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How Federal Contracts Can Strengthen Sustainability-Washington Technology





How Federal Contracts Can Overestimate Sustainability ByTodd Gustafson September 13, 2021

The human and economic costs associated with climate change are nearly impossible to ignore. Natural disasters alone cost the world economy more than $ 390 billion annually. Correspondingly, industries, businesses and consumers are fundamentally rethinking strategies to enable a more cyclical and low-carbon economy.

At the same time, the government has adopted an aggressive schedule to curb emissions. The Biden administration recently announced a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the economy by 50% to 52% by 2030.

One of the reasons these timelines are so aggressive is that society has barely been able to move the needle when it comes to carbon reduction. Tasks of this magnitude require more cooperation and coordination than most businesses and individuals can accomplish on their own. But climate change is not the only challenge facing our society to be more sustainable. Human rights, digital equity, inclusion, etc. are all related to the urgent need for progress today.

Due to its enormous purchasing power, the federal government has the ability to drive overall sustainable innovation in the private sector, especially in the technology industry. Governments can realize that potential by creating sustainability standards and including sustainability clauses in request for proposals.

The power of scale

From this point on, companies will be judged by more than the profits they generate. They are measured by the value they create for society. Thanks to the federal market, the government has the opportunity to incentivize contractors to keep in mind their obligations.

And because of its size, it can do so on a larger scale. According to the Bloomberg government, $ 682 billion was spent on contracts for 2020. This is a record spending for the government. This figure clearly reminds us that federal purchasing power is the only and greatest tool needed to make meaningful changes at the national and local levels.

Think of it this way. Wear a seatbelt every time you get in the car. Seat belts save lives, so Congress has decided to encourage their use. It did so by refusing to tax the state unless highways, bridges, and other infrastructure met or exceeded basic seatbelt utilization. This tactic worked.

In 2020, about 20 years after the campaign began, seatbelt usage was 90.3% nationwide. If a similar program is created for climate change, it will be standard to adopt long-term sustainability practices.

The health of our planet is of paramount importance to our future as humans. By signing the Paris Agreement, the United States has already placed a marker globally, demonstrating its commitment to a more sustainable future. By requiring contractors to meet sustainability standards in order to win contracts, governments can leverage their substantial purchasing power to make sustainability more than just right. It’s also a direct path to business growth.

Raise the standard

A good incentive must be quantifiable. Using the Paris Agreement or the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Action Plan as a framework, the federal government should be able to identify the types of corporate action that can move the needle. For example, measuring the amount of recyclable content used on government-purchased devices can provide useful baselines and improvement goals.

Through this process, governments can develop a set of sustainability standards that can be incorporated into request for proposals. This model already exists in other areas, such as cybersecurity, where the government’s NIST 800 standard sets high standards for device manufacturers and technology developers.

Similarly, recent executive orders accelerating cybersecurity advances will evolve the industry. These benchmarks have received a great deal of attention in both the public and private sectors for faster innovation in cybersecurity and new secure technologies. The EPA can use a similar model to encourage sustainability.

Sustainability progress has historically been slow, as the private industry needs time to develop. Working with the industry to develop standards can draw all stakeholders in the same direction. Government priorities become industry priorities, leading to more consistent progress.

Improving sustainability through government contracts will ultimately have a significant impact on domestic and global climate change, human rights and digital equity. If new standards are now created to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, our society will see meaningful results from the public and private sectors and will adopt new ideas for climate change. ..

About the author

Todd Gustafson is the president of HP Federal and Head of Public Sector in the United States.




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