The US EPA Recommendations of Specifications, Standards, and Ecolabels leverage the US federal government's vast purchasing power to bring clarity to the market, promote environmentally sustainable products, and realize lifecycle cost savings. Moreover, the Recommendations increase market confidence in existing private sector initiatives that have demonstrated positive, measurable, and meaningful change in the environmental performance of products and services.

Implemented in

  • North America
  • United States of America

Sectors of activity
Buildings and construction, Waste, incl. Chemicals, Public Procurement

Type of initiative
Capacity Building & Implementation, Policy Frameworks & Tools, Research, Analysis, Assessment

Type of lead actor
Government / public sector

Shared by

Alison Kinn Bennett

Senior Advisor for Sustainable Product Standards and Purchasing

US Environmental Protection Agency

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Objectives

The US EPA Recommendations of Specifications, Standards, and Ecolabels is based on the premise that markets need sound, reliable information to perform efficiently. There is significant market demand to purchase environmentally preferable products and services, and businesses want agreed definitions of what constitutes environmental preferability for their product/service sector in order to meet this demand, gain a competitive edge in the global marketplace, and reduce regulatory and liability risks associated with unsustainable manufacturing practices. There are hundreds of standards and ecolabels in the marketplace claiming to validate environmental and human health benefits of products and services. However, the credibility and effectiveness of these standards and ecolabels varies widely. This EPA effort levels the playing field and harnesses private sector innovation by helping suppliers and buyers navigate this marketplace.

Activities

The US federal government is incorporating environmental performance standards and ecolabels recommended by EPA across 20 product categories - from building/construction/maintenance to IT to furnishings -- in major contract vehicles.

Impact and Results

The EPA Environmentally Preferable Purchasing program and its Recommendations of Standards and Ecolabels are responsible for significant environmental results, time savings for federal purchasers, as well as benefits to manufacturers. Exploratory analysis indicates Federal savings between $3 million to $16 million USD annually from time saved by federal agencies by eliminating the need to conduct independent research of appropriate standards and ecolabels. The estimated use-phase energy savings for all federal EPEAT purchases (one of the ecolabels in our Recommendations) from 2008-2017 is $816 million USD.

Next steps and how to get involved

Use the standards and ecolabels EPA has assessed and is recommending in order to send a consistent signal to the marketplace.

Use EPA's Guidelines for Assessing Standards and Ecolabels in other product/service categories not yet covered by EPA's Recommendations.