Government plans to 'make and move markets' with emissions reporting

Officials predict companies seeking conracts will have to report greenhouse gas emissions inventories to the government

The government is attempting to “make and move markets” by instituting a voluntary reporting program by companies of their greenhouse gas emissions that could eventually become mandatory, a federal official said July 19.

The same day, the General Services Administration, which led an interagency working group on emissions reporting, officially released its recommendations to the White House Council on Environmental Quality on reducing the federal supply chain's greenhouse gas emissions.

Stephen Leeds, senior sustainability officer at GSA, said the federal working group found it feasible for companies to report their greenhouse gas emissions in a voluntary system. Although mandatory reporting is not required currently, its day is coming. As it stands, the government and the private sector are at the very start of an evolution toward detailed tracking of emissions, eventually down the product level, Leeds said.

The group, called the Section 13 Working Group, addressed the questions of feasibility in Section 13 of President Barack Obama’s Executive Order 13514, which was signed in October. The order tells agencies to set up a strategy toward sustainability, or lighten their impact on the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To decrease those emissions, the working group concluded, “One of the most influential tools [agencies] could use is the procurement process.” Over the next two years, GSA will survey its vendors on their greenhouse gas emissions and begin to give contracting advantages — similar to the preference a company can receive for good performances on previous contracts — to companies that conduct emissions inventories, Leeds said.

Leeds said he hopes by fiscal 2011 to have a few requests for proposals on GSA contracts in which those preferences are offered to companies that disclose their emissions data.

Currently, though, officials and others involved have not established all the standards, he added. To do so, they have to be recognized and acceptable to various sectors.

As it stands now, “any approach towards using supplier disclosed [greenhouse gas] emissions data in the federal acquisition system must include the flexibility to adapt to emerging practices,” the working group concluded in its report.

According to Leeds and the working group, new standards and practices will emerge as organizations adapt to new requirements.

Leeds likened the greenhouse gas emissions reporting to the government’s demand in the 1970s for seat belts in the cars it bought and how that demand changed the automobile market.

“Given the size of the federal government, as we have seen through history, it has an ability to make and move markets,” Leeds said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

Reader Comments

Wed, Jul 28, 2010 Dave K

This "'Given the size of the federal government, as we have seen through history, it has an ability to make and move markets,' Leeds said." is the scariest quote I've seen in any article here!

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