World Resources Institute (WRI) is a global research organization that spans more than 50 countries, with offices in Brazil, China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and the United States. Our more than 450 experts and staff work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action to sustain our natural resources—the foundation of economic opportunity and human well-being.
Natural resources are at the foundation of economic opportunity and human well-being. But today, we are depleting Earth’s resources at rates that are not sustainable, endangering economies and people’s lives. People depend on clean water, fertile land, healthy forests, and a stable climate. Livable cities and clean energy are essential for a sustainable planet. We must address these urgent, global challenges this decade.
We envision an equitable and prosperous planet driven by the wise management of natural resources. We aspire to create a world where the actions of government, business, and communities combine to eliminate poverty and sustain the natural environment for all people.
We start with data. We conduct independent research and draw on the latest technology to develop new insights and recommendations. Our rigorous analysis identifies risks, unveils opportunities, and informs smart strategies. We focus our efforts on influential and emerging economies where the future of sustainability will be determined.
We use our research to influence government policies, business strategies, and civil society action. We test projects with communities, companies, and government agencies to build a strong evidence base. Then, we work with partners to deliver change on the ground that alleviates poverty and strengthens society. We hold ourselves accountable to ensure our outcomes will be bold and enduring.
We don’t think small. Once tested, we work with partners to adopt and expand our efforts regionally and globally. We engage with decision-makers to carry out our ideas and elevate our impact. We measure success through government and business actions that improve people's lives and sustain a healthy environment.
WRI’s mission is to move human society to live in ways that protect Earth’s environment and its capacity to provide for the needs and aspirations of current and future generations.Our Goals
We organize our work around six critical goals that the world must achieve this decade in order to secure a sustainable future:
- Climate: Protect communities and natural ecosystems from damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions, and generate opportunities for people by catalyzing a global transition to a low-carbon economy.
- Energy: Drive the scale-up of clean, affordable power systems throughout the world to deliver sustainable socio-economic development.
- Food: Ensure the world’s food systems reduce their impact on the environment, drive economic opportunity, and sustainably feed 9.6 billion people by 2050.
- Forests: Alleviate poverty, enhance food security, conserve biodiversity, and mitigate climate change by reducing forest loss and restoring productivity to degraded, deforested lands.
- Water: Achieve a water-secure future by mapping, measuring, and mitigating global water risks.
- Sustainable Cities: Improve quality of life in cities by developing and scaling environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable urban and transport solutions.
We design solutions for and analyze these six critical goals through the lenses of our four Centers:
Our Business Center harnesses the private sector to spur action, innovation, and ambition in support of sustainable development outcomes. We combine research, analysis, tools, and direct engagement with businesses to create solutions that advance environmental sustainability and drive value.
Our Economics Center helps decision-makers identify opportunities for cost-effective action to protect or enhance natural resources, and ensure the delivery of essential ecosystem services. We provide research and tools to help identify and compare the full costs and benefits of continuing on a business-as-usual growth path versus more sustainable options.
Our Finance Center aims to mobilize and shift public and private sector investments toward sustainable development—particularly in developing nations. We advance transparency, sound governance, environmental and social safeguards, and public-private partnerships to ensure this finance is ambitious, accountable, and effective.
Our Governance Center works to empower people and support institutions to foster socially equitable and environmentally sound decision-making.
When the founders of the World Resources Institute (WRI) created the organization in 1982, they were responding to an urgent demand. Environmental concerns that emerged forcefully in the 1960s and 1970s—deforestation, desertification, and climate change – were not being sufficiently addressed. These complex, global issues posed unprecedented policy and political challenges. WRI’s founders saw a clear need for an organization that could address the interdependent interests of man and nature.
To address these issues, WRI’s founders avoided the prevailing activist model in favor of a science and evidence-based organization. The institute would carry out rigorous policy research and analysis on global environmental and resource issues and their relationship to human societies and development. That research and analysis had to be both scientifically sound and practical to create real change on the ground. It had to command the respect of the scientific community and the attention of key decision-makers in both the public and private sectors. Equally importantly, the institute would lead the way in trying to build the constituencies required to act on its analyses and recommendations.
WRI was launched with a vital founding grant of $15 million from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation of Chicago, which enabled the organization to devote its first five years to set priorities and become operational. It was organized as a nonprofit Delaware corporation that could receive tax-deductible gifts and contributions under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.
Today, WRI has remained true to its founding mission, approach, and goals. The Institute has a rich history of transforming ideas into action, with clear benefits to people and the planet. It continually evolves to sustain the excellence of its research, and to ensure that its analysis and recommendations create meaningful change on the ground. It aims to continue building on decades of experience to achieve a sustainable world with ample natural resources for future generations.
Our mission and values define WRI as an institution. Our values are not rules, but shared ideals and understanding that bind us together. Along with our mission and our commitment to excellence in everything we do, they articulate who we are and what we believe, influence our goals, guide our actions, and help us to explain our aspirations to others.
Honesty, candor and openness must guide our work to ensure credibility and to build trust.
- We encourage examination of our methods, analyses, and conclusions. Learn more about our research review procedures.
- We share information and ideas with our colleagues and partners.
- We recognize all who have contributed to our work.
To lead change for a sustainable world, we must be creative, forward-thinking, entrepreneurial, and adaptive.
- We are willing to risk failure to achieve substantial impact. We nurture and reward new ideas and excellence in pursuing them.
- We reinvigorate our own ideas and approaches through continuous learning.
We believe that change in human behavior is urgently needed to halt the accelerating rate of environmental deterioration.
- We seek the greatest impact by responding swiftly, decisively, and strategically to opportunities and challenges.
- We work on issues that matter where we believe we can make a unique difference.
Our effectiveness depends on work that is uncompromised by partisan politics, institutional or personal allegiances, or sources of financial support.
- We take pride in the independence of our ideas and work.
- We convey to partners and funders our commitment to unbiased judgment.
Our relationships are based on the belief that all people deserve respect.
- We encourage diversity of experience, culture, ideas, and opinions among our staff and partners.
- We seek to ensure and to recognize that each of us can take responsibility and create opportunities.
- We help each other to reach our fullest potential.
- We treat others with fairness regardless of their views on our work.
WRI has internal and external processes for ensuring that our strategies result in tangible results, including:
- Managing for Results: WRI has a strong focus on results, which we define as significant actions taken as a consequence of our activities and influence--by government agencies, corporations, policymakers, scientists, or civil society. Our results (what we often call “outcomes”) are generated through a highly focused system of clear goals and three-to-five-year strategic objectives. Many are achieved in collaboration with WRI’s more-than-400 partner organizations around the world.
- Annual Objective Review: We regularly review our institutional objectives and our progress toward achieving them. We accomplish this through a consistent and rigorous method of diagnosis, evaluation, recommendations, and an open forum for staff to comment.
- Quality and Excellence: Our work is reviewed by both internal and external peer experts in a systematic process. WRI’s Vice President for Science and Research ensures excellence and quality control at all phases of our research, analysis, and recommendations.
- Communications: WRI focuses on consistent influence strategies in all of its program planning. We have a professional staff to connect WRI’s work to its audiences to achieve concrete outcomes.
- WRI Board: Our active and highly diverse Board of Directors is substantially engaged in WRI’s strategic direction and its program planning and outcomes.
Identifying and Monitoring Outcomes
Core to our mission, outcomes help us to understand where we are having the greatest impact, as well as determine where our tactics might be improved. Outcomes help us monitor and evaluate our commitment to ourselves, to our donors, and to the environment and people we aim to serve. They are at the heart of our “Managing for Results” system. They push us to design robust strategies and hold ourselves accountable.
WRI divides its outcomes into three Tier levels, based upon the significance of the outcome and the level of attribution WRI can claim for the outcome.
The level of significance of the outcome is determined by asking to what extent the outcome: is a large step toward achievement of a Project Objective or Institutional Objective; has a substantial positive impact on the people it affects; impacts a large geographical area or number of people and/or has the opportunity to scale up quickly.
The level of attribution of the outcome is determined by asking: Would the outcome have been achieved without WRI? Did WRI’s involvement positively change the nature of the outcome? Did WRI cause the outcome to be achieved more quickly?
WRI’s Top Ten Outcomes are selected in late August each year. All Tier 1 outcomes for the year are candidates for Top Ten recognition. WRI’s Management Team – comprised of program directors, vice presidents, and the president – come together to narrow the field, based on the combination of significance and attribution.
We are living in a critical moment.
The past two decades have witnessed unprecedented economic and social progress. Real incomes in low- and middle-income countries have doubled and poverty rates have halved. Two billion people have gained access to improved drinking water. Maternal mortality has dropped by nearly half, and the share of those who are malnourished has fallen by a third. This has been one of the greatest and most rapid transformations in human history. But these achievements have been accompanied by mounting pressure on our natural resources.
Every minute of every day we have been losing the equivalent of 50 soccer fields of forest. Over 1 billion people already face water scarcity, and this may triple by 2025. Climate change is costing $700 billion per year, with the greatest impact on the poor. At the same time, more than 1.3 billion people lack access to affordable, reliable electricity. These pressures are on course to increase, as the global middle class expands from 2 billion people today to 5 billion in 2030, driving greater demand for automobiles and fundamentally altering consumption patterns. Many of these people are moving to the world’s cities, which are expected to add 1.5 billion people by 2030.
Are current patterns of production and consumption sustainable? We believe not.
Is it possible to continue to enjoy economic and social progress and improvements in the quality of life, while remaining within planetary limits and addressing climate change? We believe it is.
But it will require better understanding of the possibilities, and more decisive leadership to get us to that sustainable future.
BUILDING ON WRI’S FOUNDATION
WRI was founded in 1982 with the purpose of bringing cutting edge analysis to global environment and development challenges. For the past three decades, we have worked with government, business, and civil society to drive ambitious action based on high-quality data and objective analysis. With our partners, we have demonstrated the success of breakthrough ideas and scaled up these solutions for far-reaching, enduring impact.
WRI’s mission is more relevant today than ever. Critical decisions will be made this decade that will determine whether the world will succeed in its quest for sustainable prosperity for all.
RESPONDING TO SIX URGENT CHALLENGES
Our programs will focus on six interrelated global environment and development challenges that must be addressed this decade.
- Forests: Mass deforestation must be stopped, and restoration of 2 billion hectares of degraded land must be accelerated.
- Water: Critical risks must be measured, mapped, and managed.
- Food: New approaches must be taken to sustainably feed 9.6 billion people by 2050.
- Climate Change: Global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020, while building a strong, low-carbon economy.
- Energy: The transition to clean and affordable energy must be accelerated across a tipping point.
- Cities & Transport: The shift to efficient, livable, low-carbon cities must be taken to support the world’s urban dwellers today and the 1.5 billion who will be added by 2030.
Addressing these challenges requires input and action from three cross-cutting disciplines:
- Business: Create business value through environmental sustainability.
- Governance: Empower people with access to information and environmental rights.
- Finance: Shift investment toward sustainable development.
SIGNATURE INITIATIVES: IMPACT AT SCALE
WRI’s Signature Initiatives
Given the urgent need to achieve impact, we will focus our energies on a limited number of distinct product lines, which we call “Signature Initiatives.” These are major bodies of work that will be carried out in close collaboration with partners and are defined by the following qualities:
- An irresistible offer: A clear methodology that draws upon WRI’s unique strengths.
- A compelling message of change: Academic research is necessary, but not enough. WRI seeks to build a case for new policies, shift investments, and change behavior.
- An identified “tipping point”: We’re not satisfied with successful pilots. Our initiatives must be aimed at driving systemic change.
- A clear strategy for scaling: These initiatives must have defined transmission mechanisms and strong partnerships.
EXPANDING OUR GLOBAL NETWORK
We now have international offices in China, India, and Brazil, in addition to the United States. “Lighter touch” offices have recently been established in Europe (Brussels) and Indonesia, and we will explore new office in Africa in 2015. WRI’s EMBARQ centers in Mexico and Turkey are a key part of our global network, particularly in support of our Cities and Transport Program.
EQUIPPING WRI FOR THE TASK
Delivering on our new strategy will require us to enhance our internal systems and strengthen our operations. We will deepen our capacity in our core support functions: human resources, financial management, development, communications, research excellence, and results management. We will seek to build our economic and political capacity for greater influence; expand our expertise in information and communications technology, including remote-sensing, crowd-sourcing, and data visualization; and leverage our Board of Directors to play a bigger role in our global impact.