A Brief History of WRI

When the founders of the World Resources Institute (WRI) created the organization in 1982, they were responding to an urgent demand. Environmental concerns that emerged forcefully in the 1960s and 1970s—deforestation, desertification, and climate change – were not being sufficiently addressed. These complex, global issues posed unprecedented policy and political challenges. WRI’s founders saw a clear need for an organization that could address the interdependent interests of man and nature.

To address these issues, WRI’s founders avoided the prevailing activist model in favor of a science and evidence-based organization. The institute would carry out rigorous policy research and analysis on global environmental and resource issues and their relationship to human societies and development. That research and analysis had to be both scientifically sound and practical to create real change on the ground. It had to command the respect of the scientific community and the attention of key decision-makers in both the public and private sectors. Equally importantly, the institute would lead the way in trying to build the constituencies required to act on its analyses and recommendations.

WRI was launched with a vital founding grant of $15 million from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation of Chicago, which enabled the organization to devote its first five years to set priorities and become operational. It was organized as a nonprofit Delaware corporation that could receive tax-deductible gifts and contributions under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.

Today, WRI has remained true to its founding mission, approach, and goals. The Institute has a rich history of transforming ideas into action, with clear benefits to people and the planet. It continually evolves to sustain the excellence of its research, and to ensure that its analysis and recommendations create meaningful change on the ground. It aims to continue building on decades of experience to achieve a sustainable world with ample natural resources for future generations.

For more information on WRI’s evolution and impact over the past 30 years, read our full history.

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