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Q&A from “How To Integrate Green into Acquisition” Webinar Training (5/29/14)

1. What's the role of PMs in sustainable acquisition?

Sustainable acquisition is a shared responsibility of the program office and contracting office.  While there is no government-wide formal policy, GSA has outlined the following responsibilities for program office officials in its internal Green Purchasing Plan(GPP):

  • Completing green purchasing training as required
  • Defining all applicable environmental and energy conservation objectives associated with the acquisition, including lifecycle considerations
  • Using the Green Procurement Compilation and GSA Advantage!® Environmental Aisle to identify green products and services and applicable green product requirements
  • Ensuring that specifications and performance requirements comply with the GPP
  • Identifying product and service areas where significant positive environmental impact can be achieved through acquisition of sustainable products or services
  • Working with the Contracting Officer (CO) to resolve any sustainable product-related contract performance issues
  • Assisting the environmental technical experts and CO to select the product or service that meets all applicable standards, or otherwise minimizes overall environmental impact, when multiple environmental standards apply to a product or service
  • Providing rationale for the applicable exception to the CO, justifying any acquisition that will not involve the procurement of green products or services
  • Collecting procurement data in support of EO and other reporting requirements

Note that several of these responsibilities are shared with the contracting office.

2. I've been told GSA is responsible for verifying the accuracy of the vendor's product representations as to green procurement.  Adam said COs should be confirming the info with the vendor.  What is the correct approach?

Both are correct. GSA Schedule contractors are required to highlight products with environmental attributes in publications and other electronic formats, including GSA Advantage!®.  However, given the many challenges associated with obtaining accurate environmental information for millions of products on an ongoing basis, environmental designations are frequently inaccurate. Since procuring officials are ultimately responsible for ensuring compliance with green purchasing requirements, environmental attribute claims should be verified prior to placing an order.  While GSA implemented procedures to increase the accuracy of environmental icons on GSA Advantage!®, GSA is currently unable to verify every listed product with an environmental claim.

3. What is the process and how likely is it to get a product added/approved by the GPC.  Currently there is not a category for building material used to construct walls.  We offer a modified ICF that is made from recycled polystyrene.  It lasts for generations.  It saves energy.  So, many aspects of sustainability but, not sure where to go with it from here.  We have a GSA schedule…. Now what?

The GPC lists products for which the EPA, DOE, USDA, or other Federal agencies have issued designations or otherwise provided guidance for products with environmental or energy attributes.  While there are many sustainable products and services in the commercial marketplace, the GPC only includes products that are covered by specific Federal programs.  The GPC is updated regularly as new products are designated under these programs.

In addition to the green product requirements, agencies are required to construct and operate sustainable buildings. We recommend that you contact regional offices of agencies located in your geographic region to learn about their upcoming building renovation plans and opportunities to sell your products to them.

4. Program offices require, COs contract or purchase, but who is responsible for the final outcome? Could you mail us information about it?

Sustainable acquisition is a shared responsibility, so both the program office and contracting office are responsible for the final outcome.  Ultimately, though, the CO must always ensure that procurements comply with purchasing requirements.

5. Do you have any insight as to what is a popular green product that agencies are buying on GSA Schedule?

Agencies are purchasing significant volumes of EPEAT-registered and Energy Star office electronics, as well as recycled content copier paper and other recycled content office supplies. Depending on the agency, they also are purchasing biobased products.

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