Green Purchasing by Uncle Sam – Are You a Federal Government Supplier – Contractor?

by Hank Boerner, Chairman, G&A Institute

The United States Government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the U.S.A., and some project, in the world.  (US$500 billion in the latest budget.) So – if you are selling to Uncle Sam, tune in to the guidelines recently published the Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).  In December EPA proposed (in draft form) rules for “greener and safer” products to be purchased by the Federal government.

The public comment period is open but expect that sometime soon we will see the official guidelines for supplier companies to follow.  Part of the initiative is to assess the growing number of “eco-labels” in use by trade associations, NGOs, standard setters, etc.

Says EPA:  “These guidelines will make it easier for Federal purchasors to meet the existing goal of 95 percent sustainable purchases, while spurring consumers and private sector to use and demand greener and safer products…” The EPA and the GSA (General Services Administration) created the guidelines for agencies and departments to use in their sourcing.

To emphasize:  The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to ensure 95 percent of new contracts to be “green.”

The EPA/GSA initiative is one of the most recent steps in a continuing journey toward greater sustainability by the Federal government.  Executive Order #13514 got this journey going in earnest in October 2009, soon after President Barack Obama got his administration up and running and cabinet posts filled.  It’s officially the “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance” mandate for all government agencies to follow.

Haven’t been following this EO?  How about the one in August 2012 — “Accelerating Investment in Industrial Energy Efficiency?”  There’s sure to be lots of risk and opportunities inherent in this EO, which addresses the US industrial sector use of energy (30% of the total usage).  The Feds will encourage investment in combined heat and power systems (CHP); the effort involves key departments — Energy, Commerce, Agriculture, EPA, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

There’s lots going on at the Federal government level, and in similar activities in the trickle down into state and municipal governments, as some of the spate of EO’s call for assistance to public agencies at local levels.

We’ll be visiting the Federal government’s dramatic journey to greater sustainability to bring you more news and details…that could present risk or opportunity to your organization.

And in February (25 and 26) at the World Bank in Washington DC, Governance & Accountability Institute and partners, ISOS Group, will present a 2-day, interactive sustainability materiality and reporting workshop for public sector agencies and their suppliers and contractors.  This is the kick off of the GRI Business Transparency Program in the USA for the Public Sector (all levels).  Participants will receive certification and will enjoy specialized guidance during the 6 months that follow by G&A and ISOS.

For information — http://isosgroup.com/gri-certified-reporting/trainings/materiality/

Sector-specific sessions are now scheduled for Food & Agriculture, Beauty & Chemical, Energy & Utilities, Hotels & Tourism.  Details are at the above web site page.

You can also learn more about the agencies that you do business with as they publish their progress reports on sustainability.  These are due this month (all agencies are supposed to report in January of each year).  Also, the largest of the Federal contractors – think of Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics — are publishing sustainability reports.

Also – look at the US Postal Service and the US Army sustainability reports to get an idea of what your customers are saying about their role in the Federal sustainability journey.

Watch this space for news & updates on Federal government actions…especially as the White House issues Executive Orders in President Obama’s second (and last) term in office.