How federal contracting can supercharge sustainability
The human and financial prices associated to local weather change have change into almost unimaginable to disregard. Pure disasters alone price the worldwide economic system upwards of $390 billion a yr. In response, industries, firms and customers are radically rethinking methods to assist allow a extra round and low-carbon economic system.
On the identical time, governments are adopting aggressive timelines to curb emissions. The Biden administration lately introduced focused reductions of fifty p.c to 52 p.c in economy-wide greenhouse gasoline emissions by 2030.
One purpose these timelines have change into so aggressive is that societies have largely been unable to maneuver the needle on the subject of carbon discount. A process this massive requires extra cooperation and coordination than most firms or people are able to attaining on their very own. However local weather change isn’t the one problem our society faces in an effort to change into extra sustainable. Human rights, digital fairness, inclusion and extra are all linked to progress that’s urgently wanted at the moment.
With its immense buying energy, the federal authorities has the power to drive holistic sustainable improvements within the non-public sector, notably within the expertise trade. By creating sustainability requirements and together with sustainability clauses in requests for proposals, authorities can understand that potential.
The facility of scale
From this level ahead, corporations shall be judged by greater than the income they generate; they are going to be measured by the worth they create for society. By advantage of the federal market, the federal government has a chance to incentivize its contractors to heed that mandate.
And due to its dimension, it could achieve this on a bigger scale. Based on Bloomberg Authorities, $682 billion was spent on contracts in fiscal 2020—a report expenditure for the federal government. That determine is a pointy reminder that the federal authorities’s shopping for energy is the only largest instrument it has to supply significant change at a nationwide and native stage.
Give it some thought this fashion: each time you get in your automotive, you set your seat belt on. Seat belts save lives, so Congress determined to incentivize their use. It did so by refusing to provide states tax cash for highways, bridges and different infrastructure until they met or surpassed a base seat belt use charge. This tactic labored.
In 2020, almost 20 years since this marketing campaign started, the nationwide seat belt use charge was at 90.3 p.c. If related packages have been created for local weather motion, adopting long-term sustainability practices would change into the norm.
The well being of our planet is paramount to our future as people. By signing the Paris Settlement, the U.S. has already put down a marker globally, demonstrating its dedication to a extra sustainable future. By requiring contractors to fulfill sustainability requirements in an effort to win contracts, the federal government can use its substantial shopping for energy to make sustainability extra than simply the proper factor to do—it turns into a direct path to enterprise development as effectively.
Elevating the usual
A superb incentive needs to be quantifiable. Utilizing the Paris Settlement or the Environmental Safety Company’s environmental motion plan as a framework, the federal authorities ought to be capable of establish the kinds of company habits that may transfer the needle. For instance, measuring the quantity of recyclable content material used within the units the federal government purchases may present a helpful baseline—and a goal for enchancment.
By this course of, the federal government may develop a set of sustainability requirements that it may embed in its requests for proposals. This mannequin already exists in different areas, akin to cybersecurity, the place the federal government’s NIST 800 requirements have set a excessive bar for gadget producers and expertise builders.
Equally, the latest government order to speed up cybersecurity developments will push trade to evolve. These benchmarks have produced higher consideration to cybersecurity and sooner innovation of recent safe applied sciences throughout each the private and non-private sectors. The EPA may use an analogous mannequin to incentivize sustainability.
Advances in sustainability have traditionally been gradual as a result of non-public trade wants time to evolve. Growing requirements in cooperation with trade can get all stakeholders pulling in the identical route. The federal government’s priorities change into the trade’s priorities, leading to extra constant progress.
Bettering sustainability via authorities contracts will finally have a higher influence on nationwide and world local weather motion, human rights and digital fairness. If new requirements are created now to realize the United Nations’ Sustainable Growth Targets, our society will see significant outcomes from the private and non-private sector and undertake a brand new mentality for local weather motion.