The issue of environmental protection is one in which we all have a vested interest. The federal government and their respective agencies and entities are enormous purveyors of a huge range of products for use within their operation.
The Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (E.P.P.) program was started by the federal government under the umbrella of the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) to oversee the purchase of “green” products. The E.P.P. program was designed to improve the compliance of the federal government agencies with regard to the purchase of environmentally friendly products.
The E.P.P. program was started in 1993 with the following main functions:
- Find and Evaluate green products and services
- Identify Federal green buying requirements
- Calculate the cost and benefits of purchasing choices
- Manage the green purchasing processes
The role of the E.P.P. is very important because the federal government is such a huge entity requiring a wide variety of products within its operation.
In fact, the Federal government is the largest purveyor of goods and services in the U.S. with spending on goods and services totaling
$350 billion per year (www.epa.gov).
The Five Guiding Principles
The central components of the E.P.P. program were divided into five principles to streamline the focus for the other federal government entities to consult the system when making decisions on product purchasing.
The 5 Guiding Principles of the E.P.P. program are:
- Environment + Price + Performance
- Pollution Prevention
- Life Cycle Perspective/ Multiple Attributes
- Comparison of Environmental Impacts
- Environmental Performance Information
These five principals must be given consideration by the federal procurement or purchasing agent when making a decision on a product or a service. In my own experience with marketing “green” products to the federal government, I have found that all of these principals are important.
However, the two principals that I found to be the mitigating factors are: price = performance, and the life cycle perspective/multiple attributes principal.
The environmental protection of a product could be great, but if it has performance differentials that lag behind the “non-green” or standard product alternative, that is a big issue.
The sensitivity to a given price point is always a consideration with green products. It can have a great environmental protective quality, and it could be an efficient, high performance product as well. The price has to be in line with the other products available on the market; if the price point is too high then it is going to be problematic to sell to the federal government.
Furthermore, the life cycle perspective/ multiple attributes principal is a critical component to federal government purchasing decisions. In my experience, the requests from federal entities were made for information on the performance of our product throughout its life cycle.
The federal procurement officers wanted to see data on how the product performed in certain conditions over certain intervals of time (30 days, 60 days, 120 days etc.) and during certain weather conditions.
They would study or inquire as to whether the product could do multiple green functions, for instance, if the product could be used on both land and water. The products with versatility and multiple uses, or attributes, will fare better in potentially gaining a federal government sales order.
Executive Order 13514
The E.P.P. program was given further significance with the implementation of Executive Order 13514, which essentially orders federal agencies to use sustainable practices when buying products or services (www.epa.gov/epp).
In my own experience in the green products area, working for a distributor, this executive order changed everything when dealing with the various federal government agencies. I could sense a change in the approach of the procurement officers that they felt it was important for them to take a more comprehensive look at the green product alternatives available.
The cost benefit analysis was, and always will be, an important factor in the decision making process as well. The difficulty with certain green alternatives is that their price point may be higher than a standard product with no environmental benefit.
The reasons for this higher price level are variable but could include the sourcing of certain commodity ingredients which are made from sustainable sources. Due to limited supply those ingredients will be more expensive, thus driving up the cost of the finished green product.
Role of E.P.P. and small businesses
The role of the E.P.P. can be very helpful to small businesses which are attempting to gain a foothold within a federal government agency. Any small business that is trying to market products to the federal government has to be familiar with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) guidelines.
The FAR guidelines are a uniform policy for the acquisition of supplies and services by federal agencies (www.epa.gov). Two important decisions occurred which provided further credence to the E.P.P. program and FAR:
- In 2007: The Secretary of Agriculture announced that procurement preference be afforded to biobased products within certain designated items (www.epa.gov/epp)
- In 2008: The Department of Agriculture published rules designating 27 biobased products for federal preferential procurement within the following areas: personal & facility cleaning products, greases, oils, lubricants, and construction products (www.epa.gov/epp)
In the event, you were a small business with production and/or distribution rights to any of the above mentioned products, then your business had a good chance to make a sale with the federal government.
The E.P.P. program has a great section of the website called Information for Vendors which provides valuable information to businesses who are looking to market green products or services to the federal government (www.epa.gov/epp).
This section of the website contains critical information on how to sell green products to the federal government. The section also provides a link to U.S. Business Advisor, which lists all the information on federal agencies: contact information and current procurement opportunities.
The benefits for a small business to work with E.P.P. are numerous and should be a strong consideration if you are in the green products market, or if you are looking to gain entry into this very important market.
The E.P.P. program was introduced to increase the availability of green products into the operations of the federal government. The goal being to minimize the environmental impact of their activity and to create opportunities for small businesses to partner with the federal government to implement these new products or services.
I think we can all agree that the focus on bringing more sustainable products into the marketplace is a very positive development for our future. I encourage you to visit their website www.epa.gov/epp for more information.