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Basic Information

  United Kingdom

Year of approval of the
SD strategy and updates

The UK first developed a National Strategy for Sustainable Development (NSDS) in 1994, after the 1992 Rio UN Conference on Environment and Development and the adoption of Agenda 21. The UK published revisions of the NSDS in 1999 and 2005. 

Also in 2005, the UK Government and Devolved Administrations published a shared framework for sustainable development in the UK, including common goals and challenges for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and five shared principles: 

• Living Within Environmental Limits;

• Ensuring a Strong, Healthy and Just Society; 

• Achieving a Sustainable Economy; 

• Using Sound Science Responsibly; and 

• Promoting Good Governance.

In February 2011, the Coalition Government published "Mainstreaming sustainable development - The Government’s vision and what this means in practice”. It includes a package of measures to deliver it through the Green Economy, action to tackle climate change, protecting and enhancing the natural environment, fairness and improving wellbeing, and building a Big Society. Ministers have agreed an approach for mainstreaming sustainable development which in broad terms consists of providing Ministerial leadership and oversight, leading by example, embedding sustainable development into policy, and transparent and independent scrutiny.

Northern Ireland

The first Sustainable Development strategy for Northern Ireland was published in 2006. The Executive published a revised strategy called “Everyone's Involved” in 2010.  The associated Implementation Plan, “Focus on the Future”, was published in 2011.


In September 2011 the Scottish Government published its Government Economic Strategy which reaffirms its commitment to delivering increased sustainable economic growth, through Scotland’s transition to a low carbon economy. 


“Starting to Live Differently”, the Welsh Sustainable Development Action Plan was adopted in 2004 by the National Assembly for Wales.

This was replaced in 2009, by “One Wales: One Planet”, the Sustainable Development Scheme of the Welsh Assembly Government.

The Welsh Government is currently planning to legislate that sustainable development will be the central organising principle of the Welsh Government and all public bodies in Wales. It will also create a statutory Sustainable Development Body. A public consultation on initial proposals ended in July 2012.  

The Welsh Government plan to introduce a Bill into the National Assembly for Wales in Autumn 2013.

Type of SD strategy

The UK Government’s vision (2011) covers all three parts of sustainable development – the economy, society and the environment.

Lead ministry/institution in
the SD strategy process

UK Government - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

Northern Ireland Executive – Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister

Scottish Government – Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment

Welsh Government – Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development


Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

Link to the SD strategy

"Mainstreaming sustainable development - The Government’s vision and what this means in practice”. 

Further information about
the SD strategy process

UK Government
"Mainstreaming Sustainable Development: One year in" published by Defra in March 2012, includes a series of progress reviews on sustainable development mainstreaming by the UK Government. It looks at the four areas agreed by Ministers for mainstreaming sustainable development: providing Ministerial leadership and oversight, leading by example, and transparent and independent scrutiny; as well as the opportunity presented by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games for learning and inspiration.
Since November 2011 all Government Departments’ Business Plans have been published on the “Transparency” section of the Prime Minister’s website. They are assessed in relation to sustainable development principles, and the Minister for Government Policy (based in The Cabinet Office) then holds departments to account through a quarterly business plan review process. 

The UK and the Devolved Governments
The UK Government and the devolved governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, share approaches and best practice in sustainable development. The devolved governments are working in parallel towards sustainability in their areas, but each government has its own approach, based on their priorities.

Northern Ireland
“Everyone’s Involved” is the Sustainable Development Strategy for Northern Ireland. It is a high-level enabling document, designed to provide a framework to support action by individuals, groups and organisations in progressing the sustainability agenda.  
The associated Implementation Plan, “Focus on the Future”, sets out the respective contributions of Government Departments, local government, and of the private and voluntary sectors to the achievement of the objectives of the Strategy.
In addition, the Executive has made sustainable development a cross-cutting principle of its Programme for Government, stating, “sustainability policy is driven by intergenerational equity – securing a positive quality of life for present and future generations”.  
To realise this, and to make sustainable development a hallmark of 21st Century government here, we will work together, across and beyond organisational and social boundaries to promote and encourage its recognition and acceptance. 

Sustainable development is integral to the Scottish Government’s overall purpose – to focus government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.

Sustainable development is a core principle within the founding statute of the Welsh Assembly Government. This duty requires Welsh Ministers to make a scheme setting out how they propose, in the exercise of their functions, to promote sustainable development.
The latest Sustainable Development Scheme, “One Wales: One Planet”, confirms that sustainable development will be the central organising principle of the Welsh Assembly Government. The Welsh Assembly Government will also encourage and enable others to embrace sustainable development as their central organising principle through its Sustainable Development Charter.


This Country Profile has been last updated on: Thursday, 04 October 2012

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