At their heart, public services ensure that people stay safe and healthy, that they have the freedom and resources to learn and thrive, and that the places where they live and work are clean, sustainable and connected. Public servants are increasingly focusing on the environmental impact of public services, alongside their social and economic impacts, and what actions the sector can take to address the climate crisis.
The UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer an ambitious and exciting blueprint to guide countries towards a more prosperous and sustainable future. With a delivery target of 2030, the SDGs call for action on a comprehensive range of social, economic and environmental indicators, from poverty and inequality to infrastructure, urban development and institutions.
As work accelerates on the SDG agenda, public finance will be key to ensuring social, economic and environmental objectives align and finance professionals will be central to the effort of translating the ambition of the SDGs into reality.
Sustainability reporting in the public sector
CIPFA set out to identify what, if anything, public sector organisations around the world are doing to report their impact on the climate. We surveyed public sector professionals around the world and hosted a series of regional roundtables. Participants included public sector accountants, practitioners, academics, auditors, public servants and standard-setters.
What are the challenges?
In working towards protecting the place and planet, public sector organisations are faced with a number of hurdles.
Tightening budgets and resources
This places extra strain on an organisation to balance its allocation of funds and assets, including its workforce, while maintaining and seeking continuous improvement in service levels.
Distribution of public services
Public sector bodies face the struggle of keeping pace with ever-changing events in an effort to channel public services proportionately and where they are most needed.
Unmet service needs
This includes the provision of affordable housing as well as the provision of social care – the need for which have both increased as a result of the pandemic.
Retaining, creating and attracting jobs and businesses
Shifting patterns of living and working have impacted many businesses, which in turn can have a significant impact on the overall health and wellbeing of communities.
The rising cost of climate-related damage to people and property
More frequent extreme weather events across the globe is forcing public authorities to forward plan and budget for tackling this issue.
Expenditure on green, social or sustainable projects
As the climate challenge accelerates, green initiatives will become ever more mandated, and public sector entities will face the financial and legislative management of this.
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