Federal government sustainability performance scorecards

On October 5, 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 committing the federal government to “lead by example” on sustainability issues including energy and water use and solid waste reduction. As summarized by the press statement accompanying the Executive Order, it “requires Federal agencies to set a 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target within 90 days; increase energy efficiency; reduce fleet petroleum consumption; conserve water; reduce waste; support sustainable communities; and leverage Federal purchasing power to promote environmentally-responsible products and technologies.”

As we have reported in previous blog posts, the Executive Order also included provisions on adaptation.

As can be expected from such a sweeping program among such diverse federal agencies as the Department of the Interior and the Social Security Administration, performance is mixed in meeting the President’s sustainability agenda. Though the administration should be given credit for rating its performance and making that information available to the public, the administration didn’t provide a single display for all the scorecards and their information. They provide links to each agency’s sustainability website, which of course are all different, and the scorecards on some are hard to find. It is thus difficult to compare agencies’ performance against each other – until now. Below we have compiled all of the scorecards into one infographic.

The Executive Order (E.O.) is sweeping and complicated, and parts of it read like international climate change negotiations, with each federal agency or department developing its own emissions reductions targets for “class 1, 2 and 3” emissions types. We’ll define those later – the important thing to know is that the E.O. sets up a whole new infrastructure within the federal government to meet concrete sustainability performance objectives that will greatly reduce the government’s environmental footprint, and through its massive purchasing power, will also influence the broader market. For this the administration deserves kudos. A year and a half later, on April 19, 2011, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) which helps oversee the program, released sustainability “scorecards” for 24 agencies as a measure of performance and progress in meeting sustainability goals as the agencies begin revising their annual sustainability performance plans.

Definitions:

“Scope 1, 2, and 3” emissions mean; (i) scope 1: direct greenhouse gas emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by the Federal agency; (ii) scope 2: direct greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the generation of electricity, heat, or steam purchased by a Federal agency; and (iii) scope 3: greenhouse gas emissions from sources not owned or directly controlled by a Federal agency but related to agency activities such as vendor supply chains, delivery services, and employee travel and commuting; Click here for the criteria the federal government used to evaluate success for each category.