Every state and local government agency has green buying goals, while federal agencies are required to “buy greener” per a number of laws, Presidential Executive Orders and procurement regulations. And, while we’ve seen the market for “Environmentally Preferred” products explode in recent years, companies that produce green goods or embrace sustainable business practices remain in great demand by the public sector.
Translation: Vendors that can meet or exceed “Green Government” standards at a reasonable price and within the public sector’s strict quality and performance standards may gain greater favor when competing for contracts – and generate more revenue. This is true across almost every category.
If you want to be competitive for contracts with sustainability stipulations or gain an advantageous “preferred vendor” status with green government agencies that have enacted more extensive “Environmentally Preferred Purchasing” or “Environmentally Preferable Products” (EPP) programs:
1. Be clear on each government agency’s green standards and definitions.
Per NASPO: “Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) or Green Purchasing is generally defined as purchasing a product that has a lesser or reduced negative effect or increased positive effect on human health and the environment, when compared with competing products that serve the same purpose.” As such, “sustainable procurement considers both suppliers and their products.” That being said, some agencies place a greater emphasis on one of the following:
2. Understand which agencies require sustainability stipulations in contracts, which are statutorily obligated to “go green,” and which ones simply aim to use green vendors and solutions as often as possible.
Nearly every state has a green purchasing program, with half already enacting a statutorily enacted “green” procurement standard. Some are full blown EPP programs that leverage set-asides or buy from green vendors only on certain contracts, such as the ones implemented by the Commonwealths of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Others are more focused on standardizing the purchase of recycled paper and goods or evaluating the environmental impact of goods and services during the contract life cycle. Regardless of the level of sustainability government agencies require from their suppliers, each is going to favor environmentally preferable products when feasible.
That is why you must study each agency’s green goals or EPP directives to know whether or not you even qualify as a vendor for certain contracts. Thoroughly review each RFP and scope of work to see if it includes green specifications. Most will either deem green/EPP/sustainability criteria as either “desirable” or “mandatory” depending on the mass market availability and acceptability of green products in that category. For example, government buyers within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are told that:
“Green options should be used whenever a material or service is comparable in quality, availability and price as determined by the Purchasing Agency. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will procure EPP’s and services in accordance with the Procurement Handbook, Part 1 Chapter 22 - Green Procurement.”
That is because a certain expectation is set up-front:
“When an Environmentally Preferable Product (EPP) is comparable, statement of work or specifications are restricted to the EPP option. Commonwealth Agencies are expected to use their buying power to buy Environmentally Preferable Products and services in order to advance the protection of the environment and support sustainability. Through these practices Pennsylvania encourages the production and sale of affordable, environmentally-friendly and health conscious products.”
Understanding agencies’ goals will also inform your marketing efforts and help you communicate your green strengths in every proposal response.
3. Be certain your business and/or products are properly certified.
As NASPO notes, going green can enable government suppliers “to achieve an enhanced market position.” However, companies that market themselves as green or sustainable are going to endure intense scrutiny by agencies that must adhere to very strict standards per their varying EPP mandates. They will trust, but verify, that your business maintains the green certifications you’re using to gain a competitive advantage. Some, such as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or GSA, will even encourage you to pre-qualify as a green vendor in their registration systems or secure your position on a competitively solicited open/co-op contract.
If you don’t want to be accused of “green washing” or fraud, take the time to have your products and/or business certified by accredited third-party agencies such as the ones in this NASPO Resource Guide, the GSA Green Procurement Compilation and the EPA list of recommendations for standards and ecolabeling. Doing so will enable you to easily prove your commitment to helping customers meet “green government” goals. These designations will also elevate your competitive position for contracts with green mandates and ensure you remain compliant with EPP/green performance standards during contract administration.
Though your green accreditations may encourage government agencies with EPP priorities to give your proposal greater consideration, price and performance still matter very much to their final contract award decision. In fact, price and performance are often scrutinized even more when it comes to EPP awards given the reputation that many green products had for being overpriced and of subpar quality in the early days of the environmentally-friendly movement. Government remains very conscious of their spending as waste runs counter to the very purpose of EPP initiatives.
Knowing that some agencies may still see these three evaluation factors as conflicting. It is important you take extra care to offer a competitive price, prove performance, and demonstrate the quality and benefits of your green/environmentally preferred solution. In other words, show that your product or service provides the best value which, bottom line, is what government agencies care about the most.