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May 4, 2010

New York Sustainability and Green Procurement Advisory Council Drafting Recommendations for FY 2010-11

Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

The Sustainability and Green Procurement Advisory Council (Advisory Council) of the New York Interagency Committee on Sustainability and Green Procurement (Interagency Committee) is in the process of drafting recommendations for inclusion in the annual report required under Governor David Paterson’s 2008 Executive Order (EO) directing state agencies, public authorities, and public benefit corporations to buy environmentally friendly products. In September 2009, the Advisory Council voted 9-1 to recommend adoption of a Green Procurement Chemical Avoidance List, which would include approximately 94 substances:

  1. Persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals found in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Waste Minimization Priority List;
  2. Carcinogens listed in the National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens as substances “known or reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”;
  3. Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDE) banned by New York State law (octa and penta) and classified as a possible human carcinogen by EPA (deca);
  4. Bisphenol A (BPA), “as a growing number of governments and companies are taking action to phase out the use of BPA due to significant weight of evidence that shows environmental and health risks”; and
  5. Perfluorinated compounds, “as a growing number of governments and companies are taking action to phase out the use of such compounds due to significant weight of evidence that shows environmental and health risks.”

The Avoidance List is available online.

The Advisory Council’s draft recommendations for implementing the EO in fiscal year 2010-11 do not specifically reference the Green Procurement Chemical Avoidance List. The draft recommendations include:

  1. Assign full time sustainability coordinators and provide resources for their support.Recommendation:As the financial crisis eases and resources become available, each agency should dedicate a full time staff member to serve as its Sustainability and Green Procurement Coordinator. Adequate resources should also be made available for sustainability projects that require up-front investment. The pay-back time for most sustainability projects is very short, and the vast majority will, by their very nature, save money over the long term.
  2. Implement recommendations by the State Comptroller to ensure the success of EO 4.Recommendations:In general, the Council supports the recommendations made by the State Comptroller to enhance implementation of EO 4. They focus in large part on the crucial role played by Sustainability and Green Procurement Coordinators, and include:
    • Provide the position of Coordinator with appropriate management status and the full support of the agency’s head or chief executive officer. The Comptroller notes that lack of high-level support and oversight was a common problem in the implementation of EO 134.
    • Provide sustainability and green procurement training to executive level management. Since full compliance with EO 4 will require changes in practice by all agency staff, strong and committed leadership support will almost certainly be required to ensure compliance.
    • Provide specific guidelines on the implementation of sustainability programs in specific types of facilities. Different kinds of challenges will arise in offices, auto maintenance garages, residence facilities, correctional facilities, park and camping facilities, and the wide range of work settings encountered in state government. Guidelines tailored to unique settings will ease implementation.
    • Develop a model job description and recommendations for the expertise and experience required for Sustainability and Green Procurement Coordinators. Enhancing the environmental performance of large institutions and facilities is an emerging area of professional development. Guidance is needed to help agencies determine who is best qualified to implement sustainability and green purchasing programs.
  3. Invest in trainings that allow for face-to-face interaction and collaboration.Recommendation:As resources become available, a committed investment should be made in trainings that allow for face-to-face interaction and collaboration among Coordinators. Workshops on targeted issues of concern, such as the drafting of sustainability plans, would facilitate collaboration and enhance overall performance. In addition, regional trainings should be held for Coordinators, with the goal of covering all areas of the state within four years.
  4. Design trainings to enhance participation and transferability.Recommendation:To the extent possible, agency sustainability training efforts should be designed and conducted in a manner that maximizes both the direct participation of staff from additional agencies and transferability to other agencies. For example, presentations could be broadcast to agencies through live webinars and posted on the web. The format and content for trainings could be shared among coordinators, and experts in particular areas (for example green procurement tracking) could be identified and encouraged to share their expertise with others.
  5. Involve unions in green cleaning training efforts.Recommendation:The Council believes that state and local government employee unions have an important role to play in the success of green cleaning and other sustainability training efforts. [The Office of General Services] is encouraged to continue to involve the unions in outreach efforts in order to maximize the use of training resources, including these existing on-line training tools. Ensuring that the personnel directly engaged in cleaning state and school facilities are well trained will provide the highest level of benefits — both to their own health, safety and welfare and that of the children and public they serve.
  6. Identify barriers and challenges to effective implementation.Recommendation:The language of the Order supports a thorough reporting of any problems encountered in implementation. The Interagency Committee should include in its annual report a summary of the barriers and challenges that have been encountered in implementing EO 4 and identify strategies which will help to achieve success.

The Advisory Council anticipates preparing its final recommendations in the next few weeks. More information regarding the Advisory Council and Interagency Committee is available online.