Wanted: Green Government Contractors

Going green has become big business, and government contracting firms are cashing in on the greening trend, led in part by sustainability initiatives backed by the Obama administration. Ever since Executive Order 13514 (Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance) required 95 percent of new contract actions, including task orders, to be green, there is a growing consciousness among federal agencies to procure “green” services.

For instance, the federal government spends about $80 billion annually on information technology and is using its formidable buying power to encourage vendors to go green. The Department of Defense (DOD) is also going green, developing a Green Procurement Strategy. Requirements and preference programs may be assessed at the DOD “Going Green” website: www.defense.gov/home/features/2010/1010_energy/

The General Services Administration (GSA) Public Buildings Service has taken it to the next level. In 2009, the agency announced that each and every federal building -“ roughly 9,000 in the nation -“ must meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver standards by 2017. By 2030, the GSA would like to see all federal buildings meet net zero in terms of energy savings and sustainability. As part of the GSA’s leadership initiatives, they teamed with the Environmental Protection Agency and the DOD to lead an interagency work group to determine whether contractor greenhouse gas emissions can be used in the federal procurement process to make the government’s supply chain more sustainable.

These initiatives are increasingly compelling the federal government to utilize green contractors, and with the advent of green technology, it has become a goal of government leaders to carve funding ear-marked for research and project plans to include green ingredients. Federal purchasers usually have one of two things in mind when they hear about green services. The first is services that directly address environmental issues, such as waste management or energy metering services. The second is any service performed in an environmentally friendly manner.

In today’s economy, the federal government is one of the few organizations spending large amounts of money – $500 billion spent annually in procurement. Of those funds, 23 percent of federal contracts are earmarked for small businesses. However, there are billions of dollars in opportunities left on the table by business owners. So what do small business owners need to know to take advantage of the government’s green initiative?

The top ten essentials are:

  1. Explore the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Green Contracting Opportunities: Visit www.sba.gov/content/green-contracting-opportunities and become familiar with how the federal government purchases green products and service.

  2. Get your business noticed by government agencies: Register your business in the Central Contractor Registration (www.bpn.gov/ccr) and add your business to the Dynamic Small Business Search.

  3. Get your business certified: Visit www.sba.gov/gcbd to determine if your business qualifies for Small Business Certification. You are able to identify your firm as a small business, veteran owned, small disadvantaged business and woman-owned small business. This will give you an “edge” in government contracting.

  4. Broaden your industry codes to open up green contracting opportunities: Visit www.naics.com/search.htm to determine your NAICS codes.

  5. Develop a green-specific capability statement: A capability statement is a necessity when doing business with the government. A successful capability statement includes, but is not limited, to company overview, core competencies, past performance, differentiators, company data and contact information.

  6. Work with green government contractors: Register on TeamingUSA.com to find potential teaming partners that can help you compete for green contracts.

  7. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website at www.epa.gov/epp/pubs/guidance/index.htm and learn about the 5 Guiding Principles providing a framework for GREEN federal purchases.

  8. Go to the Department of Energy website for free webinars that small businesses can attend to learn more about how to green their businesses.

  9. Learn from those who preceded you: Use available resources to find information that will save you time and money. For more how-to articles, guides, videos and tips for business owners looking to do business with the government, visit OPENForum.com/governmentcontracting.

  10. Remember to dedicate time to pursuing government contracts: Treat this time like a client meeting, and specifically allocate time blocks into your schedule. Without these blocks of time, your strategy becomes a hope or wish and with inconsistent effort, it will be extremely difficult to effectively attract the new business. For example, one successful woman contractor sets up weekly time dedicated to government contracting pursuits.

Think about how you could incorporate those measures into your business. Any small business having the capability to help the government meet their green initiative is definitely going to have a huge edge in the world of government contracting.

Lourdes Martin-Rosa is the American Express OPEN Advisor on Government Contracting and has nearly 20 years of experience in the federal procurement arena. She helps small businesses get contract ready and achieve contract success.