Mark Flugge, CGI Federal sustainability lead

Dr. Mark Flugge

Sustainability and Climate Change Lead

The fight against climate change took on renewed urgency with the release of the November 2023 United Nations Global Stocktake report. That report found that progress against national climate action plans remains insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which the Paris Agreement set as a goal. 

Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat, explained that the “baby steps” governments have taken so far are insufficient. He stated, “…governments must make bold strides…to get on track. Governments must agree on what stronger climate actions will be taken and start showing exactly how to deliver them.” 

The federal government is progressing here in the United States, guided by Executive Orders 14008, 14030, 14057 and the accompanying Federal Sustainability Plan. But more ground must be covered quickly to reach the targets outlined in the plan. As federal agencies invest in ways to operate more sustainably and resiliently in the face of climate change, leaders across agencies must work together to develop, fund and implement actionable attack plans. 

This is not just the job of policymakers and subject matter experts; those professionals who understand the business of government—how government budgets, acquires and pays for goods and services—are frontline fighters in the battle for more sustainable federal operations.

A whole-of-government approach to reducing climate risk

EO 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, outlined actions for federal agencies to pursue. The overarching goal is what the White House calls an “irreversible path” to a net-zero carbon U.S. economy by 2050. The EO directs federal entities to incorporate climate change efforts into the federal budget process through:

  • A whole-of-government approach to organize and deploy agencies in climate adaptation and resilience operations, programs and national security mandates.
  • Budget formulation and oversight to reduce exposure to climate-influenced risk.
  • Fiscal responsibility in light of increased costs and lost revenue from climate change.
  • Leading by example to leverage the government’s footprint and buying power.
  •  Annual assessments of the federal government’s climate-related fiscal risk exposure.

The role of budget, finance and acquisitions professionals

Leaders across budget, financial and procurement offices are key partners in achieving agency goals related to sustainable operations and climate-risk mitigation. Taking swifter, more measurable action requires collaboration between programs, policymakers, IT departments and those who lead agency budget, finance and procurement activities.

For these professionals, climate-change resilience and sustainable resource investments become simply another dimension to monitor and measure—one that has been a part of their landscape for years with various “greening government” initiatives, now moving up as an agency priority.

I encourage leaders to expand their knowledge of sustainability practices relevant to the roles. For example:

Budget leaders:

  • Expand use of life-cycle costing and environmental budgeting frameworks. In assessments, move beyond upfront costs and consider environmental costs (emissions, resource use) and social costs (community impact) throughout a project's lifespan. This guides investments towards sustainable options with long-term mission and environmental benefits.
  • Train budget professionals on life-cycle costing, green budgeting frameworks and sustainability metrics. Equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively integrate sustainability into their work.

Finance leaders:

  • Work with Chief Sustainability Officers and programs to understand what data they need to help assess progress against various environmental operational measures. Examine current value metrics relative to sustainable operations and identify whether additional data is necessary to assess budget, acquisitions and supply chain figures. Identify areas where additional insights could help define achievements or uncover areas for improvement relative to the sustainable operations of the agency.
  • Incorporate environmental risks and increased budget risk into Enterprise Risk Management Strategies. Financial leaders must collaborate closely with CSOs and relevant program offices to analyze the potential financial impacts of climate change on the agency, such as extreme weather disrupting operations or interrupting supply chains. The ability to quantify potential financial losses stemming from environmental risks can inform risk mitigation strategies.

Acquisitions leaders:

  • Embed sustainability into federal buying. Agencies don’t have to wait for proposed new Federal Acquisition Regulation rules before they move away from unsustainable products and services. Ensure that acquisitions staff know about resources such as the GSA Advantage Environmental Aisle, the Green Procurement Compilation database and EPA’s Sustainable Marketplace: Greener Products and Services website.
  • Promote doing business with vendors and contractors with strong sustainability commitments and track records. GSA’s Alliant 3 procurement (still in draft) includes greenhouse gas reporting as a scoring criterion. I encourage other agencies to follow suit, making disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions both a pre-award evaluation criterion and a post-award compliance requirement. Disclosure is, of course, just the first step to awareness regarding emissions impacts of the federal supply chain.  

As the largest consumer of goods and services in the world, the federal government must do its part to limit global temperature rise. While addressing climate change is everyone’s responsibility, agency leaders—including budget, finance and acquisitions professionals—play a critical role in forging a more sustainable and climate-resilient future. 

Federal budget, finance and acquisitions professional play a vital role in improving the sustainability of federal operations. I invite you to learn more about CGI’s focus on climate change and sustainability within the federal landscape by visiting our website.

About this author

Mark Flugge, CGI Federal sustainability lead

Dr. Mark Flugge

Sustainability and Climate Change Lead

Dr. Mark Flugge brings nearly 20 years of experience advising government and private sector organizations on greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and related topics.