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Mission Statement

At this perilous juncture in human affairs, Tellus Institute works to advance a global civilization of sustainability, equity and well-being through research, education, and action. We are at the cusp of a new historical epoch - the planetary phase of civilization - that binds the world's people and the biosphere into a single community of fate. But what form of global civilization will emerge in the coming decades? In the face of unfolding crises - cultural antagonism, violent conflict, economic volatility, environmental degradation - pessimists may be forgiven for their dark forebodings and dreamers for their doubts. Or is another world possible?

We live in a challenging era, a time when a culture of greed and mania for growth undermines human amity and degrades the planet. Yet, we still have time and world enough to shape an alternative future where the health of the environment, the breadth of human solidarity, and the quality of lives become the legitimate measures of development and true wealth. The key to such a Great Transition is the capacity and willingness of the world’s citizens to gain new insights, embrace new values, and take common actions.

Tellus is an independent voice for advancing these goals. Rooted in analytic rigor, the Institute’s projects offer visions of hope and strategies for change. Now, more than ever, we are committed to researching critical problems, developing scenarios of the future from the local to the global, and mobilizing networks for a Great Transition.


Tellus Institute was established in 1976 as an interdisciplinary not-for-profit research and policy organization. The times were propitious for a young institute bringing fresh thinking and scientific rigor to environmental and social challenges, and it grew rapidly. Over the years, we conducted 3,500 projects throughout the world, becoming an international leader in resource and environmental strategies, and helping shape the embryonic field of sustainable development.

The story of Tellus has unfolded in the context of staggering changes around it. The very vocabulary that describes our work today - global scenarios, planetary phase of civilization, sustainable development, climate change, eco-efficiency, globalization, information technology - was absent from the environment and development lexicon at our inception three decades ago. As the issues have become more complex, our time horizon has lengthened from years to many decades and our perspective has broadened to include a global panorama.

Tellus has worked at every geographic level - global, regional, national, local, and enterprise - bringing both vision and analytic rigor to fashioning strategies, policies and decision-support tools. Our projects have been distinguished by an integrated perspective in order to illuminate the important linkages across spatial scales and among environmental, social, and economic dimensions of development. Key foci have included energy, water, sustainable communities, corporate social responsibility, and climate change. The Institute’s wide diversity of sponsors - foundations, government agencies, multilateral organizations, civil society organizations, and business - reflect the range of our program. Tellus has partnered with hundreds of organizations, most notably the Stockholm Environmental Institute with which we coordinated programs for nearly two decades.

In 2005, Tellus entered a new phase, consolidating its programs to address the grand challenge of this century: a Great Transition to a sustainable, just, and livable global civilization. To attain this vision, the world must navigate toward ways of producing, consuming, and living that balance the rights of people today, future generations, and the wider community of life. The prospects for such a transition rest with the ascendance of new values, a planetary consciousness, and a sense of global citizenship. These aims will lie at the heart of the Institute’s program of research, education, and network-building in the coming years.





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