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Mandate gives boost to environmentally preferred products

The past few weeks have brought much discussion regarding an executive order signed last month that mandates 95 percent of new contract actions require energy-efficient or environmentally preferred products and services.

The order signed in October is the fifth in a series of orders that have been issued over the past two decades and is the strongest yet in terms of EPP requirements and an explicit federal contracting performance mandate. The federal government defines EPP as the purchase of products and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products and services that serve the same purpose.

The Lenzing Group, a National Strategies client, celebrated the news. The company manufactures a sustainably grown and manufactured fiber that has environmentally preferred purchasing characteristics (i.e., it’s EC eco-labeled). The military buys it for their uniforms. Certainly, this product could be valuable to other departments in order to meet their sustainable product requirements.

But while the order creates a plethora of opportunities for Lenzing and other companies that provide environmentally preferred products and services, it has also sparked confusion and questions. The Environmental Protection Agency has already put together some guidance with regard to the impact of the mandate. In the coming months, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will issue detailed implementing guidance to federal agencies, according to one of my sources within the EPA.

The bottom line is that companies who want to take advantage of the opportunities that the sustainable acquisition requirement will create for their products or services have ample time to position themselves in the federal market. Full implementation of the contracting performance mandate may not be accomplished until the spring of 2010. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is expected to issue implementing guidance to federal departments and agencies in late December or early January. The departments and agencies will then need an additional two to three months to train their staff and modify their procedures before the contracting performance mandate can be implemented.

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