Expect more changes in IT purchasing language to reflect sustainability goals

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General Services Administration sees a change in contractual obligations and business volume data for sustainability. Agencies are increasingly relying on as-a-service models for enterprise IT infrastructure, requiring less physical infrastructure hardware.

Laura Stanton, assistant commissioner for IT category at the GSA, said agencies buy the capabilities they need through industry and let industry handle things in the background. This reduces the footprint of data centers, which consume about 2% electricity in the United States, according to the Department of Energy. She said sustainability is being integrated more regularly into contract language, which aligns with the Biden administration’s strategy to harness federal procurement power in the name of environmental sustainability.

In the GSA’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions Contract for Network Infrastructure, “We have added sustainability criteria into this contract, requirements for climate change and adoption, sustainability and green initiative, supporting environmental sustainability practices through the use of energy-efficient, virtual and streamlined technology that facilitates agile and widespread network communications,” she said during a panel as part of the GSA Data Sustainability Summit this week.

There is also the complex commercial satellite communications solutions contract, which contains climate change risk language, and mitigation has a deliverable contract to prepare and update, as needed, a disaster management plan. corporate climate risks. The plan would identify and address climate change risk mitigation for land-based facilities and services.

Durability requirements are also included in the contract for government-critical solutions for desktops and laptops. These now have a mandatory Electronic Products Environmental Evaluation Tool (EPEAT) that provides standard configurations and minimum requirements for desktops, laptops, tablets and consumer devices, Stanton said.

“So we’re bringing it in to make sure we have durable equipment that we make available to the federal government, so that means agencies don’t have to add those requirements when they put their task orders. together,” she said.

She referenced a report from a technology research and consulting firm Gartnerwhich predicted that by 2025, more than 85% of organizations would be cloud-first and more than 95% of new digital workloads would be deployed on cloud-native platforms, up from 30% in 2021.

Following this trend, the upcoming cloud-focused global purchase agreement, Ascend, which Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Sonny Hashmi shared on Wednesday, aims to reduce burdens for agencies and establish minimum thresholds for security, data ownership and common terms and conditions. Stanton said the GSA also writes climate goals into this BPA.

“We’re in the early stages, through this BPA, of writing environmental guidelines related to zero-carbon energy for data centers, and we’ll be delivering those cloud capabilities,” Stanton said. “So we are looking at geothermal, hydro, hydrokinetic, nuclear, solar, wind, etc. [well as] how to get carbon pollution free power in the data centers provided by this vehicle. »

Speaking at Thursday’s summit, Ben Levin, senior director of technology assessment and resource development at the Green Electronics Council, said the full life cycle of IT products must be considered when discussing “green” electronics. This includes the extraction of raw materials, manufacturing, processing and assembly, product longevity, greenhouse gas emissions at each of these phases and the protection of labor in the chain. supply.

As one of the most famous proponents of green electronics, the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program. An ENERGY STAR certified server saves an average of about 30% energy compared to a non-certified server, or about 650 kilowatt hours per year. Servers are measured for efficiency in the active state, according to ENERGY STAR data center product development and marketing manager Ryan Fogle.

“So how much work can you do per watt of power, which means you can, in essence, do more work with less material,” he said. “So if you can do more work with less energy, that means there are potentially fewer servers you need to do the same amount of work. Fewer servers tends to mean there are fewer support dollars needed for things like licensing and software fees, and between those fees the actual cost of the servers, which tends not to be cheap .

There are several tools and tips from the EPA and GSA to help agencies achieve more sustainable IT.

the Sustainable Facilities Tool has a procurement professional section with template steps to ensure agencies assess total sustainability value, as well as federal procurement regulations. the GSA Advantage catalog allows users to search for environmentally friendly products, said Paul Morris, hardware category manager at FAS. In addition, ENERGY STAR has examples of procurement language on its website and designations of commercial and industrial offerings to data centers, Fogle said.

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