The underlying premise of Columbia University’s Center for Environment, Economy, and Society (CEES) is that local environments, economies, and societies are interdependent: none can thrive in the long run if all three do not thrive. They are all “in it together."

CEES believes that government alone cannot be responsible for the health of the environment: The task is too complex and interacts with too many spheres of daily life. Communities need to recognize the social and economic value of the natural environment. Businesses must join communities as welcome and active partners by investing in the environment to promote economic growth that benefits rather than degrades natural capital. If businesses recognize the economic benefits of a healthy environment and the costs of a degraded environment, they will be motivated to invest in surrounding environmental and societal infrastructures. Effective strategies for both economic growth and environmental sustainability are more likely to emerge from this realization than through onerous, costly, or unenforceable regulatory requirements. Effective strategies are characterized by community compatibility and long-term horizons for economic and environmental sustainability, and by innovative means of bringing these issues to students, professionals, and the general public.




CEES was formed in 2006 under the auspices of Columbia University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Consistent with its belief in the necessity of bridging the gap between conservation science and business, CEES is led by its Co-Directors Don Melnick, Thomas Hunt Morgan Professor of Conservation Biology in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology (E3B); and Geoffrey Heal, Paul Garrett Professor on Public Policy & Business Responsibility at the Columbia Business School (CBS) and Professor at the School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA). CEES is funded by more than a dozen foundation grants and gifts. 

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