EPA's Final Guidance on Environmentally Preferable Purchasing
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As published by the EPA on August 20, 1999.
II. Intended Audience of This Guidance
III. Overall Approach for Implementing Executive Order 13101
IV. Guiding Principles
V. Executive Agency Implementation
VI. List of Resources
On September 14, 1998, former President Clinton signed Executive Order (EO)13101, entitled "Greening the Government through Waste Prevention, Recycling and Federal Acquisition." Executive Order 13101 (EO 13101) supersedes EO 12873, Federal Acquisition, Recycling and Waste Prevention, issued on October 20, 1993, but retains a similar requirement for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop guidance to "address environmentally preferable purchasing." (Section 503, EO 13101) The Final Guidance that follows is based on EPA's September 1995 Proposed Guidance on the Acquisition of Environmentally Preferable Products and Services (60 FR 50721, September 29, 1995) and comments received on that Proposed Guidance as well as lessons learned from pilot projects conducted to date.
The Final Guidance below is designed to help Executive agencies meet their obligations under EO 13101 to identify and purchase environmentally preferable products and services. Section 503 (c) of EO 13101 directs Executive agencies to "use the principles and concepts in the EPA Guidance on Acquisition of Environmentally Preferable Products and Services, in addition to the lessons from the pilot and demonstration projects to the maximum extent practicable, in identifying and purchasing environmentally preferable products and services" and "modify their procurement programs as appropriate." Furthermore, Section 23.704 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation requires agencies to "affirmatively implement" the objective of "obtaining products and services considered to be environmentally preferable (based on EPA-issued guidance)."
"Environmentally preferable" is defined in Section 201 of EO 13101 to mean products or services that "have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose. This comparison may consider raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance or disposal of the product or service."
Implementation of the Final Guidance will draw on the procurement experience of the Executive agencies and on the environmental expertise of EPA and other organizations both within and outside of the Federal government. This guidance provides a broad framework of issues to consider in environmentally preferable purchasing and will help Executive agencies systematically integrate environmental preferability principles into their buying decisions.
The guidance is not, however, a step-by-step, "how to" guide and it is not intended to answer many of the specific questions that might arise in the acquisition of a particular product category or service. The list of resources in Section VI provides more specific guidance and information about various product and service categories, environmental attributes that have been identified for them, and the approaches used to consider those attributes in acquisition decisions. For the latest information on other resources and tools under development, Executive agency personnel and others are directed to EPA's Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program Web site.
The Final Guidance strives to meet the National Performance Review and procurement reform goals of simplifying and streamlining Federal purchasing while recognizing that the definition of "environmentally preferable" will likely require the consideration of different environmental factors as appropriate for different situations. In sum, the guidance:
Applies to all acquisition types, from supplies and services to buildings and systems.
Provides a set of guiding principles.
Requests Executive agencies to select and implement pilot acquisitions or demonstration projects.
Provides a framework for Executive agencies to implement the environmentally preferable purchasing provisions of EO13101.
The target audience of this guidance includes all Executive agency employees involved in the acquisition of supplies, services, systems, and/or facilities. The general guidance and the information generated by the pilot projects also will be useful to Executive agency employees who request, maintain, or use the supplies, services, systems and facilities. In addition, both the general guidance and the pilot project information should provide pragmatic direction for private sector businesses who wish to manufacture, market, or provide environmentally preferable products and services for use by the Federal government.
Section 503 of EO 13101 has two key components: (1) development of this guidance; and (2) implementation of the guidance through pilot and demonstration projects. This guidance sets a broad policy framework for implementing environmentally preferable purchasing within the context of Federal government. For the second component, Section 503 (b) of the EO states "[A]gencies are encouraged to immediately test and evaluate the principles and concepts contained in the EPA's Guidance... through pilot projects...". These pilots may be undertaken using the in-house expertise of EPA and other Executive agencies, as well as the technical expertise of nongovernmental entities, including, but not limited to, voluntary consensus standards bodies (see§ 12(d) of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (Pub. L. 104-113, §12(d), 15 U.S.C. 272 note), environmental standard setting organizations, third party certification programs, environmental labeling or environmental "report card" programs, and other environmental consulting organizations. Section V of this Final Guidance provides more detail about how these pilot projects might work. These pilots are expected to yield more specific and practical information about applying this Final Guidance to purchases of particular products and services.
In addition to promoting environmentally preferable purchasing, EO 13101 encourages Executive agencies to purchase bio-based products. (Section 504 (b)). Under the EO, "biobased product" means "a commercial or industrial product (other than food or feed) that utilizes biological products or renewable domestic agricultural (plant, animal and marine) or forestry materials."
Bio-based products may also be environmentally preferable. Made from renewable resources by definition, these products have many positive environmental aspects and should be considered by agencies looking to make environmentally preferable purchases. However, Federal purchasers should not assume all bio-based products are automatically environmentally preferable. As with other products, Executive agencies should consider a range of environmental impacts associated with bio-based products when making purchasing decisions. In some cases, factors such as pesticide use or high water consumption might make a bio-based product less environmentally preferable. The list of bio-based products which the U.S. Department of Agriculture will issue under Section 504 of EO 13101 will be a good starting point for Executive agencies looking to identify environmentally preferable purchasing. During the development of pilots under Section 503 (b) of the EO, EPA will look for opportunities involving bio-based products.
EPA has developed five guiding principles to provide broad guidance for applying environmentally preferable purchasing in the Federal government setting. Applicability of these principles in specific acquisitions will vary depending on a variety of factors, such as: the type and complexity of the product or service being purchased; whether or not the product or service is commercially-available; the type of procurement method used (e.g., negotiated contract, sealed bid, etc.); the time frame for the requirement; and the dollar amount of the requirement.
In all acquisitions, Executive agency personnel use their professional judgement and common sense, whether assessing a product or service's performance, cost, or availability. Similarly, in applying these environmentally preferable principles Executive agency personnel should use reasonable discretion about the level of analysis needed to determine environmental preferability. For example, an extensive life cycle assessment might not be conducted to purchase rubber bands. On the other hand, for large-volume or systems acquisitions, or for complex products, such assessments may be appropriate, and might already be required. Or, in some cases, much of the information upon which to build such an analysis might have already been collected.
Guiding Principle 1: Environment + Price + Performance = Environmentally Preferable Purchasing
Environmental considerations should become part of normal purchasing practice, consistent with such traditional factors as product safety, price, performance, and availability.
The manufacture, use, and disposal of certain products might have adverse impacts on human health and the environment. These impacts impose costs that the purchasing entity, and ultimately, society as a whole, end up paying for in one way or another. For the Federal government, the hazardous or toxic nature of a product or service can result in significant cleanup or liability costs, as well as in less directly quantifiable, but cumulative and persistent environmental damage. Even non-hazardous waste is associated with ever-increasing disposal costs that can be avoided or reduced. Responsible management, beginning with the initial purchase of products and services that minimize environmental burdens, can diminish the Federal government's raw material, operating, maintenance, and disposal costs. In addition, a product or service's environmental preferability can often have positive impacts on its overall performance.
For these reasons, the Federal government's purchasing decisions are no longer confined to considerations of price and functional performance but should include considerations of environmental performance as well. Today agencies can obtain improved environmental attributes not at the expense of, but instead may operate in concert with, other traditional factors like price and functional performance. Those product or service providers who can optimize all these factors will capture and maintain the largest market-share of government customers.
Just like price, performance, and health and safety, environmental factors should be a subject of competition among vendors seeking government contracts. In turn, this increased competition among vendors should stimulate continuous environmental improvement and increase the availability of environmentally preferable products and services. The purpose of this guidance is to encourage Executive agencies to award contracts to companies that take environmental concerns into account. This process, consequently, will lead to the development of environmentally preferable products and services that perform better and cost less because they reduce waste and negative environmental impacts. As stated, this principle reflects the spirit of a number of reinvention initiatives at EPA and across the Federal government aimed at testing cleaner, cheaper, and smarter approaches to environmental protection.
Agencies have considerable discretion in incorporating environmental preferability into procurement decisions, especially within the context of "best value" contracting. For example, environmental considerations that result in payment of a price premium for goods or services may be reasonably related to an agency's definition of its "minimum needs" and, therefore, may be permissible. This is not much different than paying a higher price for better performance or quality. Federal personnel may consider paying a reasonable premium for environmentally preferable products on a number of grounds. For example, a reasonable price premium may be justified because the environmental attributes of a product or service provide offsetting reductions in operating and disposal costs.
Guiding Principle 2: Pollution Prevention
Consideration of environmental preferability should begin early in the acquisition process and be rooted in the ethic of pollution prevention, which strives to eliminate or reduce, up-front, potential risks to human health and the environment.
It is never too early in the acquisition process to begin considering environmental preferability. Pollution prevention, the reduction or elimination of waste at the source, can not only reduce pollution, but it can save money for agencies as well. Defense and civilian Federal agencies have ongoing programs for pollution prevention under EO 12856 and other authorities that can result in cost savings throughout the product or service life cycle. Furthermore, pollution prevention measures can lead to a higher degree of environmental protection by reducing subsequent costs for disposal or cleanup of hazardous wastes and materials. A key reason for environmentally preferable purchasing is to protect the environment by reducing waste and pollution at the source with the resulting benefit of reduced overall cost to the government and the public (taxpayers and society as a whole).
Under this guiding principle, pollution prevention should be the primary motivation and strategy for the Federal government's implementation of environmentally preferable purchasing. There are many ways to apply pollution prevention to the acquisition process:
a. Customized purchases or projects in which program managers, architects, engineers, systems designers, or others have input into the design phase afford agencies an early opportunity to apply environmentally preferable concepts. In addition, early involvement offers agencies a unique point of leverage from which to address environmental impacts. Although these types of purchases are not the bulk of Federal acquisition requirements, the early stage of customized product or project design is the time when decisions about different approaches, materials, and manufacturing processes are made. Estimates show that 70 percent or more of the costs associated with product development, manufacture, and use are determined during the initial design stages.1 By incorporating environmental factors during product or service design, Federal agencies can minimize environmental problems and their associated costs. For example, early environmental consideration helps agencies avoid potential liabilities due to fines as well as the costs of record keeping and reporting.
b. During the early stages of acquisition, Executive agency personnel can also apply a systems analysis approach for certain products or services (such as computers, buildings, and transportation systems) in which a number of components have interdependent functions. A systems analysis approach takes into consideration the full set of product elements, focusing on how they interact from a life cycle perspective and helping to identify the most efficient options for meeting the government's needs.
c. Executive agency personnel might also appropriately ask whether a product or a service is even necessary or can be replaced by a less damaging process. For instance, in degreasing operations, questions arise as to whether an efficient cleaner using halogenated solvents is better or worse for the environment than an aqueous-based cleaner. A more appropriate question may be whether the cleaning/degreasing step can be eliminated without affecting the overall performance of the product or system. This might be accomplished, for example, by consolidating cleaning and degreasing in a later stage of the manufacturing process or changing the process itself. As this example illustrates, environmental preferability does not just involve substituting a "green" product for another. It also involves questioning whether a function needs to be performed and how it can best be performed to minimize negative environmental impacts.
The Department of Defense integrates pollution prevention into all of its major weapons system acquisition programs. For example, the New Attack Submarine (NSSN) Program has worked to include environmental considerations in all phases of the submarine's life cycle, from initial design to eventual disposal some 30 or more years later.
By considering all viable environmental alternatives during the design phase, the NSSN Program identified a number of options that will result in benefits. Just a few examples are listed below:
By recognizing early on that the key to reducing environmental impact throughout the ship's life cycle is pollution prevention and hazardous material control and management, the NSSN Program was able to design a submarine that meets strict safety and performance requirements, achieves significant cost savings, and minimizes risk to the environment.
Guiding Principle 3: Life Cycle Perspective/Multiple Attributes
A product or service's environmental preferability is a function of multiple attributes from a life cycle perspective.
Federal agencies should consider the following concepts in applying this principle:
a. Life cycle perspective - A product or service has environmental impacts long before and after the Federal government purchases and uses it. The manufacture, use, distribution, and disposal of products create a variety of burdens on the environment. Federal agencies should strive to purchase products or services with as few negative environmental impacts in as many life cycle stages as possible. In other words, Federal agencies should determine the "environmental preferability" of a product or service by comparing the severity of environmental damage it causes throughout its life cycle with that caused by competing productsfrom the point of raw materials acquisition, product manufacturing, packaging, and transportation to its use and ultimate disposal. By doing so, the Federal government can minimize the overall environmental impacts of products and services. In addition, by actively seeking and considering life cycle information to inform buying decisions, Executive agency personnel can send a clear signal that government business will go to those who consider the effect of their product's life cycle on the environment.
Life Cycle Stages of a Typical Product
Although most people would agree that considering life cycle impacts in purchasing decisions is desirable, there are disagreements on how to make purchasing decisions that best reflect a life cycle perspective. Even the term "life cycle" is interpreted differently by different people. To some, it connotes an exhaustive, extremely time-consuming, and very expensive analysis. To others, a life cycle perspective is possible in an abbreviated process, in which a long list of potential environmental attributes and/or impacts is narrowed to a few, allowing for comparison across a particular product category. In addition, the ability of Federal purchasers to make buying decisions from a life cycle perspective depends on a variety of factors including: the type of product or service being purchased; the availability of life cycle information and/or willingness by the provider to give the information; and the availability of easy-to-use tools that can translate this information to support purchasing decisions by the Federal government. EPA recognizes that agencies may find it easier to apply a life cycle perspective when the result will be internal agency environmental benefits and/or cost savings rather than external benefits. Nevertheless, EPA encourages agencies to consider reducing impacts along all stages of the product or service life cycle.
This guidance promotes the use of a range of practices, from life cycle considerations to a more rigorous, scientifically defensible life cycle assessment methodology. EPA encourages Executive agencies to use currently available tools as well as help refine and address the needs of Federal purchasers. Examples of available tools and references are listed in Section VI. For the most current list of available tools, Executive agency personnel are referred to EPA's EPP Program Web site. EPA also encourages experts both within and outside of the Federal community to develop additional life cycle tools to support environmental preferability decisions.
b. Multiple environmental attributes - Environmental preferability should reflect the consideration of multiple environmental attributes such as increased energy efficiency, reduced toxicity, or reduced impacts on fragile ecosystems. In addition, these attributes should be considered from a life cycle perspective. Focusing on one environmental attribute of a product or a service, without considering others, might inadvertently exclude important impacts on the determination of environmental preferability. For example, improving one attribute (e.g., increased energy efficiency or reduced toxicity) may result in other unintended environmental life cycle impacts. It is also possible that focusing on a single aspect of the product or service will cause Executive agency personnel to overlook improvements that the vendor has or can make in other aspects of the product or service. In short, it is difficult to be confident that an alternative product is environmentally preferable without some consideration of multiple attributes from a life cycle perspective. Analytical tools such as life cycle assessment can help Federal agencies ensure the product or service they purchase does not create new problems for some other aspect of the environment by identifying other potential negative impacts that should be alleviated.
Although the determination of environmental preferability should be based on multiple environmental attributes, Federal agencies may at times make purchasing decisions based on a single attribute when that attribute distinguishes the product or service in a category. In its environmentally preferable purchasing effort, EPA aims to build upon those attributes that are well-defined, measurable and familiar to Federal purchasers (e.g., recycled content and energy efficiency). EPA also seeks to support the development of similar definitions and measures for other attributes that are less understood and to advance consideration of multiple environmental attributes in purchasing decisions.
The menu of environmental attributes described in Appendix B offers a preliminary look at what should be considered in environmentally preferable purchasing decisions. Many of the attributes are relevant to a number of different product life cycle stages, while others are more pertinent to one particular stage. The menu should serve as a means to inform Executive agency personnel about the different types of attributes that can make a product or service environmentally preferable. Each and every element in the menu is not meant to be applicable to all products and services nor is the menu all-inclusive
Guiding Principle 4: Comparison of Environmental Impacts
Determining environmental preferability might involve comparing environmental impacts. In comparing environmental impacts, Federal agencies should consider: the reversibility and geographic scale of the environmental impacts, the degree of difference among competing products or services, and the overriding importance of protecting human health.
In determining environmental preferability, Executive agency personnel might need to compare the various environmental impacts among competing products or services. For example, would the reduced energy requirements of one product be more important than the water pollution reductions associated with the use of a competing product? The ideal option would be a product that optimized energy efficiency and minimized water pollution. When this is not possible, however, Executive agency personnel will have to choose between the two attributes. It is important to consider both the nature of the environmental impact and the degree of difference among competing products.
There is no widely accepted hierarchy that ranks the attributes or environmental impacts that are most important. The following three factors are intended to help Executive agency personnel analyze the environmental impacts of competing products and services and make decisions about environmental preferability when faced with trade-offs among environmental attributes. These factors are not listed in order of importance.
a. Recovery time and geographic scale - Federal agencies should consider recovery time and geographic scale in comparing environmental impacts. To what extent is an environmental impact reversible? An impact is less acceptable if the recovery time is longer.2 The geographic scale of the problem and the importance of the affected ecosystems are also significant. Global environmental impacts are more significant, therefore, than ecological stressors that have a local or regional ecosystem impact.3
The table shown below provides a basic framework for considering the reversibility and geographical scale of environmental impacts and includes some examples of how certain impacts might fit into the matrix.
While some environmental standards or other sources of comparative information on products are national or international in scope, Federal agencies should also be prepared to consider unique local impacts and site-specific uses. Information based on an assessment of national or global needs, by its nature, rarely allows for the consideration of local impacts associated with how products are used, recycled, and/or discarded. Executive agency personnel are encouraged to consider local factors, where they are relevant, and not rely exclusively on national or global information. For example, although it may be generally accepted that an aqueous-based degreaser is preferred over a halogenated solvent degreaser, the environmentally preferable purchasing decision may depend on whether there is sufficient local wastewater treatment capacity to deal with the aqueous waste.
There may be rare occasions where the goal of minimizing a local impact, such as smog, is in conflict with the goal of minimizing a global impact, such as ozone depletion and global climate change. In these instances, EPA encourages purchasers to engage as much as possible in applying Principle #2 and aiming to prevent pollution, thereby avoiding such trade-offs. Where there are unique local circumstances, the purchaser can make the judgment that the local conditions and impacts should be given priority.
ECOLOGICAL PRIORITY IMPACTS MATRIX
++ This matrix provides a few examples of how certain environmental stressors and impacts might fall into the different categories of reversibility and geographic scale considerations and is not meant to be comprehensive.
b. Differences among competing products - In some situations, a purchaser may determine preferability by looking at the differences of environmental performance among competing products, rather than by comparing environmental problems. Guiding Principle 3 addresses the importance of identifying relevant attributes for a product. There might be significant differences among competing products for some of these attributes, while for others, the differences could be minimal. In purchase comparisons, Executive agencies might prefer the product or service that provides a significant improvement over competing products, without making a determination that one environmental problem is more significant than another. For example, a product that significantly reduces toxicity might be preferable to one that makes a minimal reduction in waste reduction.
c. Human health - A product or a service should be at least equivalent to comparable products/services in protecting human health to be considered environmentally preferable. EPA's Science Advisory Board listed the environmental factors listed to the right as significant contributors to human health risks.
List of High Priority Human Health Stressors
EPA recognizes that Executive agencies considering these three factors (recovery time and geographic scale; differences among products; and human health) must rely on providers of products and services to supply practical environmental information on products. EPA encourages organizations that provide environmental standards or other types of comparative product information to consider these factors in evaluating and reporting environmental information for purchasers.
Guiding Principle 5: Environmental Performance Information
Comprehensive, accurate, and meaningful information about the environmental performance of products or services is necessary in order to determine environmental preferability.
a. Importance of Environmental Information Executive agency personnel will need comprehensive, accurate and meaningful life cycle-based information about the environmental characteristics of products and services in order to evaluate whether one product or service is more or less damaging than another. Even with this thorough information, however, making these evaluations can be difficult. Yet, without such information, determinations of environmental preferability are even more challenging. Executive agency personnel are encouraged to seek, and product and service providers are encouraged to provide, life cycle-based information about the environmental performance of products and services. This information should be sought and provided in all appropriate stages of the acquisition process including, but not limited to market surveys, request for proposals, etc. (See Federal Acquisition Regulation, (FAR) 48 C.F.R. Subpart 23.7, which includes a mandate for the acquisition of environmentally preferable and energy-efficient products and services.
Executive agency purchasers may encourage product and service providers to describe their product or service's performance according to the menu of environmental attributes included in Appendix B (1).
Product and service providers' disclosure of environmental information about their products and services will also foster competition and encourage a market-driven approach to environmental improvement. The accessibility of the information to the public (both Executive agency personnel and the general public) will help ensure its accuracy and credibility.
b. What/How Information is Conveyed - A number of resources about the environmental performance of products or services are currently available. Two general categories of information sources can be distinguished: (1) manufacturers who provide environmental information (e.g., environmental claims, product profiles, etc.) about their products either on the label or through product literature, including advertisements; and (2) environmental information compiled, evaluated, and reported by non-governmental entities. Included in this second category are third-party certification programs that evaluate the environmental aspects of products and award symbols (e.g., "seals-of-approval") or compile "report cards" of environmental information. Non-governmental entities may also verify specific claims made by manufacturers (e.g., paper contains 30 percent recycled content).
Information conveyed through claims and seals can help Executive agency personnel identify environmentally preferable products, depending on the types of products being purchased and the legal acquisition requirements involved. A more detailed discussion of how Executive agencies can use technical expertise and research of non-governmental entities in their environmentally preferable purchasing practices is included in Section V and Appendix D. In evaluating the environmental attribute claims made by anyone, whether they are manufacturers, vendors, or other non-governmental entities, Executive agency personnel should refer to the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC's) "Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Terms." (Green Guides.)
This section recommends steps that each agency can take to implement the environmentally preferable purchasing provisions of EO 13101.
A. Policy directive and affirmative procurement plans
Recognizing that effective implementation of environmentally preferable purchasing will require clear direction and support from the top levels of each agency, this Final Guidance recommends that each Executive agency issue a Policy Directive promoting the practice. A sample is included in Appendix C. The policy directive should include the elements listed below:
An overall statement of policy:
Agency personnel should seek to reduce the environmental damages associated with their purchases by increasing their acquisition of environmentally preferable products and services to the extent feasible, consistent with price, performance, availability, and safety considerations.
Environmental factors should be taken into account as early as possible in the acquisition planning and decision-making process. (See EO 13101, Section 401.)
Responsibility for environmentally preferable purchasing should be shared among the program, acquisition, and procurement personnel.
A commitment to the following:
Increasing the acquisition of environmentally preferable products and services. (See EO 13101, Sections 102, 503 (c), and 602.)
Under section 6002 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 and FAR Subpart 23.4, procuring agencies are required to establish affirmative procurement programs for purchasing EPA-designated recycled products. EPA recommends that agencies expand the scope of their affirmative procurement programs to include environmentally preferable products and services. EO 13101, Section 302, (a)(1)(a) calls for a Strategic Plan to include the "direction and initiatives for acquisition of recycled and recyclable products and environmentally preferable products and services." Furthermore, Section 302 (b) (1) requires Agency Environmental Executives to "translate [this] Government-wide Strategic Plan into specific agency and service plans."
Identifying and implementing pilot projects (See Section V (B) below).
Establishing internal agency incentive and award programs to recognize those people, teams, and interagency work groups who are most successful at promoting the purchase of environmentally preferable purchasing (see Executive Order 13101, Section 802). Collaboration among agencies to provide education and training is highly encouraged.
In order to minimize the burden on Executive agencies, EPA recommends that each agency incorporate in its Policy Directive to promote environmentally preferable purchasing into its Affirmative Procurement and Strategic Plans. This incorporation can transpire as agencies revise their plans. Agencies should ensure that their Policy Directive is made available to the field-level procurement and environmental personnel.
B. Pilot Projects
Section 503 (b) of EO 13101 states "[A]gencies are encouraged to immediately test and evaluate the principles and concepts contained in the EPA's Guidance on the Acquisition of Environmentally Preferable Products and Services through pilot projects to provide practical information to the EPA for further updating of the guidance." Furthermore, Section 704 states "Each executive agency shall establish a model demonstration program. . . to demonstrate and test new and innovative approaches such as incorporating environmentally preferable... products...." into model facility programs. To help Executive agencies implement these provisions of the EO, this Final Guidance includes some suggested steps for initiating and implementing pilot acquisitions.
The suggestions that follow are based on lessons from early pilots undertaken by the General Services Administration and the Department of Defense in partnership with EPA. Case studies from these and other pilot projects are available from the Pollution Prevention Information Clearinghouse (202 260-1023) or they can be accessed through EPA's EPP Program Web site.
Additional pilot acquisitions will be important testing grounds for applying the guiding principles and testing their applicability. The pilots will also provide valuable information for the development of tools and resources to facilitate widespread adoption of environmentally preferable purchasing practices.
EPA will track pilots that are planned or already underway on the EPP Web site, providing a clearinghouse for information on government-wide activities related to environmentally preferable purchasing. (See EO 13101, Section 503 (b)(4).) EPA will disseminate information about different pilots among the agencies through the EPP Web site, updates, and fact sheets to ensure that lessons learned are shared and used to inform other pilot projects.
The discussion below further describes how these pilots and demonstration projects might proceed. EPA encourages Executive agencies to undertake pilots and use all existing sources of information and technical expertise to carry them out. EPA is committed to supporting these pilots and providing overall coordination and technical assistance, as resources allow.
1. Selection of pilots. Selection of pilot acquisitions is at the discretion of the individual Executive agencies. There are at least two options for how agencies can approach this selection process. First, an agency may want to identify an environmental problem that it wants or needs to address. Once the problem has been identified, the agency can develop a list of products and services that contribute to that specific environmental problem. Alternatively, an agency may start out with a product or service category for which it wants to find alternatives. In either case, criteria that agencies might wish to consider in selecting pilot acquisitions include:
Potential for a reduction in risk to human health and the environment.
Status on EPA's prioritized list. Pursuant to EO 13101, Section 503 (a), and in order to assist Executive agencies focus their efforts on minimizing serious environmental impacts, EPA has developed a prioritized list of the top 20 product categories. The complete list, along with a discussion of the methodology used in its development can be found in EPA's EPP Web site.
Existence of less harmful product or service alternatives. Alternatives could vary anywhere along the product or services' life cycle, for example, different ways of manufacturing or disposing. Alternatives might also include different ways of getting the same result, even if it means acquiring a completely different type of product or service.
Feasibility/degree of flexibility in the acquisition.
Products or services that are widely used within the Federal government and are representative or typical of the procurement system. This maximizes the pilot's potential value to others by providing lessons about the effectiveness of the guidance and increasing the likelihood that the pilot could be replicated. (See EO 13101, Section 503 (b) (1).)
2. Implementation of pilot projects. In implementing the pilot projects, Executive agencies can look to the process and results of projects others have completed or develop a different approach for environmentally preferable purchasing. In undertaking the pilots, agencies are encouraged to:
Ensure the participation of environmental and procurement experts.
Use all of the options available to them to determine the environmentally preferable attributes of products and services in their pilot projects, including the technical expertise of non-governmental entities. This is pursuant to EO 13101, Section 503 (b) (2). More specific guidance on the use of non-governmental entities is included in Appendix D.
Once a product or service has been chosen, pilots typically involve:
Determining environmentally preferable products and services. This can be accomplished by Executive agencies:
Identifying product attributes that can serve as indicators of environmental preferability. Agencies can look to Appendix B for a menu of attributes. Selection of attributes should be tied to the most significant environmental problems or impacts.
Collecting information from product and service providers. This may require the development of contract language to ensure that vendors provide environmental information.
With the recent changes to the FAR and the trend toward best value contracting, agencies can now more easily consider environmental factors when making purchasing decisions. However, environmental information is often not provided by vendors. Thus, it may be necessary for Executive agency personnel to clearly request or require relevant environmental information from vendors in market surveys and proposals whenever appropriate.
Evaluating the environmental information.
Incorporating results of the environmental information research into the acquisition process to purchase environmentally preferable products and services. While the acquisition strategy and method are determined by the purchasing agency, EPA asks that agencies select a strategy that:
Maximizes the number of environmentally preferable product or service choices available to the purchasing agency.
Promotes competition across products and services in terms of environmental performance.
Stimulates product and service process innovation and continuous improvement.
Allows for the consideration of local environmental conditions.
Promotes a definition of environmentally preferable products and services that can improve over time.
Documenting the pilot effort, including a description of how the project was initiated and implemented and the lessons learned. A sample case study template is attached in Appendix E and is also available on EPA's EPP Web site. The results of pilot projects will be shared among Executive agencies through EPA's EPP Web site.
More specific information about pilot implementation will be made available through a variety of tools that EPA currently is developing including: an interactive training module; a "best practices guide" with examples of specific contract language that have been used by purchasing agencies; and a database of existing environmental standards that have been developed by governmental and non-governmental entities.
Section 12(d) of The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (NTTAA) (Pub. L. 104-113, §12(d), 15 U.S.C. 272 note) and OMB Circular A-119 (63 FR 8546, February 19, 1998) direct Federal agencies to use both domestic and international voluntary consensus standards in lieu of government-unique standards in their procurement and regulatory activities, except where it would be inconsistent with applicable law or otherwise impractical. The Act's purpose is to reduce the cost of procurement and regulation by requiring a Federal agency to draw upon any suitable technical standard already used in commerce or industry rather than inventing a new standard. Some of those standards might relate to evaluating environmental performance and measuring the environmental attributes of products or services. In establishing Environmental Preferable Purchasing pilot projects or planning other environmentally-sensitive activities, agencies should first determine whether there is an applicable voluntary consensus standard that would meet its needs.
The NTTAA also requires a Federal agency, when it is consistent with the agency's mission, authorities, priorities, and budget resources, to participate in the standards-setting activities of voluntary consensus standards bodies. Such participation helps ensure the development of standards that meet the agency's needs, including those related to Environmental Preferable Purchasing concerns. This collaboration can also promote national goals and objectives. OMB Circular A-119 specifically mentions the need to promote the use of environmentally sound and energy-efficient materials, products, systems, services, or practices as well as the improvement of public health and safety. (See OMB A-119, Section 7a.)
In the long run, institutionalizing the purchase of environmentally preferable products and services requires that Executive agencies continue their efforts after the pilot's are completed. Given that environmental information about products and services is still scarce, agencies should rely on all sources of information and technical expertise in making determinations about environmental preferability. To foster agencies continue acquisition of "green" products, EPA will coordinate the development and standardization of environmental information about potential product and service categories for future pilots. This effort will consist of identifying environmental performance characteristics and measurement methods and will involve technical experts both inside and outside the Federal government. Executive agencies should examine all information generated through these types of efforts. The agencies, and not the nongovernmental entities, must make all final determinations regarding environmental preferability.
The experience gained from Executive agency pilots will be key in determining the scope and nature of EPA's long-term activities to advance Federal environmentally preferable purchasing. The lessons learned and partnerships formed from these pilots will help establish a broader infrastructure to support this initiative. EPA might use existing mechanisms or help develop new resources such as guidance, networks, and databases in support of the Federal purchasing community to build this infrastructure. The infrastructure will help bridge the gap between the environmental and procurement expertise within the Executive agencies.
All Executive agency personnel will have a role in creating a demand for environmentally preferable products and services. Thus, the infrastructure will also have to support the development of tools that are easy and convenient for general and diverse use.
In light of the evolving acquisition landscape and the dynamic nature of the marketplace, the infrastructure will have to be flexible. In the increased globalization of the economy and trends toward commercialization of the Federal marketplace, will also require agencies to coordinate this initiative with new international trade and standardization developments. Ultimately, the measure of this initiative's success will be in the increased availability and purchase of products and services that pose fewer adverse impacts on human health and the environment.
1. U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Green products by Design: Choices for a Cleaner Environment, OTA-E-541 (Washington, D.C. U.S. Government Printing Office, October 1992) [Back to text]
2. This is based on the findings of the Science Advisory Board, published in its 1990 report entitled "Reducing Risk: Setting Priorities and Strategies for Environmental Protection," a statement of policy on priority pollutants affecting environmental and public health. In this report, environmental stressors were judged to be significant based on two primary criteriathe geographic scale and degree of reversibility of the impact.
The Science Advisory Board is a public advisory group providing
extramural scientific information and advice to the Administrator and
other officials of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Board is structured
to provide balanced, expert assessment of scientific matters related to
problems facing the Agency. [Back to text]
3. Refer to above footnote. [Back to text]