Unsung (until now) hero shows public servant’s passion for sustainable procurement
Government acquisition and procurement is like a hive, with public servants combing through mounds of information on several websites to find goods and services that deliver quality while saving taxpayers money.
In the past, that could be challenging and time consuming for contract officers, project managers, leasing specialists, and buyers across the federal government.
But under the management of program analyst Julie Volny, GSA’s Green Procurement Compilation website makes it faster and easier to research those goods and services, and ensure sustainability requirements are met.
“My main focus has really been on sustainability and climate initiatives and priorities,” explains Volny, a program analyst with GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, Office of Policy and Compliance office.
“I wanted to lead and support a number of efforts, such as analyzing potential and actual changes to acquisition, in particular. So we review regulations, executive orders, and legislation.”
That’s why Volny’s supervisor, Brennan Conaway, calls Volny an unsung sustainability hero.
The policy and compliance office launched the GPC in 2012, building on GSA’s Sustainable Facilities Tool that debuted a year earlier. Since taking over the site in 2020, Volny developed and added vendor resources to the landing page, so that vendors could better research sustainability requirements for the products and services they sell.
Now, procurement teams can work faster and smarter to identify federal green purchasing requirements and products, explore tools for buyers and vendors, and understand federal environmental programs.
“I feel like I’m making an impact when I can ensure that the resources and information to purchase sustainable products and services are up-to-date,” she says.
“What used to take hours to research on many websites across many environmental programs now takes minutes on the GPC,” said Volny.
When searching for environmental requirements for a product or service category, the buyer can now more easily determine what requirements apply to the product or service they are purchasing, Volny explained. Vendors can do the same for the products and services they are selling to the government.
“Julie [Volny] led or contributed to almost every FAS sustainability initiative in fiscal year 2022,” said Conaway, branch chief of the Acquisition Policy Division. “One of her strengths is customer service, and she used this to directly support acquisition personnel across FAS and the federal government.”
Volny worked closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to increase the site’s usability. Even though the site is designed for those who buy goods and services for the federal government, the public can also use the website to research sustainable requirements.
Streamlining GSA systems that promote federal government sustainability extends beyond the GPC site. Volny worked closely with website owners to update or expand their sustainability-related content and the user experience to six other systems, including the Environmental Aisle on the GSA Advantage!® website and buy.gsa.gov.
Also, she co-developed greenhouse gas and climate risk reporting requirements in several governmentwide contracts with an approximate combined spending of more than $400 million, says Conaway.
Volny worked with the EPA, the Office of Management and Budget, and the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality to ensure sustainability requirements were incorporated into 19 Best-in-Class (“BIC”) contracts.
“BICs are governmentwide vehicles that agencies are supposed to use as much as possible,” said Conaway. “The idea is that we shouldn’t keep developing new contracts—we should place orders against the ones that we already have.”
Volny has been working for the federal government and GSA for 15 years. She says sustainability is a way of life for her.
In her day-to-day work with the FAS Office of Policy Compliance, she reviews regulations and executive orders, and focuses on making sustainability and climate initiatives happen. She works with colleagues, clients, and federal government partners to best support those initiatives and priorities through the goods and services GSA offers.
Also, she led a nearly 50-member climate and sustainability working group to ensure GSA’s acquisition services are taking a consistent, enterprise-wide approach to sustainability and climate adaptation.
“I want to lead and support a number of efforts, such as analyzing potential and actual changes to the acquisition policy environment in particular,” she said.
Volny says sustainability is really about how the choices we make now will affect the future.
“I just found out I’m going to be a grandmother. You think about protecting what we’ve been able to enjoy as kids and growing up, and being able to protect all of that for them as well,” she says.
Do you know someone who goes above and beyond in leadership, innovation, and achieving sustainability in federal agencies and among their employees? Nominate them by June 30 for the Presidential Federal Sustainability Awards.
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