The New Sustainable Frontier


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This presentation introduces "The New Sustainable Frontier: Principles of Sustainable Development,” a new guide to sustainable development will help you move beyond existing "green" and "high-performance" strategies that provide incremental improvements, to ones that will sustain the our operations within the scale of the Earth’s closed system. The "Guide" and its four-section "Appendix" include concepts, tools and strategies for operationalizing sustainability that will simplify every-day decision-making and provide guidance for achieving long-term goals. See

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  • Good afternoon and welcome, I’d like to thank the Federal Facilities Council for this opportunity to speak to you about our new publication, “The New Sustainable Frontier: Principles of Sustainable Development,” which was written with the assistance of HOK Architects, the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, and others. We’re going start with a look at our understanding of sustainability today, and how we got here, and explore new ways to look at sustainability, through the lens of Ecological Economics. How many of you are implementing the new Executive Order 13514, Federal Leadership In Environmental, Energy, And Economic Performance?” Do you think it will make your life simpler or more complex? I’m guessing more complex – but I believe that, once you begin to apply the principles of sustainability, you will find decision-making made simpler, while as we move from high performance to sustainability. Many of the individual ideas you will hear about today will be familiar to you. I’ll be talking about the traditional economic paradigm behind our economic decision-making, its limitations, and the new economic paradigm and strategies that can lead us to operations that will be truly sustainable. Afterwards, I hope to have time for a discussion and questions from you. So why do we need this new publication? [NEXT]
  • In 2000, the “GSA Real Property Sustainable Development Guide” presented the idea that sustainable development meant “doing well by doing good,” with more effective business practices that evolved incrementally over time,. And, we helped introduce the new LEED® rating system. We introduced the idea of sustainability in terms of sustainable development, citing the two most popular definitions at the time, which are still popular today. The first, from the United Nation’s 1987 “Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development,” the “Brundtland Principles,” linked environmental and social responsibility to development; to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The second definition, [NEXT]
  • That of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development promoted the idea that “companies aiming for sustainability” needed to go beyond the traditional financial bottom line, to consider environmental and social factors on an equal basis with economic factors. Notice the word “aiming, in their definition, which suggests that sustainability may be optional. At the time, even though good things were happening in the Government, we looked primarily at the private sector as a way to promote the growing acceptability of the sustainable development movement. Both the “Brundtland Principles” and the “Triple Bottom Line” have captured the imagination of those determined to make the world sustainable, but real progress has been limited. Linking environmental and social responsibility to development has proven elusive. [NEXT]
  • So today, we can look at the U.S. Capitol or Jefferson’s Monticello as an exemplar of high performance and green building, one that would do quite well in the world of LEED®. At Monticello, we find sustainable sites, water efficiency, low and renewable energy use; local, rapidly renewable materials, daylight and views. Since "putting up and pulling down” was one of his “favorite amusements," Jefferson would also get points for building reuse and construction waste management; And innovation was practically Jefferson’s middle name. I’m guessing he wouldn’t get points for environmental tobacco smoke control, but he would have done pretty well, otherwise. This is usually where we stop, today when we talk about green buildings. But what about the “social” component? [RETURN ] As Jack McLaughlin, writes,” “beneath the white Palladian orders, the white plaster walls, the white dome silhouetted against the Virginia sky, lay black sweat, black labor, black craftsmanship.” White men did most skilled labor, with slaves assisting them. The carpenter had slaves cutting and hauling lumber, planing planks, and making shingles. Slave boys as young as ten, working twelve hours a day, six days a week, made up to 10,000 nails a day.   [RETURN ] And12,000 gallons of water had to be hauled up the mountain to make the 90,000 workable , 8-pound bricks used to build the house. [ NEXT ]
  • Our 2004 publication, “Sustainable Development and Society,” tried to define Social Equity in a way that linked it to environmental quality and economic prosperity. In some ways, the current sustainable design movement is beginning to address these issues, particularly where the well-being and productivity of the people who occupy our buildings and their immediate communities are concerned. But the bigger issues, such as respect, well being, and quality of life, have not been well addressed in the sustainable development equation. Considering the complexity of the subject, this is not entirely unexpected, particularly from those who still see these issues as add-ons or something to do in the future. But the Government is already contributing to eliminating toxics in the environment and providing people with, as Frederick Douglass wrote in 1881, the means to “live respectfully.” [NEXT]
  • And then there’s the question of making sure that our “environmentally friendly” economic decisions are lifecycle cost-effective. We’re still debating whether “green” products, services and facilities are going to pay their way. In “Sustainable Development and Society,” we discussed using Life Cycle Assessment to expand the traditional, limited focus of Life Cycle Cost analysis, as defined in OMB Circular A-94, beyond the cost during the period of ownership of a product, to include the upstream and downstream costs, including global and regional impacts on energy consumption, waste generation, global warming, ozone depletion, and acidification. So how are we doing today ? Are we really moving towards sustainability? Before we tackle those questions, it’s useful to look at how we got to this point. [NEXT]
  • The Government’s approach to sustainability, especially in the area of natural resources and the environment, has evolved dramatically over time. Throughout the 19th Century, “promoting the general welfare” meant driving settlement of newly acquired lands and exploitation of natural resources, particularly minerals and lumber. In his first inaugural address, President Lincoln called for the mineral resources of the Louisiana Purchase to be “developed as rapidly as possible.” Beginning in 1850, Congress granted hundreds of millions of acres of public lands to railroads and settlers, subsidizing the move west – and providing water for farming and industry, too, eventually damming nearly every major western river for that use. And, since 1872, billions of dollars in mineral rights have been given away. Little consideration was given to the external effects of these actions, which contributed to monopoly power, environmental degradation, and pollution. As the effects of development and exploitation began to interfere with the pursuit of happiness and interstate commerce, Congress passed an occasional bill to slow the destruction, including limits on fur hunting and fisheries, and logging on government property. In 1868, the Congress enacted the first eight -hour workday for federal employees on public works projects. The federal Bureau of Labor was established in 1884 as part of the Interior Department. In 1890, to “rebalance” distortions in the market, the first antitrust law was passed. [NEXT]
  • At the turn of the 20th century, 80% of the country’s forests were depleted and much of the nation’s farmland had been exhausted by overuse. Commercial waterways were silting up because of erosion caused by over-logging, and our mineral wealth was being wasted. In 1907, Theodore Roosevelt called for action, saying that conservation and proper use of our natural resources would be necessary if were to maintain the material basis for our way of life. He also recognized the importance of setting aside natural areas for the enjoyment of all. In the area of equity, workers were getting organized but progress was slow. Between 1881 and 1905 alone, there were more than 37,000 labor strikes in the United States. As the 20 th Century progressed, the Government took some steps to improve the situation. In 1913, a permanent income tax was established and the Department of Labor was created. The 1931 the Davis-Bacon Act provided for the payment of prevailing wages to workers on public construction projects. And the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which covered about 20% of all workers, established a 44-hour workweek and 25 cents minimum hourly wage. This point of view continued fairly consistently through 1960, when John Kennedy told supporters that “the great untapped abundance of our natural resources [is] the true source of American greatness.” Of course, there was more that just conservation during this period, but it wasn’t until the 1960’s that the Government began to address the massive environmental and social consequences of two centuries of economic progress. [NEXT]
  • In the ’60’s came the realization that it wasn’t just nature that needed protection – humans did too – and laws were passed to improve air and water quality. In 1965, President Johnson called for society to take responsibility for pollution and for protection against the poisons and chemicals from technology and industry that threatened the health of the nation and the world. He said we needed to go beyond the classic conservation of protection and development to a creative conservation of restoration and innovation. And he said we should be concerned not just about nature, “but with the total relation between man and the world around him…not just man's welfare but the dignity of man's spirit.” [RETURN] President Nixon, in 1970, declared that clean air and water, and open spaces, should be the birthright of every American. He challenged the idea that ecosystem services had no cost, saying, “Exploitation of the air and water are not free,” and that the debt to nature was coming due. And, he said, “restoring nature … is a cause of particular concern to young Americans, because they more than we will reap the grim consequences of our failure to act... “ The first Earth Day celebration was held on April 22, 1970, when 20 million Americans demonstration in favor of environmental reform. It was quite an event at Leland Jr. High, where I was in school. Perhaps the greatest environmental accomplishment of that period was NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. [NEXT]
  • NEPA was the first federal law to establish the broad national framework for protecting our environment, and social equity, as well, anticipating the Brundtland Principles by almost 20 years. Under NEPA, the Government is required to acknowledge and mitigate its negative environmental impacts by requiring environment impact statements for its actions and making environmental information available to the public before decisions are made. Through NEPA, the Government recognized the impact of man's activity on all of the natural environment, particularly the influences of population growth, high-density urbanization, industrial expansion, resource exploitation, and new and expanding technological advances. NEPA also recognized the critical importance of restoring and maintaining environmental quality to the overall welfare and development of man. With NEPA, Cost was not the first consideration – human life was. [NEXT]
  • For the past century, the Government has responded to the natural propensity of the marketplace to minimize its costs at the expense of the environment and of workers, and it’s aversion to effective voluntary controls. Numerous laws, Executive Orders and regulations have been adopted to protect the environment and society – two of the three parts of the triple bottom line - from the operations of the economy; to clean up and prevent pollution and toxics contamination, and to deal fairly with labor, particularly when spending public money. And what about that third leg of the triple bottom line, economic prosperity? The Government, which has helped grease the wheels of national prosperity through commercial exploitation of natural resources, has also contributed to prosperity in other ways, like education and research programs, regulating economic fluctuations, tax incentives for investment, and so on. In its acquisitions, the Government often pays prevailing wages, which can benefit communities by reducing dependence on government subsidies and benefit local businesses and economies. And more recently, the Government has targeted spending in areas that promote green jobs and community-based investment resources. Another way the Government promotes economic prosperity is through the economy of its operations, that is, by operating efficiently. Next, we will look at some of the tools the Government uses to improve efficiency. [NEXT]
  • First, it must be said that Government spending is not always based upon well-informed decision-making. In the 19 th century, this was particularly true in the areas of river and harbor improvements and public buildings, where “logrolling” was the most common decision-making process. Congressman Davy Crockett (seen here with the hat) was one of the first to apply the term to legislation in 1835. [RETURN] Another approach is Cost Benefit Analysis, or CBA, which weighs the relative costs and benefits of various proposals to select those in which the value of the benefits exceeded the value of the costs. The River and Harbor Act of 1902 was the first to require cost benefit analysis in its projects. Over the years, various agencies use CBA in a variety of forms, until 1`972, when it became the standard Government investment decision-making tool. In 1981, it was required for every major regulation. And, since 1992, cost benefit analysis has been used to evaluate most Federal programs. As Cost Benefit Analysis became more commonly used in the 1960s and ‘70s, concerns about its accuracy and fairness led to the addition of factors like present value analysis, discounting, and equity issues. The attraction of CBA is that it can integrate complex policy decisions by monetizing associated benefits and costs and summing them up in a single number. Of course, Cost-Benefit Analysis only works if all costs and all benefits can be identified and accurately priced, leading us to another decision-making tool, Life Cycle Cost Analysis, or LCCA. [NEXT]
  • LCCA, as we know it, originated in 1933, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to purchase tractors based on the lowest predicted total cost after 8,000 hours of operation - not just on the lowest first cost. Over time, it was informally adopted across the Government , and, in 1978, was applied to the design of new federal buildings and major renovations. LCCA has evolved to include the benefits and costs over the life of the material, asset, or program, and future capital replacement and financing costs, all stated in present value. This approach assumes that upstream factors, before acquisition, and downstream factors, after disposal, are indirectly reflected in the estimated costs. But this assumption can omit major costs and impacts that are not easily priced, particularly environmental and social. In response, Life Cycle Assessment, or LCA, is sometimes added to the calculations. LCA is intended to be a society-level evaluation method, that takes account of impacts on health and the environment no matter where they occur or whom they affect, with a practically unlimited time horizon. So, with all of these laws, Executive Orders and regulations , and associated decision-making tools, we ask : How are we doing? [NEXT]
  • In order to answer that question, we need to understand how our actions relate to the state of the world – no small feat. <PAUSE> So, where are we today? We know that life in today’s world is not sustainable. The latest WWF “Living Planet Report” tells us that Humanity’s Ecological Footprint exceeds the planet’s regenerative capacity by about 30 per cent. And it is growing. Ecosystems are being run down as waste accumulates in the air, land and water. The resulting deforestation, water shortages, declining biodiversity and climate change are putting the wellbeing and development of all nations at increasing risk. In 1961, almost every country had more than enough capacity to meet its own needs. By 2005 many countries could only do this by importing resources and by using the global atmosphere as a dumping ground for greenhouse gases. At this rate, by the early 2030s we will need two planets to keep up with humanity’s demand for goods and services. [NEXT]
  • According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates will continue to cause increases in global temperatures, climatic changes , increasing air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising sea levels. 30% of species will become extinct with a 2°C rise and a 3°C warming will lead to widespread coral deaths. Warming will decrease agricultural yields in the low-latitudes, and, the increased yields in the high latitudes will only be temporary. Those who will be most affected by these changes are the poor people who are least responsible for increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Human activities that produce global greenhouse gas emissions increased by 70% globally, between 1970 and 2004. In the last 8 years, US carbon emissions increased by 20% from 1990 levels, while European Union countries actually reduced theirs by 2%. Reversing this trend won’t be easy. Most pesticides are oil-based, and all commercial fertilizers are produced from natural gas. Oil based agriculture is primarily responsible for the world's population growth from 1 billion at the middle of the 19th century to 6.4 billion at the turn of the 21st. Oil is also largely responsible for advances in medicine, with mass production of pharmaceutical drugs, and development of our medical infrastructure. And toxification of the planet is a real problem, too. Human-made chemicals are in the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. In 2007 506 million pounds of Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxic chemicals, including lead, mercury, PCBs, and dioxins, were released into the U.S. environment. In the Canadian north, far from any known sources, Inuit mothers carry PCBs, mercury and dioxins in their blood and breast milk. In the past 25 years, childhood cancers have increased 25 per cent; child asthma. by 400-per-cent, along with other childhood diseases and behavioral problems. And the oceans contain more than 200 "dead" zones -- the largest, in the Gulf of Mexico, is the size of New Jersey -- caused by fertilizers and other pollutants being washed out to sea by rivers. [NEXT]
  • And finally, according to Lester Brown, the world is in what ecologists call an "overshoot-and-collapse" mode. Demand has exceeded the sustainable yield of natural systems at the local level countless times in the past. Now, for the first time, it is doing so at the global level. Nature has many thresholds that we discover only when it is too late. In our fast-forward world, we learn that we have crossed them only after the fact, leaving little time to adjust. For example, when we exceed the sustainable catch of a fishery, the stocks begin to shrink. Once this threshold is crossed, we have a limited time in which to back off and lighten the catch. If we fail to meet this deadline, breeding populations shrink to where the fishery is no longer viable, and it collapses. And the problem is not just that we are depleting the resources and ecosystem services that provide essential life support. Our distribution of those resources is unjust, as well, with the poorest 36% of the world’s 6.4 billion people consuming less than 3% of the resources, the middle 48% about 17%, and the richest 15.6%, including us, getting more than 80%. SO, that’s a quick look at the state of the World. Not a pretty picture, unless we start doing something about it. [NEXT]
  • Let’s all take a deep breath. There are tools and strategies we can apply to our everyday and long-term decision-making to move the World towards sustainability. This is what our new guide is about. By the way, this is the only part of George Carlin’s routine that I could quote here. [NEXT]
  • Our world is a closed system. In order to sustain life within our closed system, we need to restore and maintain the natural systems and resources that make life possible. These include clean air, clean water, and clean soil. When we deplete and toxify these resources, we reduce the planet’s capacity to sustain our lives and those in nature. There is a finite quantity of energy and matter on the Earth, with fixed imports of energy (primarily sunlight), and minimal imports of matter. What we consume is taken from this closed system and, in one form or another, eventually returns to that system. Flows of matter from the environment and back into it are what support all life and ecosystems on our planet. When our current industrial economic system began, the scale and efficiency of human activity was small, compared to the seemingly limitless bounty of nature. Countless decisions resulting from this “open” world mindset have improved the lives of many, while causing vast negative, mostly unintended, consequences. Today, the scale, inequity and inefficiency of our economic system have surpassed nature’s limits. If Government operations are to be sustainable, they must be realigned to reflect the Earth’s closed system limitations - nothing short of that is going to work. The first step is to understand what sustainability actually is. [NEXT]
  • Here is a general definition of sustainability: Capable of being carried on for a prolonged duration, or for the foreseeable future and beyond. Something is either sustainable, or it is not . It is not synonymous with “green” and “high performance,” which usually imply improved attributes relative to the status quo, and may or may not be sustainable. [RETURN] What does a sustainable world look like? When we’re dealing with the consumption of natural resources and services, we mean: Consumption of renewable resources at a rate below their regeneration rate or carrying capacity, Consumption of non-renewable resources at a rate below that at which they can be replaced by renewable substitutes, if any, Waste generation at rates below the ecosphere’s assimilative capacity, and, Maintaining critical ecosystems that provide essential life support. [NEXT]
  • So what do sustainable operations look like? (1) Sustainable operations function within the constraints of the natural world rather than attempting to overcome them, and respect its physical laws: Any interaction we have with the world and the ecosystems that support life, must be accounted for, sooner or later. As matter moves through nature and the economic system, it becomes less useful and usable, requiring more resources to make them useful again. Low-entropy goods, such as mineral ore or fuels, eventually produce less useful, high-entropy matter, such as scrap metals and greenhouse gases as they are used. (2) Sustainable operations allow all to live respectfully and in dignity, with just distribution that can help build and maintain society. And, (3) they allocate resources efficiently . While much remains to be done, with a bit of refocusing, our existing environmental and social policies provide a reasonable basis for moving ahead. But what about our economic tools? How do we make the economic decisions in a closed world, based upon theories that are founded on an open world model? Has the economic decision-making approach we have been using for the last thirty years led to sustainable choices - or not? We don’t need to understand every aspect of economic theory in order to operate sustainably – that’s what economists are for (in case you were wondering) - but until we understand what’s behind our economic decision-making tools, we won’t know what questions to ask. [NEXT]
  • Here are some of the basic ideas from traditional economics that are used to model economic activity. The traditional economic paradigm sees the economy as an abstract entity, separate from the natural world, with the environment as a subset of no value except as a source of resources and as a “sink” for wastes. Social inputs beyond labor costs are not considered at all. When economy and environment do interact, like when pollution is produced, it is considered an externality. [NEXT]
  • I’ll bet you never thought you’d see this stuff again, but it’s important to understanding how today’s unsustainable practices evolved. The lines in the supply and demand chart show what price a firm must charge to maximize profits, and how much consumers will buy at a given price. When markets are functioning properly, an equilibrium price and quantity for a good will emerge naturally with individuals acting in their own self-interest, leading to optimal conditions that will benefit society as a whole - as if guided by an invisible hand. A properly functioning market will efficiently allocate all resources without waste or pollution, and all goods and services will be distributed so that no one can be made better off without making anyone worse off. Economists believe that these “socially optimal” conditions will emerge when all of these conditions are present: (1) consumers are perfectly informed about all products, (2) there is competition, (3) households and firms are rational, with households maximizing their well-being and firms maximizing their profits, and (4) production and consumption of products affects only those directly involved. In the real world, where most of us live, all of these conditions are almost never present, together, and the result is a marketplace that is not efficient and does not allocate resources in a socially optimal manner. [NEXT]
  • When the marketplace is not functioning properly, prices do not reflect true costs. This is what economists call a “market failure.” This can lead to overuse of ecosystem services and natural resources, toxification, species and habitat loss, and unjust distribution of resources. The consequences can be dire and non-market policy and regulatory approaches may be required to deal with the result. There are several types of market failures. When the cost of a good or service does not reflect its full impacts on others an “externality,” occurs, which can be positive or negative. A positive externality occurs when a building owner installs a green roof to protect the roofing membrane, add insulation, and reduce storm-sewer charges; and in so doing also improves local air quality and reduces the burden on storm water systems and local waterways. The cost of the roof system and the benefit of the reduced sewer charges are calculated in the decision making process; but because the owner does not directly receive the value of the positive externalities, they are not considered. Positive externalities are sometimes mandated by regulations or encouraged by incentives like tax rebates. Negative externalities occur when an owner sites a facility in a remote area to save land costs, but in so doing increases transportation costs and air pollution from vehicles. The additional costs are generated by the owner, but they are borne by society as a whole. Negative externalities can sometimes be corrected if one party compensates the other (such as by offering workers a transportation subsidy). Regulations or fines can discourage generation of negative externalities. However, negative externalities are extremely difficult to correct when they are distributed across time (as in the case of resource depletion) or across wide geographic distances (as in the case of air or water-borne pollution). The British Government’ has described global warming as the biggest example of market failure world has ever seen. Externalities are important to understand in the context of sustainable development since economic analyses – when not omitting them altogether - often weigh non-market benefits, like ecosystem services that are difficult or impossible to price, against easily priced costs such as industrial or other production. [ NEXT }
  • Another important concept is that of “Public Goods.” These are goods that cannot practicably be controlled, priced, and sold, and are seldom supplied by the marketplace because there is no financial incentive to do. Often, government action is necessary for their production and distribution. Most environmental goods and ecosystem services are called “public goods.” Public goods, such as clean air and water can theoretically be used by all, without charge; and, within broad limits, one person's use of them does not diminish the ability of other people to use them. Society relies on public goods for essential life support. Unless their use is restricted, public goods are susceptible to degradation that results in serious negative impacts on sustainability and society. The unlimited use of public goods leads to what is called the “Free Rider Problem.” [NEXT]
  • Without restrictions or incentives, consumers and businesses get a “free ride” on public goods and services, benefitting from their use without paying for them or contributing to their upkeep. Unregulated use of a public good can result in its depletion, without regard to the limits of sustainable scale or just distribution: the so-called “tragedy of the commons.” The traditional example is where there is no cost or limit to graze sheep on public land. “Rational” shepherds will maximize flock size to maximize their profits. Eventually, the commons’ ability to sustain the sheep is overwhelmed and it becomes a wasteland. Taking a free ride on non-renewable resources and ecosystem services ultimately results in real costs to society, and eventually, corrective action becomes unavoidable. This is what President Nixon meant when he said “clean air is not free, and neither is clean water.” [NEXT]
  • As mentioned previously, when the market is not functioning, market failure like waste or pollution can occur. To deal with this problem, two fields of economics, Environmental and Resource Economics, have emerged. Each of these fields is concerned with improving the relationship between the market economy and the natural world, but they too rely on the traditional economic paradigm in which the economy is an abstract entity, not subject to the constraints of the natural world. They assume that virtually every environmental and social aspect associated with an economic decision can be identified and priced. And they do this using a variety of extrapolations and estimating methods. Which are often applied to cost benefit analysis. [NEXT]
  • But the limitations of traditional economic theory still remain, even with this broader approach. Cost-benefit analysis favors things that can be easily and accurately priced. It is relatively easy to measure the utility gained from industry and jobs, but benefits from healthy ecosystems, culture, and well-functioning social institutions are much more difficult to measure. Another issue is Discounting, which is used to estimate the present day value of benefits and costs that accrue over time.. This makes sense in a purely financial decision, such as when we consider the present day value of interest that could be obtained by investing money over time, rather than spending it now. But when applied to things that are not easy to price, such as ecosystem services, discounting can jeopardize sustainability goals by favoring actions in the present whose cost impacts are mainly in the future. And discounting beyond a single generation raises questions about equity, since it assumes that the same resource, or an identical substitute, will always be available and that future generations will be able to absorb the costs of our actions today. The fact is: sustainability cannot be priced. What may appear to be the most economically efficient approach does not always meet the needs of society over time. Notwithstanding its “economic” efficiency, the Government no longer uses slave or child labor and forbids their use by those with whom it does business. Although the Clean Air Act passes a cost-benefit test today, it would not have when it was adopted in 1970. Back then, we did not know the extent of the damage caused by fine particulate matter and thus could not accurately measure the benefits of clean air. Still, without precisely quantified costs and benefits, in the 1970s we knew that the air was polluted, pollution damaged human health, and we needed to do something about it. [NEXT]
  • So what happens when you go from the traditional economic paradigm that sees the economy as an abstract entity, separate from the natural world to the triple-bottom-line? [NEXT]
  • Can the Triple-Bottom-Line paradigm get us where we want to go? A lot of effort has gone into getting beyond that single, financial bottom line to one that includes environmental quality and social equity. Since our first Guide, many major companies, like Wal-Mart, have made a commitment to corporate social responsibility and have started to report on their “sustainability” performance in addition to their financial performance. Tools like the “Global Reporting Initiative” have contributed to greater awareness of Triple Bottom Line’s non-financial impacts, but it’s use is limited. In the U.S. Government, only the Army has started to report on these issues. Operationalizing sustainability using the triple bottom line remains elusive. So where do we go from here? [NEXT]
  • There is an alternative approach to the traditional economics- based financial decision making processes we use. It’s called ecological economics, and its use can result in sustainable strategies. Ecological economics is a major paradigm shift that changes the definition of good economic performance from growth to a sustainable, steady state. This involves examining what meets our needs in the present and how our actions affect humanity’s ability to meet its needs generations into the future. Ecological Economics is an interdisciplinary field, with conceptual roots in thermodynamics, ecology, and economics and strives to function within the constraints of the natural world rather than attempting to overcome them, while respecting its physical laws. [RETURN]
  • This new ecological economic paradigm nests the economy within the environment, rather than independent of it. And, rather than shortchanging the role of society, as in the traditional economic model, this paradigm defines the economy as a construct of society that moves goods and services through it while determining what has value and is economically viable. The economy can only be sustained if there are healthy societies, living in healthy ecosystems that furnish renewable resources and assimilate wastes. [NEXT]
  • To operationalize sustainability, we need a new paradigm, based on the three basic principles of ecological economics: Sustainable Scale , which is defined by the Earth’s finite limits. Just Distribution , that allocates the Earth’s finite resources so that all can live with respect, and Efficient allocation , using the traditional market appropriately Understanding these principles will give a new focus to the sustainability policies and practices we already have, and give us confidence that the work we do and the decisions we make are moving us towards a steady-state, sustainable world. So if we can’t rely entirely on economic formulas for our decision-making, what other tools are available to us? How can we make sure that our policies are taking us where we want to go? [NEXT]
  • If we are trying to create a sustainable world, we must develop strategies directly connected to those goals. This approach is known as “backcasting,” which is best understood in contrast to “forecasting.” While forecasting seems like a logical way to reach a desired goal, it bases future actions on past practices that may actually have contributed to the problem in the first place. These past practices, such as high consumption of resources to support sprawling land-use, have taken decades to develop and will likely take decades to overcome, especially if proposed solutions rely on incremental improvements, not the desired future. In contrast, [RETURN] backcasting approaches the issue of current practices and desired goals from the opposite perspective, linking the present to the desired future, with effective policies. In the case of global warming mitigation, for example, effective strategies would begin with a backcasting goal (such as 350 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere) and then identification of reduction targets that will achieve that goal. Another effective tool is Multi Criteria Analysis, or MCA. [NEXT]
  • MCA is a multi-disciplinary approach that uses qualitative as well as quantitative measuring scales to resolve problems with multiple value systems and objectives, which cannot be easily quantified (e.g. environmental issues) or translated in monetary terms due to their intangible nature (e.g. social, cultural or psychological issues). Unlike cost benefit analysis, MCA does not require all factors to be priced in order to be considered . Starting with the desired goals identified by backcasting, MCA brings a wide range of views and knowledge into decision-making. Alternative solutions and strategies are presented to stakeholders, who apply a variety of tools, including policy and cost benefit analysis, to make consensus-based recommendations. Both backcasting and MCA can strengthen NEPA’s sustainability framework, and can be used to support a broad environmental and social equity baseline in the Government’s economic decision-making processes. [NEXT]
  • The Government’s mission is to serve the people of the United States. The operations that support that mission are large in scale, but their adverse impacts can be small - if sustainable principles and practices are implemented at every level. Incremental change will not be sufficient. Existing policies, programs and rating systems must be examined in a closed-world context; their limitations understood, and their and applicability reconsidered. Once we understand the principles of sustainability, we can begin to incorporate them into our daily practices. This doesn’t mean that we must have a complete knowledge of every aspect of every product or service we use, but it does require that we understand the principles of sustainable development, articulate our goals clearly, and ask the right questions of those who should know every aspect of every product or service: the producers and providers. [NEXT]
  • To operate sustainably, we need to look for alternatives to consuming additional natural resources and generating greenhouse gases. We need to know what we’re buying, when there is no alternative to consumption, making sure that the acquisition is consistent with the Government’s environmental and social goals by asking: Who made it? What’s in it? Where does it go when it is no longer needed? And, we need to share the government’s vision for sustainability with suppliers, and favor those that support that vision. Finally, how could these principles be applied going forward? While I don’t presume to have all of the answers, after all, we need a multi-criteria, multi-disciplinary approach for that, I will offer a few preliminary observations: [NEXT]
  • We can make things simpler or more complicated. I usually go for simpler. Here is a quick take on applying the principles of sustainable development to the requirements of EO 13415. Many of the Order’s requirements can be readily applied to considerations of sustainable scale, just distribution, and efficient allocation . Those that may not should be considered with sustainability goals and principles in mind, so that we can establish an effective program to change the way we do business in the future. And one more thought. [NEXT]
  • I hope that we can create another world that is sustainable. But in the meantime, we need to remember that this is the only world we have and respond accordingly. [RETURN] Even when we make exceptions for compliance, we still need to account for all of our actions, whether we report them or not. Because someday, we will have to deal with the consequences, perhaps by raising requirements on the rest of our activities. Remember, our world is a closed system. In order to sustain life within our closed system, we need to restore and maintain the natural systems and resources that make life possible. And that’s what we need to start to do, today. [NEXT]
  • The new Guide, is available online, along with an appendix containing more information on Operating Sustainably, Economic Decision-Making, The State of the World, and The Government Mandate for Sustainability. Please give me a call or email if you would like any further information. Are there any questions? THANK YOU!
  • The New Sustainable Frontier

    1. 1. Jonathan Herz , AIA, LEED AP GSA Office of Governmentwide Policy The New Sustainable Frontier: Principles of Sustainable Development
    2. 2. Real Property Sustainable Development Guide (2000) <ul><li>“ Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts: </li></ul><ul><li>the concept of 'needs', in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and, </li></ul><ul><li>the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs.” </li></ul>“ Our Common Future” (1987) The Brundtland Commission
    3. 3. Real Property Sustainable Development Guide (2000) <ul><ul><li>World Business Council for Sustainable Development (1997) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>&quot;Sustainable development involves the simultaneous pursuit of economic prosperity, environmental quality and social equity. Companies aiming for sustainability need to perform not against a single, financial bottom line, but against [this] triple bottom line.&quot; </li></ul>Equity Economy Ecology McDonough Braungart Design Protocol™
    4. 5. Sustainable Development and Society (2004) <ul><li>Respect </li></ul><ul><li>Well-being </li></ul><ul><li>Quality of Life </li></ul>“ Neither we, nor any other people, will ever be respected till we respect ourselves and we will never respect ourselves till we have the means to live respectfully.” Frederick Douglass, 1881
    5. 6. Life cycle cost-effectiveness <ul><li>Life Cycle Cost Analysis & Life Cycle Assessment </li></ul>
    6. 7. <ul><li>“ The immense mineral resources of some of those Territories ought to be developed as rapidly as possible… It is worthy of your serious consideration whether some extraordinary measures to promote that end can not be adopted...” </li></ul><ul><li>Abraham Lincoln, addressing Congress, 1862 </li></ul>Some history
    7. 8. <ul><li>“ The conservation of our natural resources and their proper use constitute the fundamental problem which underlies almost every other problem of our National life... We must show foresight... </li></ul><ul><li>“ As a nation we not only enjoy a wonderful measure of present prosperity but if this prosperity is used aright it is an earnest of future success such as no other nation will have.” </li></ul><ul><li>- Theodore Roosevelt, 1907 </li></ul>Some more history
    8. 9. <ul><li>“… Our conservation must be not just the classic conservation of protection and development, but a creative conservation of restoration and innovation. Its concern is not with nature alone, but with the total relation between man and the world around him. Its object is not just man's welfare but the dignity of man's spirit.” Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965 </li></ul>Even more history “ We still think of air as free. But clean air is not free, and neither is clean water. The price tag on pollution control is high. Through our years of past carelessness we incurred a debt to nature, and now that debt is being called.” Richard Nixon, 1970
    9. 10. <ul><li>“ The Congress, recognizing the profound impact of man's activity on the interrelations of all components of the natural environment… [and] the critical importance of restoring and maintaining environmental quality to the overall welfare and development of man, declares that it is the continuing policy of the Federal Government… to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans.” </li></ul>The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
    10. 11. <ul><li>National Historic Preservation Act 6 </li></ul><ul><li>Clean Air Act (CAA) </li></ul><ul><li>Clean Water Act (CWA) </li></ul><ul><li>Superfund (CERCLA) </li></ul><ul><li>Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) </li></ul><ul><li>Endangered Species Act (ESA) </li></ul><ul><li>Energy Policy Act </li></ul><ul><li>From Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks EO 13123 </li></ul><ul><li>EO 12898: Environmental Justice </li></ul><ul><li>Safe Drinking Water Act </li></ul><ul><li>EO 13045: Protection of Children </li></ul><ul><li>Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) </li></ul><ul><li>Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) </li></ul><ul><li>Pollution Prevention Act (PPA) </li></ul><ul><li>Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) </li></ul><ul><li>Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) </li></ul><ul><li>Government Performance and Results Act </li></ul><ul><li>Chief Financial Officers and Accountability for Tax Dollars Acts </li></ul><ul><li>Energy Policy Act of 2005 </li></ul><ul><li>Davis-Bacon and Related Acts </li></ul><ul><li>Fair Labor Standards Act </li></ul><ul><li>Javits-Wagner-O’Day (JWOD) Act </li></ul>Social and environmental legislation
    11. 12. Cost Benefit Analysis and Circular A-94 — promotes efficient resource allocation through well-informed decision making, provides general guidance for conducting benefit-cost and cost-effectiveness analyses. Logrolling - The trading of influence or votes among legislators to achieve passage of projects that are of interest to one another. Economic decision-making
    12. 13. LIFE-CYCLE ASSESSMENT (LCA) - “LCCA should be applied within a life-cycle assessment framework that accounts for both the costs over the asset life and the environmental consequences of investment decisions on upstream (e.g., extraction, production, transportation, and construction), ongoing (e.g., health impacts on tenants and the community), and downstream (e.g., decommissioning and disposal) costs.” GSA Bulletin FMR 2008-B5 – “Real Property Asset Management Guiding Principles” LIFE CYCLE COST ANALYSIS (LCCA) - “The cost of a capital asset is its full life-cycle cost, including all direct and indirect costs for planning, procurement… operations and maintenance… and disposal.” OMB Circular A-11, Part 7 “Capital Programming Guide” Economic decision-making: LCCA and LCA
    13. 14. Where are we today? “ Living Planet Report 2008” WWF–World Wide Fund For Nature
    14. 15. Climate Change Between 1970 and 2004, GHG emissions due to human activities increased 70%, increasing water scarcity, ocean warming and acidification, sea level rise, extreme weather, public and ecosystems health, and national security. Where are we today? Toxification of the Planet In 2007, 253,000 Tons of Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxic chemicals were released, including lead, mercury, PCBs, and dioxins.
    15. 16. <ul><li>The poorest 2.3 billion (36%) get less than 3% </li></ul><ul><li>The richest 1 billion (15.6%) get more than 80% (of which the U.S. (4.7%) consumes 41%) </li></ul><ul><li>The middle 3.1 billion (48.4%) get 17%. </li></ul>Where are we today? Natural Resources Depletion The average person uses 5.7 ac of biologically productive land, but only 4.7 ac/person exists. We are consuming both our natural ‘income’ and our ‘natural capital. Unjust Distribution of Resources
    16. 17. The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we're gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, 'cause that's what it does. The planet has been through a lot worse than us… The planet isn't going anywhere. WE ARE! George Carlin
    17. 18. Our world is a closed system
    18. 19. <ul><li>Environmentally Sustainable World </li></ul><ul><li>Consumption of renewable resources at a rate below their regeneration rate or carrying capacity, </li></ul><ul><li>Consumption of non-renewable resources at a rate below that at which they can be replaced by renewable substitutes, </li></ul><ul><li>Waste generation below the ecosphere’s assimilative capacity, and, </li></ul><ul><li>Maintaining critical ecosystems that provide essential life support. </li></ul>Sustainable (adj) - Capable of being carried on for a prolonged duration, or for the foreseeable future. What does “sustainable” mean?
    19. 20. <ul><li>SUSTAINABLE SCALE </li></ul><ul><li>Natural Resources Conservation </li></ul><ul><li>Greenhouse Gas Reduction </li></ul><ul><li>Pollution Prevention </li></ul><ul><li>JUST DISTRIBUTION </li></ul><ul><li>Wage Rates and Occupational Safety Standards </li></ul><ul><li>Use of Mandatory Sources & Socially And Economically Disadvantaged Small Businesses </li></ul><ul><li>Environmental Justice </li></ul><ul><li>EFFICIENT ALLOCATION </li></ul><ul><li>Closed-World Cost Benefit, Life Cycle Cost, and Life Cycle Analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Closed-World Discounting </li></ul>What do sustainable operations look like?
    20. 21. Traditional Economics The environment is a subset of the economy. ECOSYSTEM ECONOMY RESOURCES WASTE
    21. 22. <ul><li>Supply & Demand </li></ul><ul><li>Equilibrium is found between consumer and producer in the market . </li></ul>Traditional Economics Price Supply Demand Quantity P* Q*
    22. 23. <ul><li>Externalities: </li></ul><ul><li>Unintended consequences of economic activity. </li></ul><ul><li>Can be positive or negative </li></ul><ul><li>Prevent commodities from being produced at a socially optimal level. </li></ul>Traditional Economics : Market Failures The British Government’s “Stern Report” describes Global Warming as “The biggest market failure the world has ever seen.”
    23. 24. <ul><li>Public Goods </li></ul><ul><li>Government intervention necessary to produce at optimal levels. </li></ul>Traditional Economics : Market Failures “ The market cannot tell us how much clean air, clean water, healthy wetland, or healthy forests we should have, or what risk is acceptable when the welfare of future generations is at stake.” Herman E. Daly and Joshua Farley
    24. 25. <ul><li>Free Rider Problem </li></ul><ul><li>Private and public incentives not in line. </li></ul>Traditional Economics : Market Failures Tragedy of the Commons Public resources become overexploited.
    25. 26. <ul><li>Environmental Economics and Resource Economics </li></ul><ul><li>Branches of traditional economics </li></ul><ul><li>Address environmental problems and allocation of natural resources </li></ul><ul><li>Use taxation and other market-based policy mechanisms to correct externalities </li></ul><ul><li>Seek to improve relationship between market economy and natural world </li></ul>Traditional Economics
    26. 27. <ul><li>Cost Benefit Analysis: </li></ul><ul><li>Difficult to price environmental goods and services </li></ul><ul><li>Impossible to price human lives </li></ul><ul><li>Successful environmental legislation would not pass CBA test </li></ul>Traditional Economics : Limitations <ul><li>Discounting </li></ul><ul><li>Systematic devaluation of future assets. </li></ul><ul><li>Based on assumption of economic growth. </li></ul><ul><li>Appropriate for financial and investment considerations. </li></ul><ul><li>Is it appropriate to discount natural resources? Intergenerational costs/benefits? Human lives? </li></ul>
    27. 28. Traditional Economics The environment is a subset of the economy. ECOSYSTEM ECONOMY RESOURCES WASTE
    28. 29. “ Triple Bottom Line ” Paradigm “ The concept of a Triple Bottom Line in fact turns out to be a “Good old-fashioned Single Bottom Line plus Vague Commitments to Social and Environmental Concerns.” (Norman and MacDonald, 2003) ECOSYSTEM ECONOMY SOCIETY
    29. 30. Conceptions of sustainability Traditional Economics Ecological Economics Goal Economic Growth Ecological and Economic System Sustainability Timescale Short: 50 years max, usually 1-4 years. Multi-scale, extending eons into the future.
    30. 31. The New Sustainable Paradigm Ecological Economics The economy exists within the environment as a construct of society ECONOMY SOCIETY ECOSYSTEM
    31. 32. <ul><li>Sustainable Scale </li></ul><ul><li>Just Distribution </li></ul><ul><li>Efficient Allocation </li></ul>Ecological economics Principles of Ecological Economics
    32. 33. <ul><li>Forecasting </li></ul>Tools : backcasting Backcasting => Likely development pathway => Status Quo Outline of a likely future Vision of a desirable future <= Necessary development pathway <= Status Quo
    33. 34. Tools: Multi Criteria Analysis <ul><li>Expands upon cost-benefit analysis. </li></ul><ul><li>Multi-disciplinary </li></ul><ul><li>Uses qualitative as well as quantitative measuring scales </li></ul><ul><li>Used to resolve problems with multiple values systems and objectives. </li></ul><ul><li>Involves stakeholders directly in decision-making. </li></ul>
    34. 35. The new sustainable frontier <ul><li>No “free ride” on ecosystem services </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone is responsible </li></ul><ul><li>Measure progress against a future steady state </li></ul><ul><li>Reconsider tools that are not supporting a closed loop process </li></ul>
    35. 36. Operationalizing Sustainability in the Government Look for alternatives to consuming natural resources and generating waste Know what you are buying: • Who made it? • What’s in it? • Where does it go when no longer needed? Share the government’s vision for sustainability with suppliers, and favor those that support that vision
    36. 37. Executive Order 13514 “Federal Leadership In Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance” <ul><li>Sustainable Scale </li></ul><ul><li>increase energy efficiency </li></ul><ul><li>reduce greenhouse gas emissions </li></ul><ul><li>conserve and protect water resources </li></ul><ul><li>eliminate waste, recycle, and prevent pollution </li></ul><ul><li>Just Distribution </li></ul><ul><li>strengthen the vitality and livability communities </li></ul><ul><li>support transportation planning and transportation infrastructure </li></ul><ul><li>use locally generated renewable energy; </li></ul><ul><li>choose pedestrian friendly sites near existing employment centers, , accessible to public transit </li></ul><ul><li>Efficient Allocation </li></ul><ul><li>consider environmental measures as well as economic and social benefits and costs in evaluating projects and activities based on lifecycle return on investment </li></ul>Office of Governmentwide Policy U.S. General Services Administration
    37. 38. Another World Is Not Possible Let’s make the one we have: sustainable
    38. 39. Jonathan Herz, AIA, LEED-AP GSA Office of Governmentwide Policy Washington, DC 20405 202.501.3476 [email_address] The New Sustainable Frontier: Principles of Sustainable Development <ul><li>Appendices </li></ul><ul><li>Operating Sustainably – Case Studies </li></ul><ul><li>Economic Decision-Making – An Outline of Ecological Economics </li></ul><ul><li>The State of the World </li></ul><ul><li>The Government Mandate for Sustainability </li></ul>Office of Governmentwide Policy U.S. General Services Administration