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GSA pushing carbon emissions in contract decisions

Agency hopes to encourage environmental sustainability in acquisitions

May. 19, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
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HODGKINS, IL - NOVEMBER 29: A worker sorts packages at a UPS facility on November 29, 2010 in Hodgkins, Illinois. GSA is increasingly including greenhouse gas emissions reporting requirements in contracts with companies such as UPS. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

In its latest domestic delivery shipping contract award, the General Services Administration took into account cost, past performance and the current and future greenhouse gas emissions of the companies.

The Domestic Delivery Services contracts – awarded May 1 to UPS and FedEx – includes provisions to provide agencies with regular reports on the carbon footprint of shipping activities and annual reports to GSA on greenhouse gas emissions.

As agencies struggle to become more environmentally sustainable, GSA is tackling one of the most difficult areas – measuring greenhouse gas emissions in agency supply chains and contract awards – by increasingly including emissions in award decisions.

Jed Ela, the sustainability coordinator at GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service said GSA is rolling out sustainability requirements on their largest contracts as they are created or come up for renewal. By focusing on the largest contracts GSA can make the biggest impact on the government’s supply chain carbon footprint, he said.

“It’s a policy that’s long overdue and has huge potential to benefit the environment, but also to promote economic growth for the American engineered, American manufactured and domestically fueled products we can source, and to promote sustainable business practices in the service providers we engage,” he said.

In the shipping contract, GSA asked contractors for initial benchmarks and future goals for alternative fuel and vehicle use, and reports on emissions over the last year then used estimates to compare the economic impacts of those emissions between companies.

The inclusion of carbon emissions in agency contracting has been long in the making. President Obama ordered agencies in 2009 to analyze the possibilities of using greenhouse gas emission data in their procurement processes. In 2010, a working group led by GSA said that agencies should use emissions as part of the procurement process.

The 2009 executive order also set specific targets for reducing direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The White House pledged that the government overall will reduce direct emissions — such as those generated by federal cars and buildings — by 28 percent below 2008 levels.

Indirect emissions — such as those caused by employee business travel and commuting to work — must be cut 13 percent. Emissions caused by federal contractors and federal purchasing are included in the 13 percent target.

Other GSA efforts to include environmentally sustainable requirements in contract awards include:

■Adding language in the OASIS services contract that requires contractors to disclose their sustainability practices through Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) sustainability reports or carbon footprint reports.

■ Creating a “green managed print services provider” designation in its blanket contracts for managed print and copier services, awarding the designation to contractors who complete a greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

■ Encouraging contractors on several large blanket contracts, including for office supplies and janitorial products, to use transportation vendors who are members of the Environmental Protection Agency SmartWay Transport Partnership, a voluntary partnership between the federal government and the trucking industry to improve the environmental performance of freight and small package transport.

Ela said the carbon footprint of the goods and services GSA buys is nine times larger than the footprint of all the buildings and fleets GSA manages and that reducing the emissions of purchases through agency contracts can have a huge impact. He said GSA is looking at new ways to encourage companies to report carbon emissions and is working within the industry to see what companies are already doing and to promote the economic benefits of environmental sustainability.

“We are encouraging our vendors to get more specific because the better they get at sustainability, the more they can save, not just by eliminating waste but by better management of their overall business,” he said.

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