Guidelines for the Assessment of Environmental Performance Standards and Ecolabels for Federal Purchasing
The Guidelines provide a transparent, fair, and consistent approach to assessing marketplace standards and ecolabels for EPA’s Recommendations to federal purchasers. The Guidelines encourage continuous improvement of standards and ecolabels and the products and services that they address, while providing flexibility to accommodate the variety of approaches to and types of standards and ecolabels that exist in the marketplace today.
There are over 460 standards and ecolabels in the marketplace claiming to validate environmental and human health benefits. This presents the federal acquisition community both great opportunities and challenges. EPA's goal in developing the guidelines is to create an efficient way for purchasers to easily identify environmentally preferable products. The Guidelines provide a transparent, fair, and consistent approach to selecting environmental performance standards and ecolabels to support the agency's mission and federal sustainable acquisition mandates. The fundamental aim of the guidelines is to establish a process to evaluate and recognize non-governmental environmental standards and ecolabels (and consequently, environmentally preferable products meeting these standards) for use in federal procurement.
The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) at 48 CFR 23.703(b)(1) – directs Agencies to "Maximize the utilization of environmentally preferable products and services (based on EPA-issued guidance)." The Guidelines are the basis for developing the Recommendations, which serve as the “EPA-issued guidance”. The ability to evaluate and use private sector standards to meet federal policy and procurement objectives aligns with the mandates in the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA) (Section 12d) and OMB Circular A-119.
The Guidelines include four sections:
- Section I: 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?
- Section II: Environmental Effectiveness of the Standard —Do the environmental criteria in the standard/ecolabel meaningfully and measurably address the issue? Do they differentiate among products? Does the standard address key stages in the product lifecycle that may pose environmental and human health risks?
- Section III: 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?
- Section IV: Management of Ecolabeling Programs — Do the organizational and management practices provide for dispute resolution? Are the practices and fees transparent?
- EPA’s Draft Options Paper for the Pilot Governance Committee (October 2016).
- November 2013 Federal Register Notice on the Draft Guidelines.
- Technical Questions and Answers regarding the Draft Guidelines (from November 2013).
- Draft Guidelines – Sections I, III, and IV (November 2013) and Revised Section II (December 2014).
- Briefing on the Draft Guidelines and December 12, 2014 webinar recording.
- Federal Register Notice to launch a pilot to assess standards and ecolabels against Draft Guidelines in three product categories: furniture; flooring; and paints/coatings (March 19, 2015).
- Independent Assessment Entity (IAE) Initial Pilot Assessment Findings and Recommendations.
- For more information on the pilot assessment of standards and ecolabels, please visit Resolve's website.
- Summary Report Assessment for the Product Standards and Labeling Interagency Workgroup (GSA Contractor Report, November 2011). The report summarizes an assessment of relevant ecolabels and environmental standards against an initial set of draft guidelines.