GSA: Green, Sustainable and more Aggressive

Thursday - 5/6/2010, 7:04am EDT

WFED's Jason Miller

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Agencies have about a month to finish plans to reduce their energy usage around vendor supply chains, employee travel and commuting and other services.

And when the Office of Management and Budget approves them, the General Services Administration wants to be ready to help make each agency's strategy a reality.

"As agencies absorb the President's green challenge, they will be turning to us," says GSA administrator Martha Johnson during a call with reporters from the agency's Expo conference in Orlando. "We are positioned in particularly an important place to be experts, resources, facilitators and enablers for that sustainability agenda. I think of us as in a fulcrum role. Where else do you find the kind of leveraging that we at GSA can do? The President considers us part of his green team because we can impact what the government does."

Johnson says GSA's impact will be felt in several areas, but most specifically in driving the sustainability market to meet the government's needs.

GSA's ability to attract leading edge products and services begins with themselves, and through their existing contracts.

"We are being inexorably paced toward a goal that would be a zero environmental footprint goal," she says. "I think GSA is positioned, poised and ready and eager to play an aggressive role in this."

Johnson says the goal of achieving a zero carbon footprint is GSA's version of the moon shot.

"We need to set aggressive goals for GSA to accelerate our own expertise and attract talent," she says. "This is just a way of getting everyone focused about the sustainability agenda."

For GSA to achieve a zero carbon footprint, they must save as much energy as they use. Johnson says GSA has not yet figured out how to obtain that balance.

"The notion of having a zero environment footprint is a big strategic notion and we have not turned it in to programmatic details yet," she says.

To help increase the agency's understanding, senior officials are holding an off-site meeting where they will develop strategic goals and meet with a company, which has been trying to reduce its energy usage for more than a decade. Johnson did not mention the company they are meeting with.

The goal, Johnson says, is to learn how they are going about it both from culture and functional perspectives.

While GSA figures out how to tame its internal energy usage, the Federal Acquisition Service is focused on helping its agency and vendor customers.

Steve Kempf, FAS's acting commissioner, says his organization is looking at both short term and long term changes to its contracts.

Kempf says FAS is going through the schedules to ensure the products and services highlighted as sustainable or green are accurate.

FAS wants to set up a rigorous and reliable set of standards to judge products and services by.

"Over the long term, we are looking at what it means to be sustainable supplier," Kempf says. "One of the things I would like to see on the schedule is companies that provide the latest state of art sustainable products and services. I also want to see those companies already on the schedule to make their products and service more green and sustainable."

GSA also is testing a tool to help agencies set their carbon footprint baseline. Kempf says the application, which has been in the works since last March 2009, will be released as soon as it has all the capabilities that agencies need. He did not give a timetable for when that would happen.

GSA awarded Noblis a contract to develop a tool. A Noblis Web site says the tool should be ready by July.

The tool will include several applications:

  • A carbon footprint analyzer
  • An employee survey
  • Geospatial information system carbon profile maps
  • Green investment return on investment calculator
  • Greenhouse gas reports

GSA also is educating vendors and agency customers about the potential uses of green technology. At the Expo conference, Kempf says the agency offered more than 20 courses on sustainability, and more than 200 vendor booths offered green products and services.

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