Interview: Stacey Foreman, City of Portland

This summer, SPLC is running a Thought Leadership Interview Series in order to recognize and learn from some of the individuals involved in our work.

Today we’re pleased to share our interview with Stacey Foreman; The City of Portland’s Sustainable Procurement Coordinator. Stacey has been incorporating environmentally preferable products and services into public contracts at the City of Portland for over a decade, and is also active in a variety of regional and national efforts to build sustainable procurement resources.

We hope you enjoy reading about her story and work on sustainable purchasing.

Stacey’s Story

What is your ‘sustainable purchasing story’?

  • I happened to just finish my graduate degree in Environmental Management and Policy, when an internship became available with the Center for the New American Dream, who was partnering with the City of Portland to get the City’s sustainable procurement program up and running. I was fortunate enough to get the internship and the rest is history, so to speak. I have been working on sustainable procurement with the City ever since. But what first interested me in the internship was that the concept of sustainable procurement made total sense to me (back then it was referred to as environmentally preferable procurement). I had previously worked for a non-profit that developed markets for recycled materials and it just made sense that we can drive changes (environmental, social, community, economic) for the better through designing and making better goods and services. And what I learned during my education was that regulation will never be enough to see the type of changes we truly need to make our communities and economies more sustainable. There has to be more – people need to demand the change, and one way to do that is through what we buy.

How did your organization make sustainability in procurement a priority?

  • The City of Portland has a long history of committing to environmental stewardship in all areas of its operations. This commitment, in general, is supported by our community and they push the City to do better. Incorporating sustainability into procurement is just one piece of the puzzle in terms of making City operations more sustainable.  


Achievements and Challenges

Thinking about your work related to sustainable purchasing, what is something you’re personally proud of having accomplished?

  • Generally building recognition among employees that their purchase decisions matter, and that they can make a difference – even though that work is ongoing and will never be “done”. I could list some specific projects that were challenging, and thus it was gratifying to successfully complete those projects, but I think it is more powerful when an individual employee “gets it”.

What is a significant challenge that your organization has faced, related to sustainable purchasing?

  • Prioritization and balancing sustainable procurement within other, sometimes competing, mandates. And, employee engagement and training. These are recurring challenges.


Making the Business Case

How have you communicated the business case for sustainable purchasing within your organization?

  • Typically, this is done on a case-by-case basis. For example, making the business case for electric vehicles by demonstrating ROI over the life of the vehicle. Admittedly, this is another challenge area, because most of the time there is not enough quantifiable “benefits” data to develop a business case. Instead, I often rely on policy, broader/generalized research indicating the benefits of sustainable procurement, meeting community expectations, and/or a sense that this is the “right thing to do.”

How do you motivate staff/ buyers within your organization to prioritize sustainability when procuring goods/services?

  • By tapping into what matters to them and by making it as easy as possible for them to make/find the more sustainable decision/option within the context of their work environment.


The Big Picture

What are some emerging trends in sustainable purchasing and how might these affect the future of the sustainable purchasing movement?

  • I see a few trends:

o   More community/NGO interest in sustainable procurement
o   Connecting procurement decisions to GHG emissions
o   Connection procurement decisions to toxics and human health
o   The beginning of community/NGO pressure to have public agencies look critically at their supply chains – beyond the prime contractor/supplier.

  • All the above will put more focus on sustainable procurement within public agencies and I think we will see more public agencies being asked to take this on. The above will also make the work more challenging – this is significantly more complicated than the “buy recycled” days of the ‘90s. But the positive is that there is a stronger sustainable procurement community now than ever before. And we will have to rely on working together more than ever before in order to address these trends.

What do you value about the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council?

  • As mentioned above, sustainable procurement expectations are growing more complex and difficult – one agency cannot tackle this alone. I value SPLC because it brings us all together to learn from each other and collaborate on developing know-how and effective tools that make this work easier for my agency and our stakeholders.


In the spirit of getting to know each other better, can you share one interesting thing about yourself that others in the SPLC community may not know?

  • I started playing the violin when I was 4 years old and I still love classical music.


A great thank you to Stacey for this insight.

Our case study library includes five case studies on the City of Portland’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions from City operations. These involve Greening CityFleet; On-Site Renewable EnergyCargo Trike Delivery of Office Supplies; Standardizing Around ENERGY STAR and EPEAT Office Electronics; and LED Residential Street Lighting. All received Outstanding Case Study awards when they were submitted for SPLC Leadership Awards in 2015. Non-members can read the abstract, SPLC members have access to the full document.

More blog posts from our Thought Leadership Interview Series can be found here.

Are you interested in gaining access to more resources like these? Learn more about SPLC Membership.

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