Green Procurement and Eco Labels in the US Federal Government: an Update (May 2012)

May 2012

The US Federal Government is the world’s largest buyer of goods and services covering numerous agencies and multi-trillions of dollars.  The government, through its many agencies, has implemented over the last decade or so a number of programs aimed at green procurement which include adoption of the Energy Star program and the EPA’s Watersense program.   The’s Web site lists numerous Executive orders, laws and other pieces of legislation relating to green purchasing and the use of environmental standards and eco-labels in policy and purchasing.   In 2009, an Executive Order entitled the “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance” called for an integrated strategy towards sustainability within the Federal Government.  As largely a service provider, a large part of the environmental impact of the US government’s lies in its procurement practices.  Emerging from this Order were several working groups, one of which is the Product Standards and Eco Labels Subgroup chaired by the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the GSA (General Services Administration), whose objective is to facilitate the sustainable procurement efforts within a large group of US agencies, including NASA, Defense, Commerce etc, which collectively is surely the largest procurement pool in the world. 


The sub-group states “During the fall of 2011, the subgroup reached out to key stakeholders to gain critical input on the development of the guidelines and potential implementation approaches to recommend in the subgroup's report. In mid 2012, there will be a comment period announced in the Federal Register to gain further public input.”   Its objective is to “Ensure product-related acquisition goals of Executive Order 13514 are met through guidelines for selecting product-related environmental sustainability standards and/or ecolabeling programs”.   In drawing up these guidelines, the sub-group is looking at such issues as the effectiveness of the use of eco labels and product standards and is referring to numerous bodies that assess and produce standards at a high level, such as ISO, ANSI and ISEAL as well as existing green product programs in operation by the US Government. 


In terms of schedule the EPA/GSA sub-group will issue in mid-2012 a draft guideline on the use of eco labels and standards for public comment, in the Federal Register, with finalization of this by the end 2012.  In the implementation phase of these guidelines to happen after this, specific standards and eco labels recommended for use will be listed.   The guidelines and their development are likely to of keen interest to standards bodies and leading users of sustainability standards who may wish to compare their standards policy that of the US Federal government.  

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