ASU research informs city of Phoenix on eco-friendly buying


Bryce Newberry

The School of Public Affairs is helping the city of Phoenix improve its impact on the environment by suggesting ways to make better eco-friendly purchasing decisions.

A half-dozen faculty members and researchers conducted focus group interviews with city procurement specialists. These interviews helped identify barriers that had prevented the city’s Environmental Procurement Policy from being implemented.

The city policy sets the scope and procedures for purchasing products and services that have a reduced effect on human health and the environment. The goal is to utilize sustainable products and services while remaining fiscally responsible.

Professor Nicole Darnall and a team or ASU researchers discuss eco-friendly purchasing options with city of Phoenix managers

A research team from the School of Public Affairs discusses its recommendations during a presentation for the City of Phoenix about ASU's guidance on eco-friendly purchasing decisions.


Arizona State University researchers identified complex organizational barriers in how purchasing is managed across city departments. They also found trade-offs between purchasing criteria that compete with greener, more eco-friendly options.

“Phoenix appreciates the partnership with ASU on this study and the thoughtful analysis and recommendations received,” said Joe Giudice, the city’s environmental programs manager. “Phoenix will use the feedback to improve the city’s sustainable purchasing program and advance the city’s 2050 environmental sustainability goals. The research data will help develop a holistic program that engages the city’s buyers to increase green purchasing.”

The ASU researchers provided eight recommendations to the city, including:

  1. Form an Environmental Procurement Policy team;

  2. Include the city’s director of Office of Environmental Programs in strategic planning;

  3. Connect with professionals in other cities that have policy teams to determine best practices;

  4. Implement training on green procurement to create shared vision;

  5. Link the city’s e-procurement system with green purchasing options;

  6. Use life cycle assessment to determine long-run costs;

  7. Create a mayoral directive on environmental preferred purchasing; and,

  8. Create city-level incentives at both the department and individual level to encourage green purchasing.

The pro bono work by professors is part of a broader, collaborative approach by ASU’s Center for Organization Research and Design, a unit within the School of Public Affairs. The center promotes, supports, and conducts high-impact use-inspired organization design research.

“By engaging city officials, our team was able to address one of the city's concerns—how it can further integrate environmental considerations into its purchasing processes,” said professor and principal investigator Nicole Darnall. “At the same time, we developed a better understanding about sustainable procurement, advanced our research ideas, and engaged teams of graduate students in project-based learning. This project created wins for everyone.”

The research project was undertaken by Darnall, professor Stuart Bretschneider, assistant professor Lily Hsueh, assistant professor Justin Stritch, postdoctoral researcher Melissa Duscha, and graduate research assistant Jeffrey Iles.