Sustainable Acquisition

The Federal Acquisition Regulation Subpart 23.703 stipulates employing "acquisition strategies that affirmatively implement the following environmental objectives." One of those objectives is "Realize life-cycle cost savings."

The U.S. Department of Energy considers the entire life cycle of a product when deciding which product to purchase. The product's price is only one part of what the product will truly cost your organization. The cost of staff health while using or working near the product, waste disposal costs, etc.--all need to be calculated into the actual price a product will cost.

A life cycle analysis consists of evaluating a broad spectrum of environmental attributes--the attributes of the product, manufacturing process, and manufacturer themselves. Selecting the most relevant attributes is dependent upon the commodity or service being purchased, local environmental priorities, and the availability of reliable information in addition to the traditional CAP (cost, availability, performance) factors. Generally, however, the environmental attributes to be considered can be divided into the five Rs as introduced in the table below.

Environmental Attributes to Consider When Purchasing
Example in Product
Example in Manufacturer's Process
Renewable feedstock: Contains biobased and recycled content, remembering oil is a finite (not renewable) commodity Uses renewable energy, such as hydropower, solar, wind
Resource conservative: Is energy and water efficient Uses environmental transportation system, such as rail for bringing in resources and shipping product
Robust (healthy): Contains low-to-no persistent bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals or volatile organic compounds (VOC) Has no greenhouse gas emission or hazardous by products or...
Reusable: Is durable, repairable, upgradeable Has recirculating cooling systems that continually filter and reuse water
Resistant to waste: Has low-to-no packaging with returnable containers or, as a minimum, packaging and product are recyclable and biodegradable Has closed loop manufacturing process, credible Environmental Management System, responsible reporting

When selecting a product, look at the materials it is made from. Are they from a resource that grows quickly (such as kenaf) or slowly (trees) or is finite with only a specific quantity available on earth (oil)? Does the product (its manufacture and use) use a lot or a little energy and water? Is the product conducive to the health of those who make it and use it? When the product breaks, can it be repaired? When it is no longer needed, might someone else use it or can it at least be recycled into another product?

To help determine which environmental attributes are relevant for a given purchase, develop a decision-making matrix such as the one below. Use the matrix to identify the product that meets your organization's needs, has the most environmental and health attributes, and is the most cost efficient when all (life cycle) costs are considered.

Example of a Decision Making Matrix/Life Cycle Cost Analysis


For DOE Sustainable Acquisition questions, contact Shab Fardanesh (202-586-7011).

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Last Updated: January 04, 2019