World Resource Institute

WRI Annual Report 2019-20: Facing the World's Biggest Challenges

Facing The World's Biggest Challenges

To turn the tide in this decade, WRI is focused on seven urgent Global Challenges: Food, Forests, Water, Cities, Climate, Energy and the Ocean. To ensure the effectiveness of the solutions we develop, we complement our program work with four Centers of Excellence: Business, Economics, Finance and Governance.

To amplify our real-world impact and catalyze systemic change, WRI creates and manages diverse coalitions that we call Delivery Platforms. The following represent a selection of these platforms: Better Buying Lab, Coalition for Urban Transitions, Food and Land Use Coalition, Global Commission on Adaptation, NDC Partnership, New Urban Mobility Alliance, P4G and Science Based Targets initiative. The following pages describe these activities in more detail, including highlights over the past year.

“This is an unprecedented moment—and yet we cannot let despair lead to inaction. We must continue to rise in the face of great challenges, learn from them, and come together as a global community for a brighter future.”
—Christiana Figueres, Former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; Global Board Director, WRI


Setting a Sustainable Table for 10 Billion People

To sustainably feed a global population that is expected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050, the Food team focuses on reducing food loss and waste, encourages the shift to plant-rich diets and helps countries transform the way they use land to produce food.

In the past year, WRI’s specialists:

Released a groundbreaking, comprehensive report, Creating a Sustainable Food Future, on how to sustainably feed the planet while supporting the Paris Agreement climate goals.

Secured commitments to cut rice losses in half by 2030. Rice cultivation accounts for one-sixth of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

Launched 10x20x30, an initiative bringing together 10 global food retailers and providers to each engage 20 of their suppliers to halve their food loss and waste by 2030.

Worked with nearly 30 organizations serving nearly 1 billion meals per year to sign the Cool Food Pledge to cut food- related emissions by 25% by 2030.

Conducted and published new behavioral research that demonstrates how more appetizing language can increase sales of plant-based foods by up to 70%.

Looking ahead, we plan to:

Build on our research and work with countries to transform their agriculture sectors to produce more nutritious food with lower carbon dioxide emissions.

Encourage governments to add food loss and waste commitments as part of their national climate plans under the Paris Agreement.

Marshal a total of 70 organizations, serving more than 1.5 billion meals, to sign up to the Cool Food Pledge to cut their food-related emissions.

Rollout a behavioral strategy playbook and workshops for restaurants and food providers to implement strategies that encourage diners to choose more plant-rich dishes.

Better Buying Lab

The Better Buying Lab brings together leading minds in consumer research, behavioral economics and marketing to promote strategies and plans that help consumers select sustainable foods, specifically plant-based foods, that are less carbon-intensive to produce than meat or dairy products.

This partnership and its members have identified three areas where change and innovation are needed: transforming how the food industry communicates about plant-based foods; popularizing plant-rich “power dishes”; and helping companies and other organizations track the environmental benefits of shifting diets over time.

In 2019, the Better Buying Lab will build on World Resources Institute’s Shifting Diets for a Sustainable Food Future paper and the Shift Wheel, a new framework based on lessons learned from a range of successful consumption shifts from around the world.

Food and Land Use Coalition

The Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU) is a self-governed community of more than 60 organizations and individuals committed to transforming food and land use for people, nature and climate. The Coalition supports science- based solutions to unlock collective, ambitious action that can deliver sustainable development and climate and biodiversity goals.

Growing Better, the Coalition’s landmark September 2019 report, proposes a concrete reform agenda to deliver benefits for environment, health, inclusive development and food security, and shows that benefits far outweigh costs.

FOLU’s three main strategic priorities are: supporting country-level transformation of food and land use; research, analysis and tools that support implementation of the integrated reform agenda, and leveraging international processes and events during 2020 and beyond.


Mapping, Protecting and Restoring Nature’s Lungs

Each year, the world loses millions of hectares of tropical forests, which provide critical habitats for biodiversity, food and livelihoods and store carbon to mitigate climate change . To conserve forests and their value for humanity, WRI’s Forests team uses satellite technology to monitor and share information on the state of the world’s forests, through Global Forest Watch; works to restore forests and degraded land, particularly in Africa and Latin America; and promotes policies and technologies to deter illegal logging.

In the past year, WRI’s experts:

Launched GFW Pro, an online platform used by more than 150 companies—including Cargill, Inc., Mondelēz, Olam, P&G, Walmart and Unilever—to identify and reduce deforestation linked with production of commodities, like palm oil, soy and cocoa in their supply chains.

Curbed deforestation by equipping over 3 million users with near-real-time information on Global Forest Watch. Easy-to-use tools, like the Forest Watcher app, helped block illegal logging.

Made forest data more transparent in Paraguay, partnering with the government, private sector and indigenous communities to help combat one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation.

Published The Road to Restoration: A Guide to Identifying Priorities and Indicators for Monitoring Forest and Landscape Restoration.

Looking ahead, we plan to:

Introduce WRI’s Global Forest Review, which provides insights and interpretation of satellite data about the world’s forests in an interactive online format to encourage governments and businesses to reduce deforestation.

Expand Global Forest Watch Pro to more corporate users who want to detect and act on deforestation within complex supply chains and investment portfolios.

Launch TerraMatch, an online service and mobile app to help match investors with businesses and rural communities with feasible plans to revitalize forests and farms.

Publish research to promote and secure women’s land rights within indigenous and customary lands, which can lead to better environmental and social outcomes.


Reducing Risk, Increasing Access to a Vital Resource

WRI’s Water team leverages cutting-edge global maps, data and analysis to identify places with the highest water risk, reduce impacts from floods and droughts, and anticipate and avoid water-related conflict. WRI experts also encourage more investment in nature to strengthen sustainable water management.

In the past year, WRI’s experts:

Created and released an update of the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, as well as new Country Rankings and Aqueduct Food. These tools show which regions and crops face the most water stress so government and business leaders can make more informed choices to reduce water risks.

Conducted an in-depth analysis of Ethiopia’s water supply and demand to encourage officials to enhance resilience to climate change and water stress.

Expanded the Cities4Forests initiative to more than 60 cities— including Jakarta, Los Angeles and Mexico City— to encourage them to better conserve, manage, and restore their forests.

Developed new tools to elevate water, peace and security on the UN agenda, bringing research before a UN Security Council forum to show that water risks are security risks.

Looking ahead, we plan to:

Identify risks for coastal and riverside communities through Aqueduct floods, which will help decision-makers understand the costs and benefits of investing in protective measures.

Better anticipate and avoid conflicts over water through a new Global Conflict Early Warning System, which will enable governments to better understand the relationship between water and security.

Make public water management transparent by compiling and publishing data collected by multinational companies for their business risk assessments.

Support greater climate-resilience in cities in Africa by helping them plan for and manage risks from droughts and floods.


Resilient, Inclusive Urban Areas that Put People First

WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities seeks to improve the lives of the 3 .5 billion people who now reside in cities, and shift to a zero-carbon urban future that includes more livable neighborhoods, safe and equitable streets and transportation systems, and more efficient use of energy and natural resources.

In the past year, our experts:

Conducted groundbreaking analysis in our flagship report, Towards a More Equal City, showing how core urban services for under-served populations can make cities more prosperous and resilient.

Awarded the first-ever $250,000 WRI Ross Center Prize for Cities to highlight transformative urban initiatives and inspire action.

Aided the expansion of electric bus fleets in the Colombian cities of Bogotá and Medellín and Santiago, Chile, which now have Latin America’s largest fleets.

Informed India’s landmark motor vehicle and road safety law to reduce traffic deaths by encouraging legislators to include measures that emphasize road safety, safe infrastructure, pedestrian access and non-motorized vehicles.

Looking ahead, we plan to:

Deepen our impact in cities in Ethiopia and other cities in Africa by mapping public transport, improving urban water resilience and strengthening nature-based solutions.

Expand affordable and sustainable housing in India by participating in the Indian government’s Global Housing Technology Challenge.

Encourage leadership on road safety in Latin America and the Caribbean through the new Vision Zero Challenge, which provides resources and training to decision-makers.

Inspire solutions to mobility challenges faced by women by scaling up projects to combat sexual harassment in public transport, such as the citywide policies enacted in Fortaleza, Brazil.

New Urban Mobility Alliance

Inspired by the Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities and launched in 2019, NUMO—the New Urban Mobility alliance—convenes diverse allies, works with cities to pilot innovations, and creates online platforms to share data, research and emerging practices. NUMO aims to harness technology-based disruptions in transportation to help communities become more sustainable, affordable and just.

This past year, NUMO released its New Mobility Atlas, which uses open data to track which shared electric transportation options—such as dockless scooters, bicycles and mopeds—are available in cities. The platform, which covers 626 cities in 53 countries, empowers users to advocate for sustainable, equitable mobility options that are accessible to everyone.

Coalition For Urban Transitions

The Coalition for Urban Transitions (CUT) is a policy- and research-led initiative that demonstrates how a rapid shift toward low-carbon cities will not only benefit the climate but also make cities more competitive, healthy and fair.

Co-managed by WRI and C40 Cities, this collaboration of more than 35 leading research institutes, intergovernmental organizations, investors, infrastructure providers, strategic advisory companies, NGOs and city networks engages with national governments to address the transition to a more prosperous, low- carbon economy in cities. CUT launched a major report, Climate Emergency, Urban Opportunity, in September at the UN Climate Action Summit, which was received by the UN Secretary General.


Bold Action and Better Growth for a Prosperous, Safe Future

To avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, the world must halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by midcentury . To advance these goals, WRI’s Climate Program provides technical support, advocates for greater climate ambition among governments, engages in international climate negotiations, and holds countries accountable by measuring and reporting on their progress.

In the past year, WRI’s experts:

Provided technical support and guidance that led four countries to enhance their national climate commitments.

Identified breakthrough opportunities for smart climate action that delivers economic and social benefits, including strategies to cut air pollution and greenhouse emissions in Mexico and to promote low-carbon development in Indonesia.

Conducted analysis (in conjunction with Mission 2020) to evaluate progress toward key milestones the world needs to reach in 2020 to stay within 1.5–2 degrees C (2.7 – 3.6 degrees F) of global warming.

Worked with the CEO Climate Dialogue, which includes 18 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, to advance an economy- wide price on carbon, based on six guiding principles.

Looking ahead, we plan to:

Encourage more countries to ramp up their climate commitments, including by highlighting progress on enhanced NDCs and long-term climate strategies.

Use political engagement and communications to advocate for greater climate action and prevent backsliding in countries where WRI has a significant presence, including China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, the United States, Colombia and Ethiopia.

Help India, Fiji and Guatemala access climate finance to implement and strengthen their NDCs by seconding WRI staff to finance ministries to ensure that action on climate change is integrated into their operations.

NDC Partnership

The NDC Partnership, comprising more than 100 countries and more than 60 international organizations, works to support faster implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in member countries, bringing members together to deliver technical assistance, knowledge exchange
and project finance around public, government-led plans.

The Partnership was formed in 2016, under the co-chairmanship of Morocco and Germany and is currently co-chaired by the Netherlands and Costa Rica. WRI co-hosts the Partnership’s Support Unit, with the UNFCCC Secretariat.

In 2019, the Partnership launched the Climate Action Enhancement Package (CAEP) to deliver targeted, fast-track support to enhance the quality, increase ambition and boost implementation of NDCs in 65 countries during 2020. More than 40 partners, including WRI, are delivering this support. WRI also manages a technical assistance fund to support rapid action under CAEP.

Global Commission on Adaptation

The Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) is a group of 30 Commissioners and 20 convening countries, co- chaired by Ban Ki-moon, Bill Gates and Kristalina Georgieva, which aims to inspire world leaders, business executives, investors and other international actors to urgently prepare for and respond to the disruptive effects of climate change.

WRI serves as the Commission’s co- managing partner and led research in 2019 on its flagship report. WRI conducted outreach efforts that elevated the political visibility of adaptation and led to a series of new commitments and initiatives to integrate resilience into government strategies and economic systems. In 2020, the Commission is catalyzing a Year of Action designed to help strengthen communities and spur sustainable development in the face of mounting climate impacts.


Clean, Affordable Energy for Everyone

WRI’s Energy team helps businesses, cities and other institutions take the lead to connect more people to clean energy and shows how efficient buildings can improve people’s lives and save money.

In the past year, WRI’s specialists:

Launched the American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator, in partnership with Rocky Mountain Institute, an initiative to train local officials and other individuals in over 100 U.S. cities to procure renewable energy.

Unveiled a new Energy Access Explorer, a state-of-the-art platform that leverages satellite imagery combined with public data to visualize energy access in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Supported Mexico’s largest retail chain in purchasing nearly 7 megawatts of renewables to supply its 75 stores through the Clean Energy Investment Accelerator.

Looking ahead, we plan to:

Help utility and government leaders in Vietnam and Indonesia design new renewable energy offerings and implement policies to avoid new fossil fuel power plants.

Release the Energy Access Explorer’s powerful visualization tools

in two Indian states and build on our partnerships with health clinics, schools and farmers in East Africa to expand their services and productivity using clean power.

Support China’s shift to clean energy by engaging with provincial governments and making the case for China’s Belt and Road Initiative to invest in renewable energy infrastructure.

Advance decarbonization in cities in India and Mexico by deploying renewable energy for new electric transportation and by improving the efficiency of their buildings.


Turning the Tide for a Sustainable Ocean Economy

The ocean covers two-thirds of the planet, providing food, jobs and livelihoods and absorbing excess carbon emissions . Yet, the ocean faces enormous pressure from demand on its resources as well as from climate change . The Ocean team focuses on safeguarding the global ocean by building political will through the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy and the Friends of Ocean Action in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.

In 2019, WRI’s experts:

Released a special report that found the ocean can deliver up to 20% of emissions reductions needed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C (3.6 degrees F). This first-of-its-kind analysis also quantified country-by-country climate impacts on ocean- based sectors.

Released new research that finds that the ocean could sustainably provide over six times more food than it does today.

Demonstrated the private sector’s importance in delivering the nature agenda via the marine protection business case report.

Looking ahead, we plan to:

Launch a major report on the Sustainable Ocean Economy, based on insights from 16 Blue Papers, that will inform the global narrative around the ocean and outline necessary shifts in the ways people think about, value and use the ocean.

Reveal a transformative, science-informed agenda to trigger, amplify and accelerate action worldwide toward a sustainable ocean economy.

Cultivate multi-stakeholder partnerships to advance action on illegal fishing, harmful fisheries subsidies, ocean protection, food security, finance, shipping, ocean data and tourism.

“WRI’s deep bench of experts who understand how business and finance work is a powerful force for shaping the economy of the future.”
—William Chen, Founding Managing Partner, ClearVue Partners; Global Board Director, WRI



The Governance Center aims to empower people and strengthen governments to build a resilient, just and sustainable future.

In 2019, our experts:

Produced a flagship report, Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience, which aims to raise awareness and inspire global action to make communities more resilient and prosperous in the face of mounting climate impacts.

Launched the Energy Access Explorer, a global data platform that connects affordable, reliable and clean energy to sustainable development solutions for all.

Supported environmental defenders through the Environmental Democracy Practice, Open Government Partnership and the Escazú Agreement.

In 2020, we plan to accelerate the integration of climate adaptation into development by building on our partnerships and knowledge products, including through the Global Commission. We also plan to deepen and expand WRI’s in-country assistance as part of this integration.

“When economic shocks strike, the toll is greatest on the poorest and most marginalized people. We need to pursue development pathways that not only boost the economy, but do so in ways that are more inclusive, efficient and sustainable.”
—Manish Bapna, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, WRI



The Center for Sustainable Business works with executives, investors and other stakeholders to trigger changes in strategy and policy to help companies thrive economically while operating within resource boundaries.

In 2019, our experts:

Developed new guidance for the apparel industry to measure the environmental and economic impact of clothing repair and re-use.

Under the Science Based Targets initiative, added 288 new commitments that are consistent with staying below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) of global warming, bringing the total to over 800 companies in 40 countries.

Partnered with other NGOs to call on companies to advocate for, align their trade associations on and allocate spending to advance science-based climate policy.

In 2020, we will use our analysis and convening power to encourage more companies to adopt ambitious strategies aligned with science. This includes publishing the State of the Art report, which will explore how multi- stakeholder partnerships can identify new models for transformative change.

“We work with WRI in order to help us develop sustainability strategies at a global scale that are grounded in science and data. Ambitious sustainability goals are needed to ensure a resilient future that prioritizes people.”
—Kathleen McLaughlin, Executive Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer for Walmart and President of the Walmart Foundation; Global Board Director, WRI


Science Based Targets Initiative

Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) provides companies a clear framework to reduce corporate greenhouse gas emissions in line with what science says is necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. So far, over 800 companies are taking climate action based on science, and 333 companies have approved science-based targets to reduce their emissions.

Of those, 177 companies—with a combined market capitalization of over $2.8 trillion and carbon dioxide emissions comparable to those of France—have committed to set emissions targets aligned with keeping warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels.

In 2020, the initiative will encourage more companies to set these more ambitious targets, as well as pursue companies from other sectors to join the initiative.

Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030 (P4G)

P4G accelerates innovative public- private partnerships to advance solutions in five areas: food and agriculture, water, energy, cities and the circular economy.

2019 Achievements:

Funded 20 partnerships: 13 start-ups (up to $100,000) and seven scale-ups (up to $1 million) to create more than 30 solution-driven partnerships.

Established National Platforms in Colombia, Mexico and the Netherlands, and engaged with the five platforms established in 2018.

Recognized five successful P4G State-of-the-Art Partnerships and one Partnership of the Year on the sidelines of the UN Climate Action Summit.

This year, P4G plans to recognize its third round of start-up and scale-up partnerships, bringing the pipeline of concrete partnerships up to 50.


The Finance Center conducts research and engagement with financial institutions and stakeholders to shift finance flows toward environmentally sustainable activities and away from unsustainable ones.

In 2019, the team launched seven major products and initiatives, including:

The Green Targets Tool to compare private banks’ sustainable finance commitments, finding that over half of private banks do not have sustainable investment targets and most banks continue to invest in fossil fuels more than sustainable sources.

A Guide for the Perplexed to help stakeholders navigate the Green Climate Fund.

A paper on Financial Implications of Parched Power to improve understanding of climate-related physical risks in the energy sector.

The Climate Resilience Principles aimed at unlocking capital for adaptation finance, in collaboration with the Climate Bonds Initiative.

In 2020, we will focus on a new effort to help China pursue more sustainable investments in its Belt and Road Initiative, improve sustainable investment products and engage institutional investors, and enhance access to climate finance in partner countries.

“As we start to recover from the current crisis, the financial sector needs to increase the flow of investments toward sustainable, resilient opportunities that will help us build a better and more equitable world.”
—Afsaneh Beschloss, Founder and CEO of Rock Creek; Global Board Director, WRI



WRI’s Economics Center demonstrates how a healthy environment and stable climate provide value to people and to economic growth . We work with partners to increase investment in nature and environmental protection and seize the opportunities of sustainable development.

In 2019, our experts:

Helped inform Indonesia’s new five-year development plan by conducting analysis that found that Indonesia’s economy can grow faster by reducing emissions more rapidly. We found that with low-carbon action, the country would be able to halve extreme poverty and add $5.4 trillion to GDP in 2045 compared to business-as-usual.

Worked with a range of development organizations to promote public financing for landscape restoration. WRI’s New Restoration Economy project has profiled dozens of companies across Africa that are profiting by restoring degraded land.

In 2020, the Economics Center will focus on the social and equity benefits of climate action to encourage a just transition that puts people at the center of policymaking. We plan to substantiate the economic case for companies to responsibly manage water, help cities improve water supplies using natural infrastructure, and showcase the economic benefits of expanding climate action and renewable energy use.

Also, in 2020, watch for increased activity from PACE, the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy, a public- private collaboration platform for global leaders and their organizations to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.

“Through the New Climate Economy, we understand that smart climate action and nature- based solutions can boost employment and productivity. As governments reboot their economies, they should focus on climate-aligned, resilient investments and policies that benefit people and the economy.”
—Joaquim Levy, Former President, Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES); Former Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer, World Bank; Global Board Director, WRI