Through its strategic advice, the Council aims to contribute to social debate and the political decision-making process. It therefore monitors trends and developments, draws attention to social issues and places those issues on the agenda. The Council produces its advisory reports in an open process which involves close collaboration with the commissioning client and other stakeholders. The reports are published in the public domain. The government has a statutory obligation to respond, stating how it intends to implement the recommendations.
Each year the Council produces a Work Programme, which is subject to the approval of the Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment.
The Council has ten members, including the chair. All members are independent and are appointed on the basis of their broad expertise and experience. They are drawn from various backgrounds including public administration, the private sector and academia. Each member is appointed by Royal Decree for a maximum term of four years.
At the start of its second term in July 2016, the Council decided to appoint three junior members in order to incorporate the knowledge and experience of younger generations in its work. These junior members participate fully in all the activities of the Council.
The Council applies the ‘Code for the prevention of improper influence due to conflicts of interest’, as drawn up by various organisations including the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). The Council must offer independent and impartial advice, whereby no member of the committee responsible for an advisory report may have any direct personal or financial interest in the findings or recommendations of that report.
The Council convenes monthly. Its meetings form the heart of the process. It is here that the outlines of the required advisory report are determined, the schedule established, progress is monitored, the report contents discussed and a draft report is eventually approved. For each advisory report or topic, the Council appoints a committee of full members and external experts. This group then prepares the reports with the assistance of the secretarial staff. All reports are produced in an open process which involves all stakeholders. The Council gathers insights, viewpoints and information by means of external fact-finding missions, interviews, workshops, discussion meetings, expert meetings, round-table discussions, desk studies and so forth. Each report must be approved by the Council prior to publication.