Sustainable Opportunities Summit: Green Line Series w/GSA’s Sue Damour

The US Government has some Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAGs, for short) — which we are big fans of. One of them? To be a Zero Environmental Footprint entity. With budget cuts looming and global competition heating up, it’s these kind of aggressive goals that will drive innovation and efficiency in our government and the industries affected by its supply chain influence. In this Green Line Series interview, General Services Administration’s (GSA) Rocky Mountain Regional Administratior, Susan Damour, tells us about the competitive edge green businesses have in selling to governments and ways GSA is making an impact on the supply chain in favor of a more sustainable economy.

Sustainable Opportunity Summit: What are the main tenants of GSA’s Sustainable Procurement Policy? Why did GSA adopt its Green Gov effort?

Susan Damour: GSA’s role as acquisition professionals is to be the anchor and the steady hand for the rest of the government. The agency provides more than $55 billion of best-value products, services and solutions for federal customers. That means that if we were a private sector company, we would rank in the top half of the global Fortune 500 companies.

GSA adopted the “Green Gov” effort for a couple of reasons. The government is frequently driven by Executive Orders (EO), such as EO 13514. At GSA, we embraced the sustainability agenda in the extreme, if you will. We agreed as a senior management team to set a Zero Environmental Footprint (ZEF) as our organization’s aspirational goal. And yes, this is certainly ambitious.

ZEF is about a good government getting ever better. It’s about no waste. Eliminating waste is a huge lever for government as it faces down budget constraints and takes full advantage of innovation bursting onto the scene. No waste is about finding new ways to wring out inefficiencies while boosting performance. It gives us a clear path between great constraints and even greater possibilities. GSA supports that 95 percent of new contract actions include the supply or use of products and services that are environmentally friendly.

SOS: What kind of impact has this policy made, thus far? Are you seeing significant change since its adoption? What kind of future impact do you expect going forward?

SD: Because of our role, GSA has the potential to make, move and influence markets. We are in the position to model new behavior, cutting-edge technology, and inventive ways of thinking for the rest of the federal family and the private sector. We’ve had a number of changes in our business. Let me give you a few examples.

First, we build, manage and dispose of 374.6 million square feet of space. At the end of FY 2011, GSA reported an 18.8 percent reduction in Energy Use Intensity from the 2003 baseline for goal-tracked buildings.

For the same set of buildings, we achieved a two percent annual reduction and at the end of FY 2011, we reported a 13.3 percent reduction from the 2007 baseline in water consumption. Across the nation, we awarded 250 water conservation projects. At the end of FY 2011, we installed advanced water meters in 139 buildings and advanced energy meters in 228 buildings.

GSA is also practicing sustainable design and implementing sustainable operations and maintenance practices across multiple buildings in our existing portfolio. As of September 2011, we achieved 62 LEED certifications, nationwide, in our lease construct and owned inventory.

As of September 2011, 285 leases representing 11 million square feet in 252 buildings included the entire suite of green lease provisions available in GSA’s Request for Lease Proposal. Additionally, GSA held leased space in 147 buildings with a third party green building certification.

Finally, we purchase and maintain a federal fleet of some 400,000 vehicles. In FY 2009, GSA used approximately $64 million provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to replace more than 17,000 motor vehicles with more energy efficient motor vehicles. The new vehicles have a combined fuel economy of 7.8 miles per gallon higher than the vehicles replaced. GSA’s purchase included 3,106 hybrid-electric vehicles, the federal government’s largest one-time purchase of hybrid vehicles. The agency is practicing electronic stewardship to reduce energy consumption, with 99 percent of GSA electronic assets being Energy Star qualified.

SOS: Is there a particularly successful project in the Rocky Mountain region that demonstrates the power and benefits of green purchasing?

SD: GSA’s vision is to turn the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, Colorado, into the most sustainable campus in the country by 2020. GSA recently installed seven megawatts of solar photovoltaics that when combined with an already existing 1.2 megawatt solar park, will provide more than 15 percent of the campus’ annual electrical needs.

The combined capacity of all the solar arrays is enough to power 1,064 residential homes for one year. After EO 13423 was signed in 2007, the Rocky Mountain Region recognized a need for training materials to educate federal agencies on how to meet the goals. So, GSA developed a course which showcased how GSA and our schedule vendors can help them meet their green procurement goals.

SOS: Does a greener supply chain (within GSA’s scope of work) make America more globally competitive? Will participating vendors play a role in securing a continued leadership role for the United States as we forge deeper into this millennium? If so, how?

SD: Sustainable products are more cost effective in the long-term. Vendors can be innovative and make products with more environmentally friendly attributes. The United States Government spends more than 300 billion dollars annually on various goods and services. When you consider the acquisition regulations federal buyers must adhere to (i.e., Buy American Act and Trade Agreements Act), it’s clear that our green procurement goals can and will affect the competitive edge of our country.

Take a simple example of the paper we use in our offices. The EPA mandated that all paper contain at least 30 percent post-consumer recycled content. This pushed the manufacturers of printers and copiers in to adjust the equipment to work with more recycled content. It has affected the market for recycled consumer paper as well as the supply chain of the paper, itself. In turn, it makes these products available to the average shopper at a competitive price.

SOS: Do manufacturers and distributers with sustainable products or operations gain a competitive edge in selling to the Federal Government? If so, what kind of standards are you looking for from vendors? How do they benefit?

SD: Yes, manufacturers and distributors can align their products to the various Green Icons on GSA Advantage. Doing so will give their products appeal to the agencies that need/want to buy products with environmentally-friendly characteristics. GSA Advantage offers thousands of products and services to meet your environmental purchasing goals. Products found on GSA Advantage that have an environmental attribute will show above their conventional counterparts in GSA Advantage searches.

The standards vary depending on the category of product or service such as BioPreferred, Energy Star Compliant, CPG Item, EPEAT or NESHAP Compliant. For many products on GSA Advantage, vendors determine (self-certify) which environmental symbols will be listed with a product.GSA also publishes an annual environmental edition of MarkeTips — a marketing publication directed to users of the GSA supply system — that highlights green products and services.

SOS: Where can businesses and organizations go to find information about Green Gov policies and resources for joining GSA in its quest to green the supply chain?

SD: Businesses and organizations can find information about green government policies and resources at website. Also, be sure to take a look at

Susan Damour is the Rocky Mountain Regional Administrator for the GSA. She will also be speaking on the Selling To Governments With Sustainable Procurement Policies panel at the 2012 Sustainable Opportunities Summit (presented by CORE and produced by the GoGreen Conference) in Denver, Wednesday, March 21. Don’t miss Susan and 60+ additional green business leaders share insights and advice on how to be a sustainable — and profitable! — company. Register through February 21 and take advantage of Early Bird Rates.

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