In Spotlights

Sarah Churchsarah

How did you become involved in your current career?

My roots are in community organizing, but I got hooked on procurement-based strategies while serving as a mayoral appointee to San Francisco’s Sweatfree Procurement Advisory Board. Public procurement struck me as a complex but incredibly powerful lever, and caused me to see the potential for greater, honest collaboration between nonprofit, business, and government sectors. After grad school in public policy and management, I was drawn back into the sustainable purchasing world, and realized how much I love the deep research, demand for integrity, and inherent pragmatism of responsible procurement. From there, I have been delighted to see the significant role that local institutions like the County can play in being drivers of sustainability through their existing operations.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Global weirding, climate chaos… whatever you want to call it, we are already feeling its effects. Personally I feel the effect of the drought here in California, the squeeze on farmers that is becoming a squeeze on consumers, and an increasing awareness of superstorms. But I can’t help but feel hope when I see the leadership shown on a local level on this issue. I have pride in the steps taken by Alameda County – most recently a groundbreaking 19-agency energy procurement collaboration – as we build this new road by walking it.

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?

Professional leadership by women is at unprecedented levels, but there is still a lot of work to do for gender equality. One piece is to still recognize grassroots and volunteer leadership around resource use, pollution, etc., which women have always been engaged in, especially in communities that are directly affected by environmental degradation. Another thing that’s important is to notice a shift in the U.S. towards dual-earner families as women take on more professional roles, and to advocate both internally and externally for balanced family and work lives across genders.

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?

Local institutions can be an incredible source of change and a market and policy driver. I’d suggest looking for areas of synergy between your goals and what local institutions are trying to accomplish (for example, local government, healthcare, and universities) and see if there are opportunities to collaborate. Internal innovation may not be evident from the outside, but you may be able to find unexpected partners.