Skip to main content

Getting Started

Overview of Sustainable Acquisition

Sustainable acquisition (also called green purchasing) is a priority for the Federal government. Agencies must consider a range of environmental laws, regulations, and goals when making procurement decisions. Federal agencies are required by statutes and executive orders to purchase certain products and services with specific sustainable acquisition attributes.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) consolidates requirements from those statues, executive orders, and other regulations into a uniform set of policies and procedures organized under 51 Parts that executive agencies must follow when acquiring goods and services. Sustainable acquisition requirements can be found in various FAR Parts, with FAR Part 23 being the most comprehensive. Here you will find the federal government’s sustainable acquisition policy. FAR 23.103 requires federal agencies to ensure that applicable new contract actions for the supply of products and for the acquisition of services (including construction) require the contractor to supply or use sustainable products. This policy applies to the acquisition of products and services of all dollar values, provided the applicable green product(s) meets agency performance requirements. More specific requirements and policies regarding the purchase of these products and services can be found elsewhere within FAR Part 23.

“Sustainable Acquisition” means products or services that:

  1. Meet statutory mandates for purchasing:
    1. Recycled content products designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
    2. Energy and water efficient products, such as ENERGY STAR® certified and Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP)-designated products identified by EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and
    3. BioPreferred® and biobased content products designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  2. Are identified by EPA programs, including:
    1. Significant New Alternative Policy (SNAP) chemicals or other alternatives to ozone-depleting substances and high global warming potential hydrofluorocarbons, where feasible, as identified by SNAP,
    2. WaterSense® certified products and services (water efficient products),
    3. Safer Choice certified products (chemically intensive products that contain safer ingredients), and
    4. SmartWay® Transport partners and SmartWay® products (fuel efficient products and services).
  3. Meet third-party standards and ecolabels, include those recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Executive Order (E.O.) 13693 charts the direction for sustainable acquisition for the next decade. The E.O. requires federal agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 40 percent over the next decade. Setting 11 goals, it focuses on further reductions from operations of buildings (including electricity purchases), data centers and other electronics, and fleet vehicles, as well as the purchase of sustainable products. It also introduces a supply chain GHG emissions reporting requirement. Note that under the E.O., there are now both statutory requirements and EPA-recommended third party standards and ecolabels that may apply to your contract.

What is an environmental program?

Environmental programs help buyers identify products and services with positive environmental attributes. Many of the environmental attributes identified in the government’s sustainable acquisition policy are associated with specific environmental programs. For example, the ENERGY STAR Program and Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) help buyers identify energy-efficient products. The environmental programs are managed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Energy (DOE), and Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Statutory requirements that are the foundation for mandatory federal sustainable purchasing requirements are associated with the following statutes:

  • Recycled content: Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Section 6002
  • Biobased content: Farm Security and Rural Investment Act (2002 Farm Bill), Section 9002; and 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills
  • Energy efficient products and alternative fuel vehicles: Energy Policy Act of 1992 and 2005
  • Building energy efficiency: Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007
  • Alternatives to ozone depleting substances: Clean Air Act
  • Chemicals: Pollution Prevention Act of 1990

For more information about how sustainable acquisition requirements apply to products and services you sell click on the following links: