the largest environmental impact. The agency’s thinking about sustainable purchasing is evolving, with a focus on life-cycle approaches, return on investment, risk mitigation, intentionality, and partnership, he said.
GSA is adopting a life-cycle approach to sustainable purchasing as it “bridges the silos of disposal and acquisition,” Mr. Leeds explained. The agency is sending a clear signal to the private sector that the focus is broader than the individual environmental impacts of purchasing decisions. Partnering with the private sector, as well as with state and local governments, is important to the agency’s work and its goal of achieving a sustainable supply chain.
Nancy Gillis from GSA’s Federal Supply Chain Emissions Program Management Office (PMO) described how GSA and other agencies have worked to advance sustainable acquisition in the federal supply chain. GSA does not view the concept of “sustainability” as synonymous with the “environment,” Ms. Gillis said, but considers it a broader issue that encompasses economic and social issues as well. The agency is approaching procurement decisions by prioritizing products’ life-cycle return on investment and by considering environmental, economic, and social benefits and costs. In other words, the agency is trying to balance the need to reduce energy use, resource use, and environmental impacts while also taking into account economic considerations.
Ms. Gillis discussed the office’s other activities, including collaborating with industry and supporting and managing the Sustainability in Procurement Fellowship Program. The program introduces fellows to the concept of sustainability and provides an overview of the federal government’s activities around sustainable procurement. Another effort is the GreenGov Supply Chain partnership, which was designed to increase the energy efficiency of vendors and contractors’ supply chains and to reduce their GHG emissions. The partnership resulted from a GSA report that found sustainability considerations, especially GHG emissions data, should be used in the federal procurement process, and that agencies should engage the vendor community to track and reduce GHG emissions through a collaborative, transparent, and deliberative process.2
The Section 13 Interagency Working Group is currently evaluating and recommending ways to advance sustainable acquisition throughout the federal government, Ms. Gillis explained. For example, after evaluating whether it is feasible for the federal contractor community to provide GHG emissions data related to the supply of products for use in government procurement decisions, the working group recommended that suppliers not be required to provide complete inventories of their GHG
2 General Services Administration (GSA). 2010. Executive Order 13514 Section 13: Recommendations for Vendor and Contractor Emissions. Washington, DC.