We spoke with the Federal Environmental Executive Michelle Moore about efforts to implement the requirements of E.O.13514, pursuing the GreenGov challenge, and working with federal agencies on sustainability plans. Here’s a sampling of what she shared with me on The Business of Government Hour:
On Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability
E.O. 13514 challenges the federal government to step up and lead by example. When you think about the scale and scope of federal operations, our responsibility becomes clear. We own nearly half a million buildings and more than 600,000 fleet vehicles, and we purchase more than half a trillion dollars in goods and services every year.
The Executive Order sets some high-level performance goals to help us all get there. It charges the agencies to develop strategic sustainability plans, report progress transparently, and ensure that we’re fully accountable for actually reaching goals. One of the new goals that the order set was a federal greenhouse gas pollution reduction target. We took a particular approach to setting this goal.
All the agencies were charged with reporting by January 2010 a greenhouse gas reduction number. Every agency had the opportunity to set a target that comported with their mission and operations. The Council on Environmental Quality had 30 days to aggregate those numbers and report a federal-wide target into the president. This resulted in a greenhouse gas reduction target of 28 percent by 2020. This target [complements] already existing requirements, such as the energy intensity improvements required under Executive Order 13423 and the renewable energy requirements embodied in statute. We also have goals related to water efficiency, petroleum reduction (i.e., that will help drive towards the greenhouse gas reduction targets), and green purchasing (e.g., buying energy star electronic equipment and appliances).
There are a whole set of recommendations and guidance documents that the Executive Order tees up ranging from developing a federal greenhouse gas protocol (i.e., how the federal government will actually measure and report on its greenhouse gas emissions) to guidance on clean fleets (so we are optimally managing our car and truck fleets to reduce petroleum, reduce greenhouse gases, and meet the goals of the order).
Accountability and transparency is [another] fundamental part of the effort. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will be issuing scorecards on agencies’ performances. One of the things that we’re looking for with this is that OMB wouldn’t only be scoring agencies, but that performance would also be made public and publicly available on agency websites. There are some key deliverables that are defined under the Executive Order that would be made transparent to the public as well. This will enable us to demonstrate transparency, hold ourselves accountable, and, ultimately, allow the public to hold us accountable for doing what we said we were going to do.
On Sustainability Plans that Make Strategic Sense
From our perspective, green government is good government; it’s good from a “bottom-line” perspective as well; it makes good business sense. There are a couple of things about the way that we are approaching this effort under the Executive Order that are notable in this regard.
First, there’s a lot of process that the agencies have been going through as a part of this effort. The Executive Order calls for agencies to deliver an annual strategic sustainability performance plan by June 2010. It’s an opportunity for the agencies to really chart out their own path. We’ve asked them to be very deliberate: what are the changes that we can make to help us achieve these [sustainability] goals? There is no a one-size-fits-all solution to sustainability. The plans must align to the agency’s mission and operational footprint.
With these plans, we’ll be able to coordinate and identify trends on how federal agencies are pursuing sustainability in the context of their mission. We’ll understand how best we can support these efforts across the federal community. We’re looking to validate that agencies have identified the proverbial low-hanging fruit for advancing the ball on efficiency, greenhouse gas reduction, and reducing waste by 50 percent. We’re also making sure that agencies have looked at the lifecycle benefits of those projects, putting them and specific programs at the top of the list that are going to have the highest return in economic and social terms.
By connecting sustainability planning to business and strategic planning, we’ll really drive better results. We’ll see better performance, better buy-in, better implementation, and in the end achieve better results and accountability. It’s not about checking a box that’s not going to create the kind of fundamental transformation that we need to really move toward sustainability across the federal government.