Draft Guidelines for Product Environmental Performance Standards and Ecolabels for Voluntary Use in Federal Procurement
From November 20, 2013 through April 25, 2014, EPA received input from more than 75 individuals and organizations on its proposed Draft Guidelines for Product Environmental Performance Standards and Ecolabels for Voluntary Use in Federal Procurement (PDF) (5 pp, 137 K, About PDF) to help federal purchasers select greener products and meet sustainability purchasing goals. Read the Federal Register Notice, press release and blog.
The draft guidelines were developed by EPA, the General Services Administration (GSA), and other federal agencies following several listening sessions with a wide range of stakeholders. The sessions focused on how the federal government can be more sustainable in its purchasing and how federal purchasers can best meet the numerous federal requirements for the procurement of sustainable and environmentally preferable products and services.
General Questions and Answers
What is the purpose of the guidelines?
They are a set of criteria that could help identify which private sector standards and ecolabels federal purchasers should consider when buying greener products.
Why were the draft guidelines developed?
They are intended to help federal purchasers identify and buy environmentally preferable products. Federal agencies must meet federal mandates requiring that 95 percent of their acquisitions are sustainable, such as by buying environmentally preferable products.
Many federal agencies are buying products with federal ecolabels, such as Energy Star, Watersense, and Design for the Environment -- labels that identify products meeting strict federal standards for energy, water, and safer chemicals; however, there are many other products that are not covered by federal ecolabels. The challenge for federal buyers is sorting through these hundreds of other products with non-governmental standards and ecolabels that claim to be safer or environmentally friendly. The draft guidelines are intended to help federal buyers select those private ecolabels and standards that are environmentally preferable and appropriate for federal procurement.
How would the guidelines be used?
Under the proposed approach, one or more non-governmental (private sector) organizations with expertise in environmental standards and ecolabels would work with EPA and key stakeholders to develop a process for applying the guidelines to private sector environmental standards and ecolabels.
The guidelines would be applied on a product category by product category basis. A list of product standards and ecolabels that meet the guidelines could be created. That information could be considered by federal purchasers, along with other federal mandates and requirements for federal purchasing.
Would the guidelines apply to household consumers?
Not directly. The guidelines are intended to help guide federal purchasing. That said, there are many products, like cleaning products, paper, and building materials, that both government and households purchase. Therefore, the guidelines have the potential to affect the broader consumer marketplace by potentially increasing the availability of greener and safer products.
What do the draft guidelines address?
The draft guidelines are actually four sets of guidelines that address various aspects of product environmental performance standards and ecolabels:
Process for Developing the Standard — Are the procedures to develop, maintain, and update an environmental standard transparent? Do they allow for a balance of different stakeholder interests? Is there an appeals process for disputes?
Environmental Effectiveness of the Standard — Are the criteria in the standard/ecolabel that support environmental preferability measurable? Do they differentiate among products? Does the standard address key stages in the product lifecycle that may pose risks?
Conformity Assessment — Are the procedures and practices by which products are assessed transparent? Are there provisions for independent verification that products meet the standard, if necessary?
Management of Ecolabeling Programs — Do the organizational and management practices provide for dispute resolution? Are the practices and fees transparent?
How were the draft guidelines developed?
Beginning in early 2011, EPA, GSA, and other federal agencies came together to identify existing environmental purchasing requirements for federal buyers and existing guidelines and protocols for standards and ecolabels. An interagency group developed an initial set of draft guidelines, and, with contractor support, tested the feasibility and appropriateness of the draft guidelines. This included conducting a survey of a subset of government and non-governmental environmental performance standards and ecolabel developers. Based on the results of the study and external stakeholder input from more than 30 listening sessions and discussions, EPA took the lead in completing the draft guidelines and initiating this public comment process.
How can I view comments?
Comments on the proposed draft guidelines were submitted at Regulations.gov, docket #EPA-HQ-OPPT-2013-0579 between November 2013 and April 25, 2014.
Summary Report Assessment for the Product Standards and Labeling Interagency Workgroup (GSA Contractor Report) (PDF) (101 pp, 1.1M, About PDF). The report summarizes an assessment of relevant ecolabels and environmental standards against an initial set of draft guidelines.
Green Procurement: Overview and Issues for Congress (PDF) (49 pp, 553K, About PDF). This 2010 report addresses several key policy questions surrounding green procurement, especially for federal acquisitions.
Environmental Considerations in Federal Procurement: An Overview of the Legal Authorities and Their Implementation (PDF) (27 pp, 314K, About PDF). This 2013 report analyzes federal legal authorities and other policy questions on environmental considerations in federal procurement.
Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance - EO 13514. The Executive Order requires agencies to measure, manage, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impact areas to meet agency-defined targets. It describes a process by which agency goals should be set and reported.