Will medical costs in the United States swamp our ability to pay? Can information technology continue to get faster, lighter, and more effective? Will global trade go on increasing and generating wealth? Asking if a system is sustainable forces one to project far into the future — and then to look back at the present from that vantage.
One study in 1997 estimated the value of all the functions performed by ecosystems at $33 trillion per year — substantially more than the entire world economy. But in most instances, functions such as purification of water and air, nutrient cycling in soil, or the resilience created by biodiversity don't have a clear economic value. A number of firms around the world see opportunity in monetizing those functions.
In an era when it's possible to surf in Phoenix and ski in Dubai, places are becoming interchangeable. Even areas with stunning natural resources can find themselves under pressure from this flattening effect. For communities, sustainability might mean strengthening their distinctive characteristics.
A step as simple as reducing the time that trucks idle can save money and cut emissions. An environmental advocacy group and a private equity firm have teamed up to uncover the sorts of efficiencies that further both of their missions.
The global nature of environmental issues demands collaboration across borders and across sectors. Mark Tercek became the President and CEO of the Nature Conservancy in 2008 after 24 years at Goldman Sachs. He discusses how finding business solutions to environmental problems is essential.
It is hard to image that a healthy, home-cooked meal is contributing to climate change, but the food consumed annually by a family of four in the U.S. requires 970 gallons of gasoline to fertilize, produce, and transport. That's only slightly less than the 1070 gallons the average family uses in their cars. Helene York '88 talks about one food service company's goal of reducing its carbon footprint while still maintaining a successful bottom line.
Oil pumped from the Niger Delta is loaded on supertankers and shipped into the global market, accounting for 3% of world production and generating substantial revenues for the Nigerian government. What has this connection to the world economy done for Nigeria?
A firm of financiers, technologists, and policy mavens is bringing capital to bear on projects around the world that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They hope to help turn the tide against climate change — and make a healthy profit.