The Biden Administration proposed the Sustainable Products and Services procurement rule through the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council. The proposed rule would direct federal buyers to purchase sustainable products and services whenever possible. The rule will also help President Biden achieve the goal of net-zero emissions from federal procurement by 2050.
“President Biden believes that when we spend American taxpayers’ dollars, we should be investing in America, reducing costs, and building a more sustainable future,” said Brenda Mallory, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in a statement. “Through today’s action, we are doing just that. Combined with President Biden’s Buy American directive, our proposed rule will boost Federal agency purchases of EPA-recommended green products and services while creating well-paying jobs and investing in American manufacturing.”
Follow the EPA’s Recommendations
The rule directs federal agencies to follow the Environmental Protection Agency’s Recommendations of Specifications, Standards, and Ecolabels for Federal Purchasing. The program provides recommendations for 34 purchase categories, including using standards and labels such as EPA’s Energy Star, Safer Choice, and WaterSense Programs.
The rule directs agencies to avoid using products containing perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals, a group of chemicals that have been used in consumers and industry products since the 1940s. Thousands of different PFAS exist. PFAS break down very slowly, and levels can build up in people, animals, and the environment. They can exist in homes’ water, soil, air, food, and household materials. Current research links PFAS exposure to health issues, including reproductive effects, developmental effects in children, and increased risk for some cancers.
“Not only will these new standards ensure government spending prioritizes and supports domestic manufacturing; they will also help prompt manufacturers to take advantage of the investments and technical assistance for new technologies made available through complementary public initiatives,” said Yong Kwon, Senior Policy Advisor, Sierra Club.
The Power of Federal Procurement for Stimulating Sustainability
The U.S. federal government can stimulate the development of sustainable products through procurement programs. The world’s largest consumer is the federal government, spending over $630 billion on products and services yearly. In 2021, the EPA’s Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) saved the federal government an estimated $2 billion in energy costs over the lifetime of the products purchased.
Over the last 50 years, the federal government played a starring role in promoting innovation ranging from driving the recycled paper market in the 1970s to making Energy Star a popular label. The purchasing requirements of the U.S. government often serve as models for other organizations. The UN Environment Program recently categorized the federal government’s sustainable purchasing practices and policies as “the highest possible status to achieve.”