Leading by Example 2.0: How Information and Communication Technologies Help Achieve Federal Sustainability Goals

By any measure, the federal government has an enormous impact on the economy and the environment. Federal agencies:

  • Own or operate 660,000 vehicles;
  • Own or manage approximately 400,000 buildings; and
  • Employ 1.8 million workers.

The federal government also paid over $26 billion in fuel and electricity bills in 2011. In 2011, its direct and indirect greenhouse emissions were responsible for 1.8 percent of the nation’s total.

As the nation’s largest landlord, employer, fleet operator, and purchaser of goods and services, the federal government has the opportunity, if not the responsibility, to lead by example in moving our country in a more economically efficient and environmentally sustainable direction. Faced with tightening budgets, agencies are looking for new ways to reduce costs and increase productivity, while at the same time meeting a growing list of congressional and executive mandates to consume less energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The expanded use of “intelligent efficiency”—the application of information and communication technologies (ICT) to reduce energy consumption—has become an important means of enabling agencies to become more sustainable while enhancing productivity. Innovative technological developments have created new energy-saving opportunities in the areas of smarter buildings, electricity, transportation and travel substitution. In addition, mobility and collaboration tools offer many opportunities to transform the federal workplace while cutting energy consumption.

This report highlights the initial progress in adopting ICT across the federal government as agencies seek new ways of meeting their sustainability challenges. It draws from our report, “Leading by Example: Using Information and Communications Technology to Achieve Federal Sustainability Goals,” which highlights eight case studies detailing examples of agencies employing ICT solutions.

Recent studies have suggested that use of ICT applications has the potential to reduce our nation’s total energy use by 12–22 percent by 2020. This report estimates that roughly half of the Obama administration’s goals of reducing federal agencies’ direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions by 24 percent by 2020 (from 2008 baseline levels) could be achieved through widespread adoption of ICT across the government. This would result in savings of over $5 billion in energy costs through 2020.