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 / Autumn 2013 / Issue 72(originally published by Booz & Company)


The Business Case for Nature

Mining giant Rio Tinto Group offers another opportunity. The company is hoping to construct one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines in Mongolia. Done poorly, such a massive project could be a serious threat to the species and landscapes of the Gobi desert. TNC is working with Mongolian scientists, Rio Tinto, and others to find ways to benefit the environment and the economy. The goal is to provide a blueprint for a shared vision—a plan that will be adopted and applied by government, industry, lending institutions, environmentalists, and communities, and that will guide land-use decisions in order to support healthy natural systems and a more sustainable Gobi region.

Partners in Progress

Making a business case for nature enlists new and sometimes surprising groups of people in our cause—Wall Street bankers, companies with large environmental footprints, governments planning big infrastructure projects, and agribusinesses that clear forests and apply fertilizer. Further, as these groups engage with their “investment” project, their perspective changes: Cane growers now also worry about their water footprint, fishers stop trawling, Dow engineers consider climate change. And perhaps most important, as we look ahead to the political progress we’ll need in order to protect the environment, we expand our support base beyond committed conservationists to a far bigger and more inclusive group.

This approach may be a significant breakthrough. None of us can find the answers we need on our own, and all of us can benefit from a good dose of humility in the face of major challenges. Projects like those in the Cauca Valley and Morro Bay, and like those burgeoning at some large multinationals, can get people who don’t consider themselves to be environmentalists to join us on common ground. And they can attract the kind of large-scale investments that we need to truly make a difference.

Reprint No. 00202

Author Profiles:

  • Mark Tercek is president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy and a former managing director of Goldman Sachs.
  • Jonathan Adams is a science writer and conservation biologist based in Rockville, Md.
  • This article is adapted from Tercek and Adams’s recent book, Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature (Basic Books, 2013).


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