Nature's FortuneBy Mark Tercek, President of The Nature Conservancy, and Jonathan Adams

The conservation movement has made great strides in recent decades. Governments have improved regulations, consumers love to buy “green,” and the largest corporations in the world have enacted broad sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility strategies. Yet despite these efforts, nature is in decline. As global population soars toward nine billion people, our growing needs for food, water and energy threaten the critical systems that we depend on for economic productivity and human well-being.


According to Mark Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy (and former Managing Director and Partner at Goldman Sachs), there is hope, but only if businesses, governments, and environmental organizations can work together in new, innovative ways. In his new book NATURE’S FORTUNE: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature(Basic Books | April 9, 2013),Tercek, along with conservation biologist Jonathan Adams,argues that economic growth and environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive, and that in fact, saving nature is one of the smartest commercial investments any business or government can make.

Released in time for Earth Day, NATURE’S FORTUNE challenges two groups to reconsider their approach to the environment. Environmentalists are challenged to reframe their “protect nature for nature’s sake” rationale for conservation, and soften their stance against partnering with the corporate world. Business and government leaders are challenged to view nature as not just a key resource or “sustainability” initiative, but as a quantifiable asset (called “natural capital” or "green infrastructure") that produces significant returns on investment. When both groups—historically at odds—reorient their relationship to the environment, they land on common ground that sows the possibility for collaboration—as The Nature Conservancy does with organizations like Dow Chemical, Rio Tinto, Coca-Cola and Cargill—that can create “win-win” scenarios that drive profits and accelerate environmental progress at the same time.

Tercek began to understand this dynamic well before joining The Nature Conservancy, 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. The more they explored and pursued win-win opportunities – such as investments in renewable energy companies, and showing companies how improving their environmental behavior would bolster their business results – the more opportunities they found. Since joining The Nature Conservancy in 2008, Tercek has expanded the breadth of collaboration with businesses, providing “living labs” to study what happens when sound science is paired with sound business strategies.

In NATURE’S FORTUNE, Tercek draws on these findings as well as other success stories from around the globe to make a case for more investments in nature. He challenges 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. 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. Through examples ranging from Colombian sugar cane growers and Central California fisheries to Coca-Cola and Dow Chemical, NATURE’S FORTUNE applies Wall Street principles to conservation, and demonstrates how businesses and environmental groups can work together to drive profits and solve the planet’s greatest challenges at the same time, including:

  • Population growth and the looming food crisis
  • Global scarcity of clean water
  • Climate change
  • Resilience in the face of extreme weather events
  • The push for more “green infrastructure” in the world’s urban centers

As the effects of environmental degradation grow more acute and stark by the day, NATURE’S FORTUNE offers 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.