Survey: Feds see short-term goals as barrier to sustainability efforts


The biggest barrier to agency sustainability efforts is a focus on short-term objectives over longer-term goals, according to 51 percent of federal employees interviewed in a survey released Wednesday

More than 36 percent also said they don’t have enough resources for sustainability programs at their agency, according to LMI, a nonprofit organization that helped develop greenhouse gas reporting protocols.

Jennifer Bitting, a senior consultant and environmental engineer at LMI, said feds are under pressure to accomplish short-term goals such as acquisitions, construction or budget requests as opposed to longer-term energy efficiency and environmental targets.

“Sustainability is like a marathon and the budget process is like a sprint,” Bitting said.

President Obama issued an executive order in 2009 that requires federal agencies by 2020 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions government-wide by 28 percent from a 2008 baseline.

Agencies must also meet a variety of mandates to cut fuel use and building energy, reduce water consumption and make their buildings more environmentally friendly.

John Selman, energy and environment program director for LMI, said agencies are working on better tools to manage, record and justify sustainability features in budget requests and in normal operations.

Only 34 percent of federal employees surveyed said sustainability was fully or mostly integrated into agency procedures while 51 percent said there was some integration – 14 percent said there was slight or nonexistent integration of sustainability into procedures.

Selman said as agencies work to better integrate sustainability practices into their core missions it will be less likely to be singled out during budget cuts. Only 17 percent of respondents said sustainability was fully or mostly integrated into the budget process.

“As long as these things are viewed as something extra to do they are going to get the axe when tough times come,” Selman said.

He said he was hopeful about sustainability programs despite possible budget cuts and funding shortfalls.

“In a time where it is tough to get money for programs people are still excited about this,” Selman said.


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  1. While some of these statistics are eye-opening, the survey provides an opportunity for the federal government and individual citizens to rally around the importance of sustainability and push for greater adoption, development, and budget for sustainable programs and initiatives. As a company that specializes in large-scale sustainable refinishing projects, we understand the struggle that organization and institutions face when trying to cut spending and increase sustainability simultaneously—but it’s not as difficult as once assumed. Through careful analysis and thoughtful planning, reducing greenhouse gases, carbon footprints, and waste, is possible and will allow us to create a country that is more sustainably and environmentally conscious.

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