Twenty-five years ago, Nobel Laureate Murray Gell-Mann convinced fellow directors of The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to invest in Gus Speth’s bold idea for a new organization that would address global environmental challenges. The Foundation’s $15 million investment created the World Resources Institute.
Gell-Mann, a Cal Tech physicist, didn’t know then that Alaska’s permafrost would be melting and glaciers worldwide would be shrinking as fast as they are today. But he foresaw the need for an organization to help put large scale resource and environmental problems — such as climate change — on the world’s agenda, and to provide innovative solutions for those problems.
The 1982 announcement launching WRI promised that this new institution would be “independent, interdisciplinary, and have the technical depth to provide relevant information at the right time and the right place.”
WRI has never been in as right a time and place as it is today. There is, at last, renewed urgency about dealing with environmental issues, not just in the United States, but in much of the world. Many companies have begun to see the business opportunities in helping their customers respond to global problems such as climate change. Environmental groups are embracing market-based solutions. Policymakers are searching for ideas that link climate protection, energy security, and technological innovation.
These are WRI’s constituencies, and they turn to us because they know our experience is deep, our approach practical and objective, and our facts accurate. They trust us.
Based on this trust, WRI and several of our environmental colleagues were able to forge the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), the environmental-business coalition whose call on the federal government to enact strong national legislation to require steep cuts in GHG emissions has changed the Washington political landscape. When industry leaders such as Alcoa, Caterpillar, DuPont, GE, Johnson & Johnson, and Shell join with environmental groups to call for regulation, Congress and lobbyists listen. Politics is the art of the possible, and USCAP has redefined what is possible. Now the challenge is to turn opportunity into smart policy solutions that create real change.
WRI is in the business of smart solutions and in this report we have highlighted some examples. We invite you to learn, for example, how an e-commerce trading tool is helping reduce nutrient pollution running into the Chesapeake Bay; how WRI’s greenhouse gas accounting standards are facilitating climate action around the world including in China; and how WRI’s business mentoring and network of investors are helping innovative enterprises — such as DryWash in Brazil — grow and provide jobs with a lighter footprint on the planet. DryWash uses organic Carnauba wax to remove dirt from cars with no harmful chemicals and no water — an important service in a country where millions lack access to clean drinking water and sanitation.
We believe we are making a difference. Let us know what you think at www.wri.org. If you are one of our donors, we offer our sincere thanks for providing the resources that enable us to put ideas into action and create solutions that protect Earth’s capacity to provide for the needs of current and future generations. It is an important moment for each of us to find ways to become part of the solution.