3 Additional things to consider
This section includes some additional points you may wish to consider when thinking about biodiversity activities and producing your report.
Note that the WANE Act does not specify the format that biodiversity duty reports should take. The points mentioned here (including biodiversity plans, working groups and progress reporting) are therefore just suggestions to help you.
3.2 Standalone or embedded?
The WANE Act states that a biodiversity duty report may be incorporated within another report prepared or published by the public body. The report can also be published as a standalone document. Below are some points to consider when choosing whether to produce a standalone or embedded biodiversity duty report.
- Standalone reports are less likely to be restricted in terms of report length. They provide an opportunity to provide more information and greater detail including case studies, pictures and annexes.
- Standalone biodiversity duty reports will usually be easier for the general public to find. Titling the document as " Biodiversity Duty Report" (or something similar) should mean that the report is more visible when searching on the internet.
- Having the report separate from other documents means that it can be disseminated directly to groups or persons interested in biodiversity. This provides them with only the information they are interested in rather than additional information that may be included in reports like annual corporate reports. Extracts from a standalone report can still be included within an annual report. This can help the biodiversity information to reach a wider audience.
- Producing a standalone report can sometimes create an additional reporting burden in terms of gaining approval and sign off. This can be lessened if sufficient time is provided for report production.
- Incorporating your report into another report ( e.g. a sustainability report) can reduce the reporting burden in terms of getting approval. Additionally, if the main report is linked to biodiversity, there is the potential to utilise information that has already been collected (for example, data on sustainable procurement). However, it is important not to lose the focus on biodiversity.
- Incorporating biodiversity information within an annual report can provide an excellent opportunity for recording progress. This also limits the potential for information to be lost should the person(s) responsible for biodiversity leave the organisation within the three year reporting period.
- There is the potential for information to become "swallowed up" by the overall theme of the report, especially if there is limited information to report on. This can be avoided by having a dedicated section for biodiversity rather than a small paragraph.
- Having your biodiversity duty report embedded within another report (such as an annual corporate report) may make it difficult to find, especially for the general public. If you choose to embed your biodiversity duty report; it is helpful if its location can be signposted elsewhere, for example, on a dedicated webpage.
The way a report looks can sometimes be just as important as the information contained within it. If your report does not have to follow a particular style or format, then there are a few features you can consider using to help engage the reader and add detail:
- Tables: using tables may be useful when there is a large amount of information such as individual projects or partners. The tables may make it easier for the reader to pick out key information and trends. Two examples of how tables can be used in a biodiversity duty report are: Scottish Canals (Partnership working, page 5), and Inverclyde Council (Summary of activities, page 9).
- Organograms: these can be used to show the organisation structure and persons responsible for biodiversity within your public body.
- Reporting by service or department: if your organisation has several different departments, it may be useful to report biodiversity actions (in section 3) by department or service. This will allow you to demonstrate the variety and scope of actions undertaken and also enable readers interested in a particular service to easily identify relevant sections.
- Pictures: photos can be used to make to report look more appealing to the reader. They can sometimes reduce the need for large volumes of descriptive text.
- Case studies: case studies can be used to highlight specific actions or projects your organisation is particularly proud of. They can be used to provide more in depth information on actions, achievements and outcomes.
- Hyperlinks: providing links to external documents (such as planning documents, newsletters) or partnership groups can be a useful way of providing additional information when space is restricted. Remember to provide the name of the document or group in case the internet address changes and the hyperlinks become broken.
3.4 Biodiversity Duty Action Plan
A biodiversity duty action plan sets out the actions a public body is planning to undertake in order to contribute towards the conservation of biodiversity within the next three years. It can be used to drive forward biodiversity integration into other service areas within a public body, assist with information collection towards the end of the three year period, and provide an opportunity for progress assessment.
A biodiversity duty action plan can be set out in whatever format the public body deems suitable ( e.g. by template headings, funded or unfunded actions); however inclusion of basic information should be considered, such as:
- Description of planned actions;
- Staff and/or partners involved; and
- Target/aims and outcomes.
Several public bodies have already developed and used biodiversity duty action plans and it may be useful to look at these when thinking about developing your own plan. Some examples are given below.
Biodiversity duty action plan examples:
South Lanarkshire Council's Biodiversity Duty Implementation Plan was produced in consultation with the Sustainable Development Coordination Group. The plan has six parts including: cross service working group, biodiversity policy statement, action plans, communication plan, reporting and review, and future actions.
Argyll and Bute Council's Biodiversity Duty Action Plan includes actions to meet their Biodiversity Statutory Duty as well as information on the resources needed ( i.e. staff and finance) to undertake the actions. The plan has seven themes (legal, planning, economic development, asset management, information, community engagement, and education) and is linked where appropriate to the Single Outcome Agreement.
East Ayrshire Council's Action Plan aims to integrate biodiversity into all the Council's policy and working practices. The plan is set out against the suggested template headings (mainstreaming, monitoring, partnership working, and biodiversity action, communication and engagement).
Highlands Council's Biodiversity Duty Delivery Plan is split into four sections: biodiversity-related policy across the Council, action plans for different areas of work within Council Services, communication, and reporting.
3.5 Cross service working group
A cross service working group may be useful for large public bodies that deliver several services or have different departments such as local authorities or health bodies. The purpose of the group is to bring together heads of departments or nominated individuals to discuss biodiversity and develop a cross service delivery plan. A cross service working group can bring several benefits including:
- The integration of biodiversity throughout the organisation in consistent way;
- Assistance with data collection for the biodiversity duty report; and
- Provision of the opportunity for information sharing and learning ( i.e. advice can be sought on particular topics or ideas) that may not otherwise happen.
Groups can meet as frequently or infrequently as desired.
3.6 Annual progress reporting
Collecting data and information for a three year period can be a challenging task for some organisations, especially if the organisation is large, has a varied remit, or key staff members have left. It may be useful to put in place an annual progress reporting framework to document progress towards biodiversity actions or to capture new projects. This can be combined with a biodiversity duty action plan to provide a simple structure.
When collecting information for the biodiversity duty report it is important to allow sufficient time for organisation partners and department teams to collect the information. An innovative method of information collection has been developed by Argyll and Bute Council. This involves producing a simple survey to be sent out to heads of departments or nominated persons to complete. This can be accompanied by a short one-to-one meeting between the person/s responsible for completing the biodiversity report ( e.g. biodiversity officer) and the person filling out the survey. This has the potential to lead to time savings in the long run as it ensures the correct information is collected in one go and any misinterpretations can be avoided. Furthermore, the process should become quicker as staff become familiar with the process.
Email: Land Use and Biodiversity Team, firstname.lastname@example.org