GSA plans for 'sustainability acquisitions'

Procurement agency wants to use buying power to change federal marketplace

In fiscal 2011, the General Services Administration intends to enter nearly all of its contracts with a requirement that companies supply or use environmentally preferred products and services, according to a new sustainability report released Sept. 9.

GSA wants 95 percent of its new procurements to have the sustainability requirement by then. Officials will look for products that contain recycled content, are energy and water efficient, bio-based, or won't deplete the ozone, the report states.

In addition, by the end of October, officials plan to issue an updated procurement plan to ensure that designated products and services are included in all relevant acquisitions. They then aim to phase it in as the government further defines those products and services.

GSA says the plan will clearly define what constitutes a “sustainable acquisition” based on existing regulations and standards and will provide guidance on incorporating them into all purchases.

GSA has more targets under its new strategy to decrease its environmental footprint. By March, GSA wants “green” products to have icons on its GSA Advantage website, where agencies can buy from GSA's Multiple Award Schedules contracts. And by next September, officials plan to update the unique codes for products and services in order to track whether agencies are buying with the environment in mind.

The procurement agency’s overarching plan is to use its buying power to change the market and what products and services companies offer the government. “GSA will eliminate its impact on the natural environment and use its governmentwide influence to reduce the environmental impact of the federal government,” officials wrote in the sustainability report.

In fiscal 2009, GSA made $62 billion in purchases, representing more than 11 percent of the government’s total procurement spending, and as the agency’s senior sustainability officer, Stephen Leeds, said in July, GSA plans to “make and move markets.”

In light of what Leeds said, GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service will work with the top 200 federal contractors that participated in a survey on greenhouse gas emissions to determine how they report and manage their emissions.

By next September, GSA will have a strategy to offer companies incentives for cataloging and then disclosing their emissions data, the report states.

As for information technology and sustainability, GSA says it plans to consolidate printers and servers, and recycle unwanted IT products. Officials also will move ahead with consolidating data centers and reduce their power usage through intelligent management of the centers. By 2013, all agency-operated data centers will be at least 40 percent virtualized.

When it comes to data centers, the report notes that the major challenge is that more than half of them are run by the private sector and are not under GSA’s environmental control.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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