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Sustainability Helps Bottom Line: Nature Conservancy

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Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, says corporations can help their bottom lines by incorporating sustainability into their business practices. However, if they restrict themselves to philanthropic support, they won’t see the difference their charity can make.

Tercek, formerly of Goldman Sachs, spoke about the difference sustainability can make with Christoph Lueneburger, leader of the global Sustainability Practice at Egon Zehnder International, in a video interview released Monday. The discussion was the first in Egon Zehnder’s Sustainability Dialogues series with top-level executives, and covered what corporations can do to improve sustainability initiatives and the tough criteria the Conservancy uses to select private sector partners.

Tercek said the commitment to improving business practices has to come from the top, and added that the Conservancy, the world’s largest environmental nonprofit with an annual operating budget well over $500 million, only works with companies whose CEOs are determined to move them along an environmental path. Those executives, he pointed out, must also make it clear to all levels of their companies how serious those sustainability initiatives are.

No lip service here; Tercek said, “We don’t give seals of approval to any company. Collaborating with companies to find ways to improve environmental practices is serious business. We want partners that are committed to trying new things and changing behavior.”

In the interview, Lueneburger commented, “Companies who are succeeding in embedding sustainability in their core business practices are relying on highly commercial talent—strategic leaders who are plugged into social trends—to effectively implement these new strategies.” He also spoke in a separate interview on the subject.

Egon Zehnder International, through its Global Sustainability Practice, works with corporations to help them measure leadership competencies that complement and transcend environmental expertise. The Sustainability Practice at Egon Zehnder works with companies to:

  • Pinpoint organizational readiness to pursue sustainability as a commercial theme;
  • Identify untapped commercial potential and leadership competencies; essential to fulfilling present and future sustainability strategies;
  • Benchmark an existing team against best-in-class;
  • Develop current leaders to excel at sustainability leadership;
  • Attract external candidates who demonstrably possess the experience and competencies to create exceptional business value through sustainability.


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