Vermont has been called a socialist republic, the most progressive state in the nation — much of its political energies, in fact, are spent trying to delineate between the somewhat liberal stands of Democrats and the more liberal positions of Progressives, who make up a significant percentage of the state’s political players.
So it comes as no surprise Vermont has a historical environmental bent, backing energy efficiency, sustainable power sources and LEED building. All have come to be expected in the Green Mountain State.
Earlier this month, Gov. Peter Shumlin took pen to paper to codify that commitment. By executive order, he demanded eco-friendliness be given preference in doling out state contracts.
“(I) hereby order and direct the Secretary of Administration, in consultation with the Climate Cabinet, to include processes in the State’s acquisition policies that ensure the favorable consideration of vendor business practices that promote clean energy and take action to address climate change,” reads Executive Order 5-16.
As is often the case with such proclamations and orders, that language follows a full page of “whereases” that speak to the need for the move. In this case, Shumlin notes the importance of climate change; the desire for clean-energy jobs, renewable energy sources and reduced carbon emissions; and the state’s ability to influence the marketplace through its buying power.
This last is really the key to the order. While it’s among the nation’s smallest states, Vermont doles out hundreds of millions of dollars annually in contracts, and thus has outsized influence in incentivizing the business behaviors it favors, especially for in-state firms.
Importantly, Shumlin’s edict doesn’t mean the state will bypass excellent bids for goods and services just because another firm has begun using hybrid vehicles. It does mean, though, that if all other factors are pretty equal, the company with the best environmental record or making the best effort to incorporate sustainability will get the nod.
That may be enough. If executives feel using more energy-efficient lighting or offering carbon-footprint-free retirement portfolios will give their firm a leg up in securing state contracts, then such practices may become the norm. And that can’t hurt.
Other states’ leaders, including N.H. Gov. Maggie Hassan, who has embraced the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and other climate-friendly policies, would do well to follow Shumlin’s lead.