The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) recently published draft guidelines covering government use of privately developed ecolabels and environmental performance standards for products in connection with federal purchasing. The guidelines are intended to help federal agencies implement sustainable acquisition rules - mandated by executive order and federal regulations - that require 95% of the U.S. government's applicable purchases to be sustainable. The EPA is seeking comments from private standards developing organizations (SDOs), industry, nonprofit groups, academia, and others on the guidelines' proposed approach.
As part of its work to develop the draft guidelines, the EPA examined requests for guidance on issues related to ecolabels and product environmental performance standards and carried out related listening sessions, some in conjunction with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) hosted a webinar in November 2011 as part of this feedback-gathering process [see related article].
The draft guidelines cover procedures for the development of environmental performance standards for products, the criteria for environmental preferability associated with a given standard or ecolabel and rules for related conformity assessment, and general management and organizational practices associated with ecolabeling programs. Within the document, guidelines have been labeled as "baseline" guidelines, which refer to straightforward rules that can be applied across different sectors, and "leadership" guidelines, which refer to current best practices that have been carried out by some existing ecolabels or standards.
The EPA is particularly interested in stakeholders' responses to the following questions related to the proposed guidelines:
- How might the guidelines benefit the broader marketplace?
- Are there any draft guidelines that should be removed or modified? Are there gaps in the draft guidelines that could be addressed by new guidelines?
- Are the designations of "baseline" and "leadership" in the draft guidelines understandable? Can the designations be easily implemented? Do they appropriately reflect varying approaches in the marketplace today?
- How should the leadership guidelines be applied to standards and ecolabels in different product categories (e.g., different weightings in an overall conformity assessment scheme)?
- What processes, approaches, measures, and mechanisms should be used to determine conformance with the guidelines, if they are finalized and implemented?
- Under what circumstances and under what authorities, if any, should the federal government require a particular type of conformity assessment to provide adequate confidence that the products have met a particular environmental performance standard or ecolabel?
- Are there alternatives to the pilot project that EPA should consider?
- If EPA were to move forward with a pilot project to test the proposed standards and ecolabels assessment approach, which product categories should be prioritized?
- What challenges need to be addressed/resolved in implementing the proposed guidelines in order to be a transparent, fair, and consistent process?
All comments must be received by Tuesday, February 25, 2014, and must include the following docket identification (ID) number: EPA-HQ-OPPT-2013-0579. Comments may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov, or by mail or delivery. More information about submitting comments is available online.
The full draft guidelines and the EPA's official Federal Register call for comments are both available online.