Phoenix has a new Mayor who is not afraid to take on big challenges. Greg Stanton took the reigns in 2012, winning with a platform that unabashedly advocated for the growth of a greener economy and implementation of sustainable practices in the public and private sectors. After eight months in office, Mayor Stanton is hitting his stride and gives the Green Line Series the scoop on how business and government can work together to drive an environmentally and economically sound Phoenix region.
GoGreen Conference: What is your vision for the intersection of thriving business enterprise and sustainable development in Phoenix? They are obviously not mutually exclusive — what does the sweet spot of the Venn Diagram look like?
Mayor Stanton: I believe that the role of the City should be to create conditions under which all businesses have the ability to grow and thrive. I am championing and will push to have Phoenix be known as the leader within business and sustainability. The City is open and ready to partner, and find creative pathways for organizations that want to pursue sustainability as part of their core strategy.
GG: What is the role of the business owner/leader in driving this vision? How can the private sector put their muscle behind building a more sustainable community and economy in Phoenix?
MS: Private businesses and leaders are not only important, but crucial to the shared vision of success we all want. It is the entrepreneurial and ingenious spirit of these leaders that will help us move forward. In particular, I think that there is significant opportunity for businesses — focused on benefiting others — to simultaneously do well and do good.
GG: From the corporate perspective, how does working in sustainable systems drive healthy economies and communities? And how does that benefit business?
MS: Plainly put, it just makes sense. By using sustainability as a strategy, it opens up numerous pathways for opportunity and development in all businesses. This may take many forms, some of which include increased efficiencies, greater strategic planning and foresight, and the ability to find value adding linkages in what are often seen as disparate endeavors. Rather than simply existing within, businesses that partner with their surrounding community add value not only to their operations, but to that of their shared environment. By doing so, they create an enduring relationship of trust and a pipeline of customers and support.
GG: How must the government, community and private sector shift behavior in order to advance the region further along the spectrum of a growing green economy? What are the greatest action areas of impact?
MS: Collaboration and partnership. Our businesses, communities, and governments are inextricably intertwined. It is the responsibility of each party to focus on adding value to the overall equation. At the City of Phoenix, I am committed to finding pathways to unleash the creative capacities of business in the sustainability world.
GG: Can you talk about the potential impact of an Environmentally Preferred Purchasing program? How does this method differ from simply going for the lowest price? When used broadly, does it have a direct impact on the local/regional economy? Are there competitive advantages for businesses that work by these standards?
MS: The City’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program has allowed us to find solutions that not only work as well (if not better) as alternatives, but also make better financial sense. Our work focuses on providing the best overall value to the City; price, performance, and environmental characteristics over the life-cycle of the product or service.
Taking it a step further, I championed and the City implemented a local Small Business Enterprise Program that keeps procurements under $50,000 local. We’re committed to investing in the vitality of our local businesses.
GG: What goals do you consider critical to meet as the Phoenix region grows into the 21st Century? How is the City tackling these key challenges?
MS: While there are numerous goals that are critical, a small portion of the items I will advance, in partnership with all stakeholders, include:
- Transportation: Providing a system of transportation that allows people, goods, ideas, and services to move in an affordable, efficient, clean, and safe manner is imperative. The future of our transportation is not about limiting choices, but rather providing opportunity. Recently, I pushed for and passed the northwest extension of our light rail line. I am committed to rapidly advancing a host of transportation choices (light rail, biking, walking) that connect people with jobs and cultural & recreational activities.
- Economic Diversity: No longer can we afford to be host to a limited spectrum of economic opportunity; it just isn’t a prudent or resilient model. No business would put all its eggs in one basket — that would be poor risk management. Rather, we need a host of economic activity in the city. Businesses that integrate concepts of sustainability from a strategic perspective are uniquely positioned to help move our region forward.
GG: We hear so much about solar/renewable energy and the Arizona region — that’s obviously a key component of your solutions mix. Do you see the region taking a leadership role in other areas (e.g., waste management, alternative transportation, water conservation) that affect the private sector/economy in major ways?
MS: Phoenix has a host of opportunities to become the national leader in. Indeed, we are embracing and advancing initiatives that not only do the right thing, but help provide long-term and stable economic opportunity.
The transportation infrastructure, in all forms, is uniquely tied to economic opportunity. By providing easy, accessible, and affordable choices to our citizens, we can link them to jobs and opportunity. Our light rail system has broken every ridership projection since its inception, and continues to prosper. By continuing to expand our network, we are not only investing in short-term jobs, but setting the stage for the long-term success of our economy.
Thinking about our solid waste is also a really big deal. Instead of waste, we need to think about this as a resource and opportunity. Instead of placing things in the landfill, we are actively finding ways to recycle more, move down the path of composting, and thinking creatively about the potential of waste to energy.
GG: You’ve made it known that you’ve got your game face on to win New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s Mayoral Challenge around urban planning and sustainability. What is your plan and why is this kind of productive competition important for Phoenix to engage in?
MS: To win the challenge! This competition is but one way to signal that it is important that the City send the clear and resonant bell tone that we are serious about embracing the multitude of opportunities that thinking in a strategic and sustainable manner can bring.
Greg Stanton is in his first year as Mayor of the City of Phoenix. He will give keynote remarks at GoGreen Phoenix, Thursday, December 6, outlining the collaborative opportunities that exist for the public and private sectors to join forces for the health of the economy and the community. Get your tickets for GoGreen Phoenix today at phoenix.gogreenconference.net.