BY COURTNEY SHERWOOD | PHOTOS BY JASON KAPLAN*
*ROGER LEE PHOTO BY JOE KLINE; ALLYN FORD PHOTO BY ROBIN LOZNAK
When we want to hear about the state of Oregon’s green economy and where it’s headed, we often turn to people who think about sustainable business practices for a living: the CEOs and innovators heading up clean-tech companies, the sustainability directors at large corporations and policy experts at eco-nonprofits. But the state faces environmental risks — and economic opportunities — that go far beyond these usual suspects. So we took a slightly different approach to the subject by turning to the power players: the men and women shaping public policy and building the business strategies that define Oregon’s economy. A few of the people we interviewed might be considered environmental leaders (Gov. Kitzhaber, for example). The majority, including financial manager Charles Wilhoite, are not. Here is a sampling of the questions we asked: What would it mean for Oregon to have a green economy? What’s the appropriate balance between policy action and private-sector leadership? How important is it for Oregon to be a national environmental leader from an economic point of view? Are we maintaining or bolstering our reputation?
Not everyone wanted to participate. The Standard offered up a spokesman but declined a request to talk to CEO Gregory Ness. Nike said no to any interviews with company officials. Intel, which recently revealed it has been unknowingly emitting fluoride air pollution in Hillsboro for decades, declined our interview request but sent us documents about the company’s sustainability efforts
But many leaders did agree to talk. We interviewed Gov. Kitzhaber, Portland’s mayor, the heads of companies such as PGE and Roseburg Forest Products, the president of the University of Oregon and leaders of major industry groups.
Here are five lessons gleaned from those conversations.