GSA aims for greener IT contracts by adding sustainability criteria

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The General Service Administration’s new contracting language is one tool for the agency to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.  

The General Services Administration is implementing new environmental requirements into contracting language for its go-to networking solutions vehicle and other major contracts as the White House seeks to leverage federal buying powers to promote sustainability.

The new criteria featured in the GSA's enterprise infrastructure solutions contract include adoption and green initiative requirements for climate change, according to Laura Stanton, the agency's assistant commissioner for the Information Technology Category. Stanton said that increasingly implementing sustainability requirements into GSA vehicles will help support governmentwide environmental efforts by promoting "energy efficient, virtual and streamlined technology that facilitates agile and expansive network communications."

GSA also plans to feature sustainability criteria in its new blanket purchase agreement focusing on cloud technologies, called Ascend BPA, while aiming to shrink the total carbon footprint of its nationwide data centers. 

“We’re in the early stages, through this BPA, of writing the environmental directives related to carbon pollution-free energy for data centers,” Stanton said on Thursday at GSA’s Data Center Sustainability Summit. “We’re looking at geothermal, hydroelectric, hydrokinetic, nuclear, solar, wind and the like, as well as looking at how to get to carbon pollution-free energy in the data centers provided through this vehicle.”

When it comes to government hardware, GSA already includes sustainability criteria into its strategic solutions vehicle for computers and laptops to help reduce the burden on agencies, which typically have to include their own environmental requirements for most technology purchases. 

In addition to the new sustainability-focused contracting language, GSA rolled out a series of initiatives in recent years around energy efficiency and going green. Paul Morris, IT hardware category manager for the Federal Acquisition Service, highlighted GSA Advantage as one example of a tool the agency recently revamped to include new filters based on ecolabels and environmental impact. 

Morris, who also spoke on Thursday at the summit, said GSA continues to find new ways to provide the public with sustainability data. Morris said federal purchasers can now access an environmental aisle on GSA Advantage to assess whether certain products have received ecolabels like the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, or EPEAT.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order last year that called on agencies to achieve net-zero emissions from federal procurement by 2050. Beginning this year, the order also directed GSA to require contractors to disclose the embodied carbon—the entirety of all produced carbon dioxide emissions—from their manufacturing, processing and maintenance of materials.