the United Kingdom – 1999
  3. ^ a b c The Guardian, 22 July 2010 Government axes UK sustainability watchdog
  4. ^ Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, James Medhurst, 2001 Case study of the governance for sustainable development in the United Kingdom: institutional aspects of sustainable development
  5. ^ a b Sustainable Development Commission, 4 April 2011 Our Role
  6. ^ The Ecologist, 20 August 2009 Will Day: new watchdog chief on GM, nuclear and political jargon
  7. ^ Sustainable Development Commission, 2009 Profile of Will Day profile
  8. ^ "Willis, Prof. Rebecca". Who's Who 2020. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  9. ^ "Publications: Prosperity without Growth? - The transition to a sustainable economy". Sustainable Development Commission. Archived from the original on 1 March 2015. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  10. ^ The Guardian, 13 February 2011 'Bonfire of the quangos' threatens climate change committee
  11. ^ The Independent, 15 October 2010 Bonfire of the quangos: bodies to be abolished
  12. ^ The Guardian, 22 July 2011 How scrapping the SDC to save money will cost the taxpayer a fortune
  13. ^ The Telegraph, 23 July 2010 Is it badger-hunting season?
  14. ^ The Guardian, 27 July 2010 Divided, the green lobby will fall
  15. ^ Utility Week, 22 July 2010 EAC chairman questions decision as bonfire of the quangos spreads to Defra
  16. ^ Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 10 January 2011 Environmental Audit Committee recommends minister for sustainable development

External linksEdit

  • Official website