Vermont Steps Up on Climate Change
Effective immediately, a company’s actions relative to climate change will become part of the criteria in selecting contractors for the state of Vermont.
In a bold move, that state’s governor, Peter Shumlin, signed off on an Executive Order that makes a company’s involvement in combating climate change a part of the criteria in selecting state contractors. The order was approved on July 19, 2016, with implementation details just now put in place via the legislature and allowing for timing issues on existing bids.
The way the Executive Order works starts as usual with soliciting competitive bids. The bids are then evaluated against the obvious requirements of the companies involved having the ability and track record to be able to deliver against the needs of the contracts. A lower cost, a more aggressive delivery schedule and the ability to deliver even better than required all become part of these normal considerations, with cost competitiveness ranking high in the criteria.
Then, again as it has been in Vermont for some time, preference in contract awards will be given to companies based in the state and manufacturing in the state.
With the new Executive Order in place, assuming two or more companies bidding on a state contract come up more or less equal in the above-mentioned consid- erations, the winner will be selected based on which of them is doing the most toward climate change.
As outlined in the order, the state will give weight to “vendor business practices that promote clean energy and take action to address climate change.” Those practices, also detailed in the order, can include one or more of the following:
Use of thermal and electric efficiency and conservation measures
Use of renewable energy sources for its operations
Efforts to reduce and track carbon emissions
Use of and encouragement of employee use of electric and zero emissions vehicles including providing workplace charging stations
Offering employees an option for a fossil fuel divested retirement account
Whether the supplies or services offered promote water and energy efficiency
Other factors deemed relevant by the secretary relating to environmentally responsible practices
The rules apply to any contract running over $25,000. That ends up covering around 97% of the hundreds of millions of dollars Vermont spends money on for outsourced contracts every year.
Besides being a good thing for locals and the world, this requirement also happens to back up some hard environmental deliverables the state has already put in place for itself. These include, again quoted from the Executive Order:
Producing 25% of energy consumed in Vermont by renewable energy sources by 2025
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions relative to 1990 levels by 75% as of 2050
Adopting an innovative renewable energy standard (with Act 56 of 2015) that sets utility renewable energy targets and implements solutions to address carbon emissions from the transportation and heating sectors, which account for more than two-thirds of Vermont’s carbon emissions
As the Executive Order goes on, “Vermont’s 2016 Comprehensive Energy Plan [also] calls for a reduction in per capita energy use by 2025 and calls for 90% renewables by 2050.”
There is therefore more than just a values issue at stake here as the state of Vermont moves forward on this new plan for evaluating potential state contractors. Insisting on those contractors having to meet these new climate change criteria actually helps achieve other goals already built into the state’s environmental plans.
For contractors in the state who are interested in competing on such contracts both now and in the future, this adds an incentive to adjust what they are doing with respect to climate change right now. This effectively multiplies the effect of the Executive Order far beyond just those contractors currently bidding for state monies.
It is hoped that other states will follow suit by copying the specific example and the wise leadership demonstrated here by Vermont’s governor and legislature.