My latest book, Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive By Investing in Nature, was released last month. In the book, my co-author ––Mark Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy (and former Managing Director and Partner of Goldman Sachs) –– and I argue that while the conservation movement has made great strides in recent decades, nearly every precious bit of nature is in decline. As environmentalists we look warily to the future as critical systems creep closer toward their threshold—and threaten to create a world so depleted that it becomes hostile to human wellbeing and economic productivity.
But there is hope, but only if businesses, governments, and environmental organizations can work together in new, innovative ways. In the book we make the case that economic growth and environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive, and that in fact, saving nature is the smartest commercial investment any business or government can make.
For business and government leaders, conservation is not only the right thing to do—it is now of utmost economic importance as well. Mark discovered this firsthand when, in 2005, then-Goldman Sachs CEO Henry M. Paulson tapped him to build and lead the firm’s first environmental effort not in the name of Corporate Social Responsibility, but pure business. In the book, we challenge public and private sector leaders to shift their thinking on conservation from a “why?” to a “how?” mindset—specifically, how to account for nature in financial terms, and then incorporate that value into the organization’s decisions and activities, just as habitually as they consider cost, revenue, and ROI.
Our book is grounded in one simple truth: nature is economically valuable. Organizations not only depend on the environment for key resources—water, trees, and land, for example—but they can also reap substantial commercial benefits in the form of risk mitigation, cost reduction, new investment opportunities, and the protection of assets. And this new understanding of “natural capital”—nature as a quantifiable asset —has the potential to motivate entire industries to invest in nature on a new level, which could, in turn, exponentially accelerate the environmental progress of the last several decades. Through case studies ranging from Columbian sugar cane growers and Central California fisheries to Coca-Cola and Dow Chemical, Nature’s Fortune tells the story of how public and private organizations can effectively partner with environmental groups in order to leverage that capital in ways that both impact the bottom line and benefit society. It is a revolutionary guide to the new conservation—innovative, collaborative, financially sophisticated, and relevant from megacities to small towns, from trackless wilderness to the factory floor, from remote countryside to the corner ofﬁce.