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Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature Hardcover – April 9, 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Tercek is president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy and formerly served as a managing director at Goldman Sachs, where he worked to find market-based solutions to environmental challenges. Adams is a science writer and conservation biologist. Common belief holds that business and environmental groups are at odds, with loggers, ranchers, fishermen, and corporations that exploit natural resources on one side and the so-called tree huggers on the other. In the past few decades, however, we have reached a tipping point; with seven billion people on the planet, the earth’s resources are long past being considered inexhaustible, and big business is coming to realize that stewardship of the environment is in their best interests. From renewal of the Mississippi floodplain to the banning of fishing trawlers along our shores to the restoration of prairie and wetlands in urban areas, unlikely allies are coming together to create models of sustainability that serve the interests of both business and environmentalist groups. The authors examine this new kind of conservation and show how it is of utmost economic importance to our farms, fisheries, corporate stakeholders, and communities. --David Siegfried


Winner of the 2014 Green Prize for Sustainable Literature Award in the category of Business.

Publishers Weekly
“The authors convincingly argue that corporate responsibility is not only the right ethical tactic, but the right business move....According to this savvy book, both environmentalists and business executives need to understand ‘how nature contributes to economic and ecological well-being.’”

Kirkus Reviews
“A hopeful message that a sensible marriage of business and environmental interests is in the cards, which until now has mostly been trumped by shortsightedness.”

William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd President of the United States of America
“By breaking conservation down into dollars and cents, Mark Tercek shows that economic growth and environmental sustainability are not mutually exclusive goals. Nature’s Fortune takes a pragmatic approach to an important issue, and turns the conversation from ideology to arithmetic.”

Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us and Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope on Earth
“In this encouraging, intelligent book that comes none too soon, Mark Tercek and Jonathan Adams show that the corporate world ultimately can’t flourish unless the natural world does, too. Through stories equally compelling to entrepreneurs or environmentalists, CEOs or scientists, we see how Nature’s Fortune and our own are inextricable. If we conserve and nurture our planet’s gifts like any other crucial asset or investment, we profit—or, we squander them at our own peril. Happily, this book shows why we needn’t, ever.”

Chris Anderson, TED Curator
“This book makes plain as day why we need to stop taking nature's gifts for granted. Its thoughtful solutions can underpin conservation goals with a powerful business logic. From an alarming premise, we are given reason to hope.”

Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World
“Mark Tercek presents a timely argument for ‘valuing’ nature that will be meaningful as much to business as to environmentalists. He demonstrates how this can work and why it is important, whether with water and forests high in the Andes, the floodplains of the Mississippi, fisheries off the California coast, or even in the dense centers of major cities. The result is a compelling ‘business case’ for investment in nature that is also an agenda for action—and cooperation.”

Marshall Goldsmith, bestselling author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, MOJO, and Succession
“In this telling work, Nature’s Fortune, Mark Tercek reveals how an investment banker becomes a conservationist and brings two seemingly incompatible worlds together with amazing grace and immense success.”

Andrew N. Liveris, Chairman and CEO, The Dow Chemical Company
“If ever business and nature are going to realize their full potential to grow together, it will come about from the vision and perspectives that are contained in the pages of this book. A case like this could only be made by an author who has led passionately on both sides of the equation.”

Ted Turner, Chairman, Turner Enterprises, Inc.
“In Nature’s Fortune, Mark Tercek tackles the environment with a banker’s eye and an outdoorsman’s heart. He makes a clear case for why protecting nature is the smartest investment we can make.”

Helene Gayle, President and CEO, CARE USA
“Nature is essential for both our human as well as our economic well-being. As someone who has lived in both worlds, Mark Tercek is well positioned to take us on a guided tour of the intersection between business and the environment. With clear examples, this timely book provides a road map for smart investments and new alliances to build a sustainable and prosperous future for people and planet. Bravo!”

Luis Alberto Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank
“Nature has long been recognized as a source of wealth, but we have yet to give natural capital the proper weight in economic decision making. In this timely book, Mark Tercek argues persuasively that investing in conservation and sustainable use can yield huge dividends for both people and the environment.”

Stewart Brand, author of Whole Earth Discipline
“In the 1970s environmentalists and business despised each other. In this century they are often close partners. The change was brought about by leaders like Mark Tercek. His book shows how prosperity is as dependent on clean rivers as on strong bridges (both are infrastructure). GMO crops can be as welcome as restoring wildlands, since they both contribute to a healthier planet.”

David Quammen, author of Spillover and The Song of the Dodo
“The cause of conservation in the twenty-first century desperately needs sharp, sophisticated, practical minds from the world of commerce. Mark Tercek’s is clearly among the best of them.”

John Fahey, Chairman and CEO, National Geographic Society
“Mark Tercek argues with refreshing clarity and persuasiveness that we must recognize the substantial economic value in our scarce natural resources. I agree wholeheartedly that the ultimate allocation and use of these resources must be market-based, backed by wise regulation. Tercek makes his point with wonderful real-life examples and prodigious logic.”

Henry M. Paulson, Jr., former chief executive of Goldman Sachs and Treasury secretary, and chairman of the Paulson Institute
“Mark Tercek knows business and he knows the environment. We have worked together on both. This book shows us how we can bring them together to the benefit of nature and our economy.”

Morton Schapiro, Professor of Economics and President, Northwestern University
“This is an important book for environmentalists, investment bankers, and everyone else. It presents a compelling case that investing in nature is a great deal—not just morally but economically as well. It is in all of our enlightened self-interest to take this book very seriously.”

Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar, Middlebury College, and author of Eaarth
“There are probably more important reasons to protect the natural world, but as this book makes clear, it’s economic folly to keep wasting our one sweet planet. It’s worth infinitely more than economists have traditionally taught—infinitely more!”

Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University Research Professor, Emeritus, and author of The Social Conquest of Earth
“In Nature’s Fortune, Mark Tercek and Jonathan Adams expertly articulate the interdependence of our economy and nature’s economy, and the practiced ways both can be saved in perpetuity.”

Walter Isaacson, President and CEO, The Aspen Institute, and author of Steve Jobs
“This is a critically important book that comes at just the right moment. The business community is coming to understand the value—and the necessity—of protecting the environment. Now, the environmental community needs to talk about nature using the language of business: assets, risks, and innovation. Nature’s Fortune is the guidebook that can move environmentalism to this next level.”

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (April 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465031811
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465031818
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #599,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Srikumar S. Rao VINE VOICE on March 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What is an investment banker doing as head of an organization devoted to preserving nature? That was the exact question posed to Mark Tercek by Russell Train, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency. And it is the starting anecdote in the book. Tercek made his mark as a senior executive at Goldman Sachs - an organization known more for its bottom-line orientation than its desire to do good for the world. But it was at Goldman that he became aware that protecting nature is a good investment. There were many occasions when improving its environmental record helped a company bolster its financial results. As Tercek freely admits, "Our primary motivation was not philanthropy or corporate social responsibility, important as they are, but purely business."

But persons evolve. And as he became more comfortable at The Nature Conservancy, Tercek saw more clearly than ever that "..nature means all species of animals and plants, their habitats and the ecological processes that support them."

What I like about Tercek's approach is that he tries to incorporate business as a partner in conservation. He is an advocate for strong and effective government policy but he is a champion of trying to persuade businesses to voluntarily embark on environmental initiatives. He admits that he is not sure if working with businesses will produce environmental benefits but believes that one has no choice but to try. Given the dominant global role of business it id difficult to argue with that position.

The book is easy to read and has separate chapters on different environmental issues. Take de-forestation. Soy beans from the Amazon rainforest traveled to Liverpool, became chicken feed and then nuggets sold by McDonald's.
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Format: Hardcover
While this book is well-authored, the choice of examples and metaphors as well as a slight shift in presentation that re-makes ecology into economics requires a pre-purchase, skeptical, and well-read buyer to browse before buying.

For example, in describing the coffee growers it characterizes the coffee as "shade grown, organic, and free market". This slip of the tongue, changing "fair market" to "free market" sets the tone for further marketization that is often inappropriate and can be distorting. Another example is in water management systems where that of Oman is presented as a wholly money-based way of utilizing water in a desert climate. In fact, the system is largely a local cultural creation, operating for nearly a thousand years, and characterized by intricate communications and property rights buy-ins that also, quite importantly, require no monetary participation from either religious or public institutions such as clinics and baths. In fact, these "free riders" are voluntarily supported by the "owners" as something beneficial to the society they live in.

There are numerous ways this book can be improved by taking a more wide-ranging and less ideological framework to cast its vision of the biological and cultural diversity humans are embedded in and wholly reliant on for their existence. Biocultural norms and management systems vary distinctly in their application from place to place, sometimes changing within a matter of miles from one another.

A more knowledgable, enlightened and rigorous vision can be and must be offered using the explosion of information that has resulted from genetics, larger capacity of trained, globally available, biodiversity professionals, ubiquitous computational devices, and a new wariness regarding international financial markets inability to retain a stable state.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The need to value nature much like a potential investor would a startup they were considering investing in is a summary of Mark A. Tercek and Jonathan S. Adam's thesis. For example, what would an accountant show on a spreadsheet as the value of coral and oyster reefs? Reefs act as a buffer, making the outpouring of water from ocean waves less destructive, more manageable. This in turn lessens the likelihood of flooding of buildings, among other benefits.

From restoring fisheries to oyster and coral reefs to floodplains to realizing how our world is affected by climate change, Nature's Fortune aims to educate readers on the critical need of reducing society's dependence on grey infrastructure and the cost-effectiveness of replacing this with green infrastructure.

The authors cite multi-national companies, fishermen, farmers and others who have partnered with governments and environmental organizations, such as the Nature Conservancy, to reduce their footprint (think harm to or effect on nature), increase the amount of natural capital in the world (think Brazilian rainforests that sequester carbon, oyster and coral reefs that protect our coastlines, and fisheries that produce the shellfish and shrimp we consume) and to make operations greener (effecting a partnership with nature instead of working against it).

Nature's Fortune briefly discusses how the increasing human footprint is sowing the seeds of climate change and what this means for society. The age-old saying, "Don't fool with Mother Nature" remains a good warning. More extensive discussion of climate change and its effects is beyond the scope of Nature's Fortune.
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