Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, led a conversation entitled “The Value of Nature” in the Intercultural Center Auditorium on Tuesday. The event was co-sponsored by the Georgetown Center for the Environment, Georgetown’s Office of Sustainability and the Green Alumni Network in commemoration of Earth Day.
Tercek took on his leadership position at The Nature Conservancy in 2008, after a 24-year career at Goldman Sachs. He uses this experience to lead The Nature Conservancy, a global conservation organization, as a big business complete with investments and marketing strategies.
Tercek’s talk focused on the main themes of his recently published book, “Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.”
Tercek described three strategies that he claimed to be useful for any big business — gaining more supporters, gaining more financial resources and forming new ways to amicably conduct business.
“We have to be smart about what needs to be done and smart about doing it,” Tercek said.
In terms of supporters, Tercek emphasized how important it is to educate citizens on environmental issues and to get them involved. He stated that universities act as “catalysts for important conversations,” pointing out Georgetown’s numerous sustainability initiatives.
He then explained how an abundance of financial resources is essential to increase awareness and to execute successful operations.
“Nature is an investment opportunity,” Tercek said.
Since The Nature Conservancy relies heavily on philanthropy and government grants, Tercek emphasized how important it is for other big organizations to invest, reframing environmental issues as capitalistic ventures and thinking about nature as “green” infrastructure.
However, Tercek cautioned that creating new business models that please everyone can be difficult.
“There is too much fighting, disagreement and partisanship,” Tercek said. “It gets in the way of progress.”
When it comes to the environment, especially, there will always be issues that need to be discussed, but Tercek warned that fighting about them only turns away supporters.
“Environmentalists need to be polite and rebuild central support for environmental matters,” Tercek said.
Throughout his discussion, Tercek constantly stressed how urgent it is to have a “robust regulatory oversight,” such as a tax on carbon emissions, that will provide feedback on initiatives and minimize environmental harm.
Tercek also noted how The Nature Conservancy has formed new partnerships with many successful organizations that have large carbon footprints, such as Goldman Sachs.
“These new alliances will enable us to conserve nature at a scale never before achieved,” Tercek wrote in his book.
At the end of Tercek’s talk, a number of students, alumni and professors participated in a question-and-answer session.
Greg Miller (SFS ’14), a former sustainability research fellow, asked Tercek about the business case for Georgetown, as a billion dollar organization, to invest in sustainability through both its educational and operational practices.
Tercek replied by saying that Georgetown’s underlining business is education, so teaching students to become “science literate citizens” and emphasizing new innovations would produce the best environmental outcomes.
“Georgetown could hugely benefit from better adopting the business logic approach to sustainability into its day-to-day operations,” Miller said after Tuesday’s conversation.