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Sustainable Marketplace: Greener Products and Services

Recommendations: Frequent Questions

What are the Authorities That Guide the Recommendations?

The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 (PPA), section 6604(b)(11), directs EPA to identify opportunities to use Federal Procurement to encourage pollution prevention.  The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 48 CFR 23.703(b)(1) directs agencies to "Maximize the utilization of environmentally preferable products and services (based on EPA-issued guidance).” EPA’s Recommendations serve as this guidance. The Recommendations leverage private sector standards and federal purchasing power to prevent pollution in line with requirements for the Federal Government to give preference to private sector standards in federal procurement as described in the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA) (Section 12d), and OMB Circular A-119: Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities.

Additionally, the Recommendations help meet goals set out in Executive Order 13834 on Efficient Federal Operations issued by President Trump on May 17, 2018. Section 2 of E.O. 13834, requires federal agencies to "Acquire, use, and dispose of products and services, including electronics, in accordance with statutory mandates for purchasing preference, Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requirements, and other applicable Federal procurement policies". 

How Did EPA Develop the Recommendations?

The recommendations are based on either 1) an assessment per EPA’s Guidelines for Environmental Performance Standards and Ecolabels (via a Pilot that ran from March 2015 through December 2016); or 2) analysis and use by other federal agencies. For this second avenue, currently, the recommendations include standards and ecolabels from the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Priority Products List and the General Services Administration's (GSA's) Key Sustainable Products.  These were issued as Interim Recommendations on September 25, 2015.

The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA, PL 104-113), Office of Management and Budget Circular A-119 (OMB A-119) (PDF) (43 pp, 505 K, About PDF) and Guidance on Federal Conformity Assessment (15 CFR Part 287) direct federal agencies to coordinate their conformity assessment activities (e.g., certification, testing, and other activities to assess conformance to procurement or other requirements) with those of the private sector to reduce unnecessary duplication. 15 CFR Part 287 and OMB A-119 provide guidance for each Federal agency to use in evaluating the efficacy and efficiency of its conformity assessment activities.  The information on availability of competent certification bodies contained in Section III is intended to assist Federal agencies in complying with these federal laws and policies relating to conformity assessment of ecolabels and standards.

In addition, EPA has noted where standards have followed the practices of the development of “Voluntary Consensus Standards” as defined by Office and Management Budget Circular A-119. Section 12(d) of The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA, PL 103-114) calls federal agencies to use Voluntary Consensus Standards (VCS) in lieu of government‐unique standards in their procurement and regulatory activities, except where inconsistent with law or otherwise impractical. 

Federal agency representatives can contact their agency’s Standards Executive for further guidance on implementing the NTTAA, OMB A-119 and 15 CFR 287.

The 2015-2016 Guidelines Pilot
On March 19th, 2015, EPA issued a Federal Register Notice to launch a pilot to assess standards and ecolabels against draft guidelines in three product categories: furniture; flooring; and paints/coatings.

Pilot Timeline:
March 2015: Pilot and draft guidelines announced in Federal Register; Panel and Governance Committee (GC) members solicited (see below). 
September 2015: Panels and GC convened in Washington, DC by Resolve, Inc, contractor to EPA, to establish the charter and operating procedures (PDF) (6 pp, 160 K, About PDFand begin developing criteria and example sources of evidence per the draft guidelines. 
March 2016: Pilot criteria and Information Collection Request (ICR) posted in the Federal Register; applicant standards development organizations and ecolabels solicited to volunteer for the pilot assessment. 
June/July 2016: Initial Independent Assessment Entity (IAE) assessment conducted, by Industrial Economics, contractor to EPA
August 2016: Applicants responded with additional sources of evidence and comments on the initial assessment. 
September 2016: Initial results, applicant comments, and lessons learned shared with pilot community (Panels, GC, and applicants). 
October 2016: Panel and GC provided comments on final pilot Guidelines and post-pilot approaches
November 2016: EPA made slight adjustments to and finalized the pilot Guidelines based on comments; IAE reassessed based on new evidence, applicant comments, and guidelines adjustments. 
December 2016: EPA updated the recommendations of specifications, standards, and ecolabels per the pilot assessments.

Within the pilot, the product category panels and the service sector panel included a set of experts, with balanced participation from the following stakeholder groups: producers, users, environmental and public health/regulatory, and the standards and ecolabel community. The governance committee included representatives from the panels (one from each of the four panels), elected by the panels, as well as additional individuals who were not Panel members, but instead focused on the pilot’s broader objectives while adding balance and credibility to the GC. More information about who participated in the Pilot along with a list of involved stakeholders.

How Will EPA Update These Recommendations?

EPA will review its recommendations periodically and update them based on assessments per the guidelines or other federal agency analyses/assessments if/when they become available or are updated. Assessments are prioritized by product and service categories which "represent the largest share of procurement spending across agencies and potential environmental impact."

Please send any suggestions on how to further improve the recommendations of specifications, standards, and ecolabels, or any other related comments to

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