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Applicability of ISO 14000 Standards to Government Contracts

February 1997

Citation: ELR 10071

Author: Laurent Hourcle and Frederick J. Lees

The federal government procurement process has long been used as an engine for social change, including in the environmental area.1 At the present time, it is also driving toward adoption of commercial and private-sector quality and management systems standards in order to integrate the public and private-sector industrial base. With the current downsizing of the federal government, the promotion of dual-use technologies,2 the emphasis on acquisition of commercial goods and services, and the recent implementation of performance-based contracting measures, adoption of certain international and commercial standards is both timely and in the best interests of the federal government and its contractors.

The General Services Administration (GSA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and other federal agencies have recently adopted the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9000 family of standards, a set of world-wide standards used to document, implement, and demonstrate quality assurance systems, as an alternative to the applicable federal/military standards.3 Such action may well be a precursor to the acceptance of other similar commercial standards, such as ISO 14000. ISO 14000 is a series of voluntary, international environmental-management standards designed to help companies manage, measure, and improve the environmental aspects of their operations.4 This Dialogue addresses the mechanisms by which the evolving ISO 14000 management structure might have a role in the modern, more commercially oriented, federal procurement process.

Professor Frederick J. Lees is the E.K. Gubin Professor of Government Contracts Law and Co-Director of the Government Contracts Program at The George Washington University Law School. Laurent Hourcle is Associate Professor of Environmental Law at the Law School. For the past three years they have been co-teaching a seminar on environmental issues in government contracts.

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