GovHelp: What the Heck is “Sustainability”?

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This topic contains 13 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  Andrew Krzmarzick 7 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #122367

    In a previous GovHelp, we asked GovLoop members to share their specific needs so that we can crowdsource this community’s feedback. The first one that we received was from Candace Riddle:

    What do you think of when you hear the words “sustainable” or “sustainability”?

    Do you have examples of “sustainable” government projects?

    While Candace specifically focused on its application to acquisition and procurement, I’d like to keep it more general for now as I have heard this word used to describe IT, building/infrastructure and other government initiatives.

    To get your creative juices flowing, here’s the Wikipedia entry on “Sustainability.”

  • #122393

    I was just reminded of this forum that focused on sustainability plans in local government:

  • #122391

    Mike Lowell


    Coincidentally, within the GSA Sustainable Facilities Tool, here is one definition…

    Definition of Sustainability

  • #122389

    Mike Lowell


    Here is one possible answer:

    Definition of Sustainability

  • #122387

    Terri Jones

    When I hear this, I think of being able to support an investment going forward. This is tricky since budgets are always subject to change and your funding for IT maintenance, etc. could be cut. Hyland has a module that lets agencies sell a subscription to download documents. This takes the place of charging for photocopying when you have to provide documents for things like FOIA or perhaps in a court system where counsel needs to obtain documents for case preparation. This example has the benefit of creating a revenue stream to sustain their document management system while satisfying a legal requirement for this county.

    Without a legal requirement in this example, I wonder if you could really call it sustainable since budgets are always subject to change. However, an IT project that creates a revenue stream might just survive!

  • #122385

    Kristin Anderson

    Library of Congress Subject Heading:

    “Sustainability. Here are entered works on the use of ecosystems and their resources in a manner that satisfies current needs while allowing them to persist for the use of future generations.”

  • #122383

    Tarryn Reddy

    “Seven Steps to Inject Sustainability Into Business Plans” by Jonathan Bardelline

    “Sustainability cannot be a small add-on that is tacked to the end of company’s business plan, but needs to be infused throughout the whole of a company” – Nancy Fell, Cleantech Open sustainability chair of the startup-funding at a State of Green Business Forum workshop.

    Her 7 Steps to add sustainability to a business:

    1. Define your problem statement.
    2. Map our your stakeholders.
    3. Conduct a product life cycle assessment.
    4. Create a facilities management checklist.
    5. Develop a program to illustrate positive and safe employee treatment.
    6. Develop a program for community outreach and relationships with suppliers and vendors.
    7. Make an ethics policy.

    Read more:

  • #122381

    Candace Riddle

    This might be the largest government sustainability project on the state and local level that I have found to date. It is a project of ICLEI: Local Governments for Sustainability. Their latest project, STAR, is working with 10 beta cities to develop a national standard for sustainable local government. CHECK IT OUT

  • #122379

    Steve Ressler

    Two thoughts I have:

    -Sustainability – as tied into green. Environmental-conscious. So actions that are sustainable in the long term. For example, how do we think about electronic waste from computer/cell phones/etc – we need a sustainable solution.

    On a broader sense, I use the term sustainable outside of “green” and generally for how do we make something able to last for the long term. For example, I think of how do we create sustainability for Young Government Leaders, a group I founded – a long-lasting member base, base revenue to meet our needs, way to provide resources to do the work

  • #122377

    Candace Riddle

    Purchasers should also strive to use their tracking data to demonstrate project success to your management, other co-workers and to stakeholders outside of the organization. Take advantage of tools and resources to convert hard-to-understand metrics, such as kilowatt-hours or tons of waste, into vivid equivalents – numbers of cars removed from the road or numbers of trees saved. A variety of such tools are already available on-line to render these calculations for multiple environmental attributes.

    Some examples include:

    • Environmental Benefits Calculator designed by The Northeast Recycling Council, Inc. (NERC) is an easy-to-use means of generating estimates of the environmental benefits of a study area, based on the tonnages of materials that are source reduced, reused, recycled, landfilled, or incinerated (includes waste-to-energy).
    • EnviroCalc is a downloadable spreadsheet-based tool designed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts EPP Purchasing Program to estimate the environmental benefits of purchases of recycled-content and energy efficient products in a single tool.
    • EnergyStar Website, contains a number of calculators created to estimate the potential savings and payback period for purchases of energy efficient products.
    • Other calculators and tools are listed in the Resources section of the guide.


  • #122375

    Mike Lowell


    Here is a different take on sustainability.

    We are currently developing a training session (we call it Moment of Truth) at my office that is centered around sustainability. The initial discussions are taking an interesting direction. One of our discussions is around consumerism (a passion of mine). I would be real curious to hear what people think about this subject. I have a hypothesis…and believe our rampant consumerism may account not only for resource depletion, but the dehumanization of our society, the decline of the family and sense of community and our economic woes (can you say debt?). Take a look at this website…curious to see what others think. Do we really need economic growth at all cost…or is there a more sustainable (economic, social and environmental) model?


  • #122373

    Mark Hammer

    While I won’t claim that every issue knocks one out of the park, some of my favourite and most referred-to articles over the past decade are from the journal “Organizational Dynamics”. The Oct-Dec 2010 issue, is devoted to the general topic of “sustainability”. You can find the contents here:

  • #122371

    Fred Manansala

    I like to think of sustainability in terms of systems engineering and system architecture, where you assess the risk involved and plan for the life cycle support of the system, whether a business system, IT, or a fighter jet. Will their be training available 3 yrs from now? Will parts and tech support suppliers be around? Is their a new gov mandate coming that will negatively change our support posture in 3-5 yrs? etc., etc. These are design considerations for a system, and if well thought out and done properly, the system is sustainable well into the operations and maintenance phase. The opposite would be a non-sustainable system where these factors are overlooked and you’re stuck with a fighter jet with no source of supply for a $20 part (usually = grounded jet)

  • #122369

    Mary J. Barber

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