Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade

President Obama speaking about sustainability

In March, the White House issued a new Executive Order (EO) on planning for federal sustainability in the next decade. This new EO covers sustainability policy, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, sustainability goals, environmental quality, budget, regional coordination, education and training, fleet improvements, and federal supply chain. Executive orders issued by presidents have the full force of law, and are generally used to guide and direct federal agencies and officials. Historic EOs have led to great changes – from coral reef preservation under President Clinton, to demanding 50% waste diversion by 2015 under President Obama. While EOs can only be given to federal or state agencies, citizens are often affected by ripple effects. In this case, sustainability measures will be encouraged from the top down, incentivizing parks and concessioners to improve their operations.

Some notable changes in the new EO include an emphasis on fleet fuel efficiency, a stronger demand for greenhouse gas emissions data, and across the board installations of Chief Sustainability Officers within each federal agency. Furthermore, this EO emphasizes new energy efficiency standards and revokes EO 13423 – the energy efficiency measure in effect since 2007.

The new Executive Order covers many of the same topics as EO 13423. However, it does offer more stringent rules regarding sustainability leadership. Specifically, the new EO creates many positions in sustainability for federal employees to fill. Here are some highlights:

Duties of the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality – The Chair must establish a federal Interagency Sustainability Steering Committee, which will review and approve GHG emissions reduction targets, streamline reporting metrics, review plans, provide revised Guiding Principles, administer a Presidential leadership award program, and manage interagency working groups.

Duties of the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) – The federal Environmental Executive is replaced with a new federal CSO, whose office will be funded by the EPA. The role of this representative includes monitoring progress, convening meetings, leading program development, coordinating working groups, and advising other chairs covered by the EO.

Duties of Principle Agencies – To ensure successful implementation, each principal agency shall designate… an agency Chief Sustainability Officer, prepare and distribute performance evaluations, ensure future leases and contracts are compliant with this EO, implement opportunities to improve fleet sustainability, consider promotion of sustainable community mechanisms, foster outstanding performance agency-wide, and continue in implementing formal Environmental Management Systems (EMS) where appropriate.

Duties of Contributing Agencies – Within 45 days of this EO, the head of each contributing agency will also establish an agency CSO.

Duties of the Agency Chief Sustainability Officers – The aforementioned CSOs are responsible for ensuring agencies’ policies, plans and strategies consider agency character, developing and implement an agency-wide process that allows for cross-functionality, reporting annually to Directors, and performing other duties related to EO implementation.

Agency Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan – Starting in June of 2015, each head of principal agencies will develop and impellent an annually updated integrated Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan.

Other sections can be viewed, in full, here. As concessioners, you will continue to work with parks in the traditional capacity. Note, however, that sustainability related work may be welcomed and encouraged on a more frequent basis with the backing if this new Executive Order.