How Pittsburgh is leveraging its purchasing power for sustainability

The City of Pittsburgh knows that it is critical to approach inclusive procurement with a lens of sustainability in order to create opportunities to realize the 2030 climate action goals. How procurement is managed – what they purchase, where they invest and what kinds of companies they contract with – is interconnected with the city’s climate and equity goals to create a better Pittsburgh for all.

Pittsburgh is the second largest city in the US-state of Pennsylvania, with more than 300,000 inhabitants. It approaches procurement and the connected budgeting processes with a lens of resilience. Pittsburgh’s Mayor William Peduto declared his commitment to sustainable procurement by recognizing the critical power of it that it be leveraged “in an equitable and responsible way that promotes clean energy and sustainable solutions”. Pittsburgh uses its purchasing power as a key tool to drive sustainable procurement as a means to be a role model for climate action, local workforce development, fair and green consumption as well as circular use of resources. In addition, Pittsburgh is leveraging its procurement power and collaborating with other cities to incentivize the transition to renewable energy.

With the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan 3.0 of 2018 the City established important and ambitious targets for 2030. The city is also part of the Urban Transition Alliance, an opportunity for industrial legacy cities across the world to demonstrate their commitment to inclusive and sustainable urban development. Pittsburgh focuses on the exchange of training models that connect local workforce development programs with both labor and clean energy project developers.

In 2020, Pittsburgh adopted new “Socially Responsible Investing” guidelines to screen for pension investments in companies that follow environmentally friendly and socially responsible business procedures. By investing in companies that practice responsible initiatives in a transparent manner, the city is encouraging behaviours that align with its values around sustainability and responsibility.

Notably, in November 2020 the City of Pittsburgh launched the Marshall Plan for Middle America Roadmap, a regional energy transition and green recovery strategy that the city developed together with partners. It aims to build a regional, multi-sectoral coalition of stakeholders to drive investment in infrastructure and energy diversification that will catalyze more equitable economic recovery while laying a foundation for the Ohio Valley to be a global leader in cleaner energy resources and circular economy practices.

Here are some of Pittsburgh’s targets for procurement-related sectors in the coming years:

  • Energy: Pittsburgh’s ambitious Climate Action Plan 3.0 of 2018 commits the city to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2023, 50 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050, as well as a 100% renewable energy usage and 50 percent energy and water use reduction by 2030. Also, the city will divest its pension fund from fossil fuel by 2030. This strategy includes a mandate to invest millions in pension funds into sustainable energy companies. Moreover, all future city owned buildings will commit to Net Zero Energy Standards to reduce the city government’s impact on carbon emissions.


  • Transport: By 2030 the city intends to operate a fully fossil-fuel-free fleet by using its procurement power to invest in electric vehicles powered by solar energy and aims to reduce emissions for transportation by 50 percent.


  • Food: The Climate Action Plan 3.0 declares commitments to purchasing local produce and food products. The city will implement a local food procurement policy for public institutions and government entities that would give preference to local farmers and producers that may otherwise be overshadowed by large corporations.


To learn more about how Pittsburgh is leveraging sustainable procurement, read the full Global Lead City Network Sustainable Procurement Profile.