Manish Bapna, current managing director, to serve as acting president beginning July 2011

Jonathan Lash announced today that he will be resigning as president of the World Resources Institute, a position he held for more than 18 years. Lash will become the president of Hampshire College, in Amherst, Mass., where he will have the opportunity to explore a broad range of issues at a college known for its unique experiential and interdisciplinary education.

Manish Bapna, who has been WRI’s executive vice president and managing director for nearly four years, will become WRI’s acting president, starting in July 2011. The organization will immediately launch a search committee to identify a new full-time president.

“I am very proud that WRI today is more innovative and having more impact than at any time in its history. WRI and its staff are increasingly recognized as key voices on environmental and development issues, as trusted partners, and as leaders in producing results,” said Lash. “As I turn to the future, I am looking forward to new opportunities at Hampshire College, where I can engage in new issues and help prepare the next generation of critical thinkers to meet the challenges of sustainability in our evolving world.”

Jim Harmon, WRI’s chairman of the board of directors, said: “We’ve been honored to have Jonathan at the helm for nearly two decades, overseeing the organization during a time of great challenges and opportunities. The world has grown more complex with increasing globalization, expanding populations, and growing demand on scarce resources. Yet, WRI continues to be at the forefront of the most critical issues of sustainability, environment, and international development. We are grateful for Jonathan’s leadership and vision-- he leaves a thriving institution that is financially secure, intellectually rigorous, and highly influential.”

Under Lash’s guidance, WRI has grown into one of the leading environmental organizations in the world and has advanced key solutions to global sustainability challenges. In recent years, WRI has played a pivotal leadership role in finding solutions to climate change by encouraging action and advancing the debate in the United States and around the globe. This transition has been achieved partly through WRI’s active engagement with the private sector, as WRI has brought key business leaders to the table and encouraged them to find solutions to climate change, and related sustainability issues. WRI has also helped redefine the concept of ecosystem services by increasing understanding of the role and value of ecosystems as a fundamental factor in decision making. And, WRI has worked on governance issues by advancing key rights and access that are needed for greater equity and a more sustainable world. (Note: see below for specific accomplishments.)

Since Lash joined WRI in 1993, the organization has expanded its staff; focused on results based on research and analysis; and worked with government officials and business leaders to increase its impact.

  • WRI tripled in size to over 300 people, across eight countries;

  • WRI’s budget expanded fourfold; last year WRI received $37 million in financial support— a record for the organization; and

  • WRI’s operations became truly global, with partners in over 50 countries.

Starting in July, Manish Bapna will begin serving as acting president of WRI. Bapna has nearly 20 years experience working on sustainable development for the World Bank, with non-governmental organizations, and in the private sector. At WRI, Bapna has overseen the program directors and has helped mainstream a new management system for the entire staff. He has also helped establish WRI’s office in Beijing, China, and is leading new opportunities in India, Brazil and other regions.

“Jonathan has been a leader, a role model and a friend. Under his direction, WRI has evolved into a global organization that is rooted in analysis and committed to results,” said Bapna. “Today, WRI’s mission and approach are as needed as ever. I look forward to working with our exceptional staff and board to address the critical environmental and development issues of our time.”

At the invitation of WRI’s board chairman, Jim Harmon, Lash will become a member of WRI’s board of directors where he will help ensure that the organization has a smooth transition in identifying its next president and carrying out its vast programs.

Among the highlights of Lash’s tenure, the World Resources Institute has played a key hand in developing:

  • The Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the most widely used suite of international accounting standards and calculation tools for government and business leaders to understand, quantify, and manage greenhouse gas emissions. The GHGP is now used by thousands of businesses and other institutions worldwide.

  • EMBARQ, a global network based in five countries, catalyzes and helps implement environmentally and financially sustainable transport solutions to improve the quality of life in cities. Since 2002, EMBARQ’s transport projects have served more than a billion passengers worldwide.

  • The Millennium Ecosystems Assessment, the first-ever global check up on the conditions and trends of the world’s forests, wetlands, and other ecosystems, involving more than 1,000 experts. By focusing on the benefits ecosystems provide, the assessment ushered in a new mindset of investing in nature for development, not just protecting it from development.

  • The Access Initiative— with partners in more than 45 countries and among 150 civil society organizations, TAI is the largest network in the world dedicated to ensuring that people have improved access to information, public participation, and access to justice in decisions affecting the environment.

  • New Ventures, a global center for environmental entrepreneurship, has supported the growth of more than 255 innovative enterprises and facilitated more than $203 million in investment.