US government reporting of Sustainability efforts:
In 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13423 that set Sustainability goals for Federal agencies and focused on making improvements in their environmental, energy and economic performance. The Executive Order outlined the following objectives for the United States:
• 30% reduction in vehicle fleet petroleum use by 2020;
• 26% improvement in water efficiency by 2020;
• 50% recycling and waste diversion by 2015;
• 95% of all applicable contracts will meet Sustainability requirements;
• Implementation of the 2030 net-zero-energy building requirement;
• Implementation of the storm water provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, section 438; and
• Development of guidance for sustainable Federal building locations in alignment with the Livability Principles put forward by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Is the US government truly Transparent in reporting Sustainability?
Two of the most important tenants in Sustainability reporting are based on integrity and transparency. In 2010, Sustainability reporting was established by the US federal government that outlined the objectives of the status of each objective within each federal agency. Reporting was completed in January 2011. Within the guidelines, objectives are supposed to be set up for each agency; however, there are number of agencies that did not report objectives for 2010. Those agencies were:
• Department of Education
• Department of Housing and Urban Development
• National Archives and Records Administration
• Office of Personnel Management
• Social Security Administration
• Tennessee Valley Authority
• U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Additionally, three federal agencies either had broken links or did not provide reporting for their respective areas on the front page of their site. As a citizen, this is an obvious indication that those agencies do not take Sustainability seriously. Those agencies include:
• Department of Agriculture
• US Army Corps of Engineers
• Department of Veterans Affairs
Reporting content, from a business professional viewpoint who has developed, promoted, analyzed, and taken actions based on scorecards and other business dashboards, I find that this format, although simplified, does not provide information about results, issues, or action items to make those objectives satisfactory or “green”. In the business sector, executives and all levels of management, are usually rewarded on the basis of results. It is apparent that the government standards are not set as high. Most managers and executives I know would have communicated clearly that their organization’s need for participation, involvement and ownership of objectives in their respective organizations. There seems to a number of disconnects:
• A quick review of the consolidated dashboard, indicates that only three federal agencies do not have the yellow or red status on their objectives (which in my experience would make each one of these agencies suspect). My professional experience would indicate that a mix of performance results in each agency would be the norm, rather than the exception. It is very important to be able to verify and validate the results of any agency.
• Additionally, it is unbelievable that the Department of Education has no strategy to reduce energy, promote renewable energy, reduce portable water, or have any strategy to reduce petroleum use in their vehicles. This lack information would imply that their executive team is not in control of their agency, nor has a sense of urgency.
• Also, it is unbelievable the Office of Personnel Management was void of three strategies for reduction of energy reduction, in usage of potable water, and the reduction of fleet petroleum usage. Again, this lack information would imply that their executive team is not in control of their agency, again, does not appear to have a sense of urgency.
When in today’s world, from many federal positions are paid in excess to comparable business positions, it is incumbent on the federal government to do their job properly, accurately, with transparency, and be able to inform citizens of this country. At this point, Sustainability reporting and transparency is only a beginning. However, the implementation of this dashboard tool does not provide the clear answers that everyone needs to address.
Those answers should be able to give all citizens a sense of urgency and action by its government to ensure that today’s practices will not endanger future generations. This dashboard does not provide a sense of urgency since all the reports are linked to 2010 time frame that was reported in January 2011. In line with that expectation of producing an annual report, I would have expected to see the results of 2011 since we are now in March. The dashboard, published by http://sustainability.performance.gov/, does not provide that consolidation in transparency.
Mr. Obama, as an American citizen I ask you two basic questions: Transparency is a key principle in Sustainability reporting. How can you possibly tell the American citizens how well your administration actually performed compared to your seven Sustainability objectives, that were outlined in Executive Order 13423, when you’re reporting mechanism doesn’t provide a consolidation or summary of previous years? Some agencies are reporting perfect scores. How can any information be utilized when results have not been verified by an outside source such as the General Accounting Office? If not, how can this reporting system declare to have a sense of integrity or transparency? Dr. W. Edwards Deming said; “You can expect what you inspect.”
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