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Mark Tercek: Goldman Banker Turned Environmentalist

Mark Tercek, author and CEO of the Nature Conservancy (L) with Financial Times Asia Editor David Pilling in Hong Kong on June 11, 2013. (Asia Society Hong Kong)
by Natalie Lai
11 June 2013

HONG KONG, June 11, 2013—Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy Conversation and author of the book Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature, joined in an intellectual conversation with Asia Editor of Financial Times, David Pilling, to discuss the interconnection and mutual benefit between nature and business.

Can nature work together with business in a win-win pattern? To Mark Tercek, a banker turned environmentalist with a 24-year past work experience at Goldman Sachs, the answer is yes. He considered that business was “a force for good in general” and the value of the environment was also very important in doing business.

As a nature lover himself, Tercek thought everyone had the potential to care about the environment. He said, “There was an environmentalist in everyone. We have to help people to unlock that.”

Tercek emphasized that the efforts to protect the environment in an economical way would bring benefits in three aspects: Attracting financial resources to work with, having more people on environmentalists’ side, and creating a better dialogue between people and nature. He said, “Rather than say ‘no’, we say ‘how’”. He mentioned many cases in his book where his group offered both economical and practical solutions for companies and governments to achieve a win-win situation.

In Quito, the capital of Ecuador, Tercek and his group managed to get supporting resources and to persuade a water company to adopt their suggestions so that the environment could be protected in a profitable way.

He also further demonstrated that the necessity of understanding nature conservation would likely to generate significant economic value than otherwise. After the severe floods mainly caused by deforestation broke out in 1998, the Chinese government did their investigations with findings supporting that the value of the standing forests was three times the value of realized timbers. The famous project, Three Gorges Dam, was one of the significant nature conservation initiatives that the Chinese government undertook as a result.

“If we can help governments and business better understand the economic value of the nature, we’ll make better decisions.” Tercek concluded.

Reported by Angel Guo

Video: Watch the complete talk (46 min., 12 sec.)