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Practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.

Green Guildance

The federal government is the largest energy consumer in the country, and the Obama administration has set aggressive goals to manage this consumption-both to save money and to conserve for sustainability. To help agencies meet these goals, the White House Council on Environmental Quality is incorporating performance measures into practical implementation efforts.

The administration set reduction targets for the government's greenhouse gas emissions, for example, and requires agencies to submit plans for reaching them. The plans are posted publicly on the council's website and agency sites as well. CEQ spokeswoman Sahar Wali says this kind of tracking and transparency allows agencies to leverage data to gauge the effectiveness of their renewable energy investments and other sustainability efforts.

In June, agencies submitted sustainability plans to CEQ and the Office of Management and Budget addressing how they will continue to move forward in areas where they are succeeding and how they will improve in areas where they are struggling. "By managing implementation of the executive order and by aligning performance metrics with executive order targets, we can help ensure that agencies are marrying [greenhouse gas] reduction and energy-efficiency efforts to meet targets that will save money," Wali says.

The council offers the following tips to managers implementing sustainability plans:

Mimic the best. The Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration and Treasury Department have received green scores across all seven goal areas of the 2010 OMB Sustainability Score Card. Supervisors struggling to achieve similar scores should read these agencies' sustainability plans and consult with their senior managers to learn how they reached their performance results.

Provide leadership support. The most successful sustainability programs have senior managers who are engaged and supportive of the goals. A committed leader not only promotes sustainability and resource requirements, but also empowers mid-level managers and staff to boost environmental performance.

Engage regional offices. As easy as it is to forget, the majority of federal operations are outside the Beltway. Officials in Washington must share information with regional managers on a regular basis, making those partners aware of where their agency stands in achieving its sustainability targets and milestones.

Raise awareness and involve employees. Communicating with employees about green goals and progress at their agency, or even a specific facility, can ensure buy-in and support. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, for example, achieved a 75 percent employee participation rate in its mass-transit program, helping it reach its low-carbon commuting goal.

Recognize sustainability efforts. Acknowledging outstanding performance is critical. Developing incentive or awards programs to recognize an exceptional individual, team or enterprisewide achievement toward sustainability goals provides healthy competition to meet and exceed expectations. Agencies can use the GreenGov Presidential Awards as models for developing their own programs.

Find time and money. It is important that every goal be assigned an achievement timeline. Managers should focus on allocating existing resources to every sustainability goal.

Elizabeth Newell covered management, human resources and contracting at Government Executive for three years.

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