OFPP looks for better green purchasing data

A new survey on how well agencies contract for sustainable products and services is under development. GSA and OFPP also are taking other steps to promote green...

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

A new survey will provide some updated and more concrete data about how agencies are greening their supply chain.

The Office of Management and Budget is conducting a data call this year as part of its oversight on federal sustainability efforts for contracting and government vendors.

The survey is one of several efforts led by OMB and the General Services Administration to green the supply chain.

Cyndi Vallina, a policy analyst with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said at the recent GreenGov Symposium in Washington that the survey will be part of the biennial report to Congress required under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act.

OMB conducted a survey in November on green purchasing, but the results were never made public. An e-mail to OMB seeking comment on green purchasing was not immediately returned.

The most recent governmentwide data is from 2007 under the RCRA report.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive found earlier this year that agencies are meeting their green purchasing goals for electronics.

Vallina said the survey is just one way OMB is overseeing agency progress. She said agencies still must report on how they are meeting government-wide sustainable acquisition goals quarterly, which includes reviewing at least 5 percent of all contracts from headquarters and around the country.

“Agencies need to demonstrate compliance with the acquisition goals and have a mechanism in place to make sure they are getting green,” she said.

Vallina said agencies also shouldn’t just focus on the easy areas such as technology. Design and construction, office supplies and the cafeteria are prime areas for green purchasing, she said.

Agencies also detailed specific goals around green purchasing in their sustainability plans issued in September.

Vallina said Goal 8 of the plan focuses on supply chain sustainability.

“We asked for areas that are most important or relevant to the specific agency,” Vallina said. “It will allow them to set their own pace to get to 100 percent.”

For instance, the Commerce Department will revise its Commerce Acquisition Manual’s Green Procurement Program to meet or exceed the 95 percent contract action targets laid out in the October 2009 Executive Order.

At the Transportation Department, the senior procurement officer will direct the activities of the Higher-Tier Environmental Management System for targeted development, implementation and oversight of the 95 percent goal.

This is just one of several short-, mid- and long-term goals for the agency. DoT will also facilitate environmental programs in the areas of acquisitions, facilities management, standards, waste prevention, recycling and logistics.

DoT will review new contract actions to verify that green products and services are being required when appropriate, and utilize statements of work or specifications to eliminate virgin material requirements, promote the reuse of products, require the use of alternative fuels and alternative fueled vehicles, products containing recovered materials, products that are Energy Star designated or energy-efficient, water conserving WaterSense labeled products, bio-based products, Environmentally Preferable Products, EPEAT registered products, and non-ozone depleting products.

Additionally, the Federal Acquisition Regulations Councils are working on a new rule around green purchasing, and the Agriculture Department is finalizing a rule for vendors to voluntarily label bio-based products.

Dana Arnold, a senior advisor with GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, said at the GreenGov Symposium that at a minimum agencies should include existing FAR language around green purchasing. Arnold there are several clauses around recycling, biobased products, and using Energy Star or EPEAT products.

Arnold said there is help for agencies. Soon the National Defense University and the Federal Acquisition Institute will complete online training courses that focus on green purchasing. The courses should be ready in the next month or so, Arnold said.

OFPP and GSA also are considering updating the Federal Procurement Data System to track green purchasing.

Arnold said GSA upgraded FPDS to track Recovery Act spending so to accept and analyze green purchasing data is both possible and likely. Arnold said that she doesn’t know when FPDS could change, however.

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