I first met Daniel Moring as an aide to D.C. Council Member Mary Cheh when we discussed the D.C. Green Building Act.  We recently met up to discuss the General Services Administration’s proposal to require greenhouse gas emissions reporting and I asked him to write a post on the topic.  Enjoy and have a great weekend.  

By: Daniel Moring

Although a climate bill lies in shambles at the foot of Capitol Hill as the summer recess approaches, a new approach to evaluating federal contracts by the General Services Administration could go a long way to realizing at least some of the goals of the failed legislation.  GSA won’t stop judging based on what vendors are offering and for how much, but they will give extra consideration for the greenhouse gas footprint of offerings.

Or, to put it more simply: The feds are going Wal-Mart. 

Wal-Mart, recognized across the retail industry for its masterful supply chain management and razor-thin margins, decided in 2007 to use its sheer buying power to move the market.  Wal-Mart committed to reduce 20 million metric tons of CO2 from its business operations, targeting the product lines with the highest ‘embedded emissions,’ a measure of environmental impacts across its lifecycle of manufacture, distribution, and disposal. 

To tackle this wide-ranging objective, Wal-Mart enlisted its over 60,000 suppliers to help investigating and implementing improvement of firms’ environmental footprint, starting with energy and climate impact—or risk being dropped as a vendor. 

The Wal-Mart approach does not go as far as federal actions contemplated, but simply creating an awareness of the greenhouse gas footprint implicit in the supply chain can have a transformative impact on the market, particularly as government remains an attractive [if not the best] client due to persistent sluggishness.  The GSA rules only encompass direct emissions from operations and, while not yet mandatory, could garner additional preference in procurement decisions. 

Although environmental footprinting for your firm may seem like just another government mandate, taking into account your business’ environmental impact and associated costs also presents opportunities to identify inefficiencies, prioritize investments, manage risk, and improve performance while gaining a strategic advantage with a very significant market actor.  As the oft-cited saying goes, “you cannot manage what you do not measure,” so it begins with taking stock, taking aim, and taking action on your company’s environmental impact, starting with vehicle and building energy use. 

The standards and requirements are still developing, but the handwriting is on the wall, and smart companies are beginning to understand the language of environmental management so they can read it and take advantage. 

Daniel Moring is Program Manager for the Washington, DC office of IBC Engineering Services, a sustainable engineering firm that specializes in identifying and reducing energy-related environmental impacts for business and government clients.