What is The White House's Sustainable Procurement Programme?

The Biden-Harris administration has moved to create sustainable federal supply chains, aiming to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050

The White House has finalised a rule that will use the federal Government’s purchasing power to advance American manufacturing and build sustainable federal supply chains.

The Sustainable Products and Services procurement final rule modernises existing federal sustainable purchasing standards and directs the US government, as the world’s single largest purchaser, to prioritise the purchase of American-made sustainable products and services.

“For more than 50 years, the federal government has played a leading role in promoting innovation, creating jobs, reducing emissions, and shaping markets through its sustainable purchasing requirements,” says Christine Harada, Office of Federal Procurement Policy Senior Advisor.

“We are proud to continue to be a global leader in sustainable purchasing and meet President Biden’s ambition of net-zero emissions from federal procurement by 2050.”

During the Biden-Harris Administration, federal agencies have made significant progress to modernise Federal contracting

Build America, Buy America Act

During the current administration, federal agencies have made great strides in modernising its contracting.

From new government-wide acquisition rules in place to increase domestic content of US-made end products under the Build America, Buy America Act, to advancing diversity in the federal marketplace with record spending with businesses in underserved communities.

“President Biden has tasked federal agencies with leading by example toward a more sustainable future, including by buying products that are safer for the environment and for communities,” adds Brenda Mallory, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Brenda Mallory, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (Credit: The White House)

“As part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to support US manufacturing and climate action, these new standards will help federal agencies prioritise the purchase of sustainable products and services certified to EPA-recommended standards and ecolabels that create good-paying jobs right here at home.”

This move will strengthen existing sustainable products requirements by directing federal buyers to maximise their sustainable products and services.

Environmental Protection Agency Recommendations 

It will also directs agencies to follow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Recommendations of Specifications, Standards, and Ecolabels for federal Purchasing (the Recommendations) that were in effect as of October 2023, which identify more than 40 recommended environmental standards and ecolabels across 34 product and service categories.

EPA’s recommendations assists buyers identify thousands of American-made products and services that will tackle environmental and human health issues across the lifecycle, including energy and water efficiency, chemicals of concern, plastic use, reduction, and more.

The EPA will carry on assessing labels and standards for inclusions in its recommendations, alongside assistance from stakeholders and the public.

“As the world’s largest buyer, we have a responsibility to lead by example and accelerate the move toward buying clean,” says Jason Miller, Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget.

“As part of the Biden-Harris administration’s whole-of-government approach to achieve a net-zero emissions economy, this rule demonstrates that federal procurement is a catalyst for simultaneously promoting economy and efficiency, and environmental stewardship.”

Unwavering commitment to sustainability

The final rule requires federal agencies to procure water efficient and safer products certified by EPA’s WaterSense and safer choices programmes, with the recommendations include analysis of criteria for perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals, known as 'forever chemicals'.

“Under President Biden’s leadership, EPA is proud to implement this rule to reinforce our unwavering commitment to sustainability, American industry, and to protecting communities from pollution,” adds EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.

“Through these enhanced purchasing standards, we are advancing the Administration’s environmental objectives while supporting US manufacturing and generating significant economic benefits across the country. This rule is a testament to our collective dedication to using the power of federal procurement to forge a cleaner, more sustainable future.”

President Biden’s federal Sustainability Plan

This will also move forward President Biden’s federal Sustainability Plan, which targets to reach net-zero emissions from federal operations and procurement by 2050.

The federal government spends more than US$700bn on products and services annually and more than a third of existing federal contracts include sustainable products and services requirements.

With this increase in purchasing sustainable products and services, the Biden-Harris Administration expects to reduce the emissions associated with the federal supply chain, which are estimated to be more than twice as large as the emissions from operating the federal Government’s buildings and vehicles combined.

“At GSA, we’ve seen first hand how the federal government’s buying power can catalyse job creation and accelerate progress toward the clean energy future,” says GSA Administrator, Robin Carnahan.

GSA Administrator, Robin Carnahan (Credit: LinkedIn)

“Today’s action builds on the progress the Biden-Harris Administration has made to lead by example and realise the triple win of good jobs, taxpayer savings through reduced energy costs, and a healthier planet.”

From spurring the market for recycled paper in the 1970s to making ENERGY STAR a household name, the federal Government has played a leading role for more than 50 years in promoting innovation, creating jobs, reducing emissions and shaping markets through its sustainable purchasing requirements.

EPA estimates that in 2021 alone, the federal government saved taxpayers around US$2bn in current and future energy costs by purchasing over 43 million sustainable electronics products.

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