Author Archives: Mark Tercek

About Mark Tercek

Portrait of Mark Tercek above the shoulders outdoors

Mark Tercek is a global conservation leader with expertise in conservation finance, corporate sustainability and cross-sector collaboration. He is a champion of the idea of natural capital—valuing nature for its own sake as well as for the services it provides for people, such as clean air and water, productive soils and a stable climate.

Mark advises companies, start-ups, institutional investors and NGOs on environmental and organizational strategies as well as opportunities in impact investing. From 2008 to 2019, Mark served as CEO of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the world’s largest global conservation organization, which operates in all 50 states and 72 countries. Under Mark’s leadership, the organization expanded its reach by doubling down on science, working across political and industry lines, and investing in systems to optimize performance among global staff. Mark also led the creation of NatureVest (TNC’s impact capital initiative), drove a $7 billion capital fundraising campaign, and established a permanent department focused on gender, diversity, equity and inclusion (GDEI).

From 1984-2008 Mark was a managing director and partner at Goldman Sachs where he led several of the firm’s key units, including Corporate Finance, Real Estate Investment Banking, Equity Capital Markets and Pine Street, the firm’s leadership development program. In 2005 Mark was tapped to develop the firm’s environmental strategy and to lead its Environmental Markets Group.

Mark has served on boards and councils for a number of global organizations, including: Resources for the Future’s President’s Council; the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions; Harvard Business School’s Social Enterprise Initiative; the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED); the Rockefeller Foundation Economic Council on Planetary Health; Acumen; and the AXA Stakeholders Advisory Panel. Mark currently serves on the Williams College Board of Trustees and was on the finance faculty of New York University’s Stern School of Business until 2008.

Mark is a regular public speaker on environmental topics and has addressed business leaders, investors, academics, students and innovators at events around the world, including the World Economic Forum (WEF); TED; Summit; Aspen Ideas Festival; and Bloomberg Sustainability Summits.

Mark is the author of the Washington Post and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling book Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature. His leadership of TNC has been profiled in The New YorkerBloomberg BusinessWeek, the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Delta’s Sky Magazine, Mindful, and Nantucket Magazine. He has written columns and blogs for Forbes, Huffington Post, TNC, as well as other media outlets. His articles and speeches are available at marktercek.org.

Mark earned an M.B.A. from Harvard in 1984 and a B.A. from Williams College in 1979.

Mark and his wife Amy live in Washington, D.C. with their dog Taz. He continues to explore nature with his children, Ali, Margo, Luke, and Rex.

Updated: April 2020

Nature’s Banker

The EconomistMark Tercek might seem an unlikely boss of the Nature Conservancy, a big American green group. He spent little time outdoors in his youth and then a quarter of a century working for an investment bank. He has probably worn sandals from time to time; he is not known to have worn a beard. Yet this is apposite. Mr Tercek is at the forefront of a new, businesslike sort of environmentalism, which is changing the way companies and governments view nature.

It typically involves putting a valuation on the useful things that nature does, such as the provision of clean water by a spring or flood protection provided by a forest. Once the value of such “ecosystem services” is established, it can be included in business plans. Thus, New York City’s planners established that, to address their polluted water supply, they could either spend $8 billion to build a giant water treatment plant or $1.5 billion on planting trees and otherwise improving the Catskills watershed. At a stroke, they had a business case for tree-hugging.

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Marc Gunther’s Review: The Business Case for Nature

The value of nature is astonishing when you stop and think about it. Marshes protect coastlands. Urban trees clean the air. Forests provide timber. Oceans give us seafood. Snow-capped mountains store drinking water. Some might say nature is priceless.

Not Mark Tercek, the former investment banker at Goldman Sachs who became CEO of The Nature Conservancy in 2008. His new book, Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature (Basic Books, 2013), argues that nature provides enormous economic benefits to society, business and consumers, and that, if we can figure out how to value and pay for those benefits, we can slow down and even reverse the degradation of nature that threatens our well-being.

It’s an important and potentially controversial argument, as Tercek acknowledges. While the 20th-century conservation was all about protecting nature from people, Tercek and some of his allies in the environmental movement would like the future to be about protecting nature for people. If nothing else, he argues, recognizing the economic value of nature will expand the base of the environmentalist beyond the white, college-educated and relatively affluent folk, the backpackers and hikers and birdwatchers at its core.

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Nature’s Fortune featured in Thomas Friedman’s NYT column

NYTIn his Sunday New York Times column, Tom Friedman writes about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and includes a reference to Nature’s Fortune.

From Friedman’s column:

“Finally, the president could make up for Keystone by introducing into the public discourse the concept of “natural infrastructure,” argues Mark Tercek, the president and chief executive of The Nature Conservancy, and the co-author of “Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.”

“’Forests, wetlands and other ecosystems are nature’s infrastructure for controlling floods, supplying water, and doing other things we need to adapt to climate change,” Tercek wrote in an e-mail. “Before Hurricane Sandy, Cape May, N.J., had the foresight to restore its dunes and wetlands to provide storm protection and wildlife habitat. When Sandy struck, Cape May was spared the damage that neighboring towns suffered.'”

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Tree-Hitter Tercek Channels Goldman at Nature Conservancy

BloombergOn the day in May 2008 when Mark Tercek, a managing director at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), got a cell-phone call from a headhunter informing him that he’d likely gotten the job of running the Nature Conservancy, he was so excited that he backed his Jeep Grand Cherokeeinto a tree, shattering the back window. Anxious that gouging a tree might be a bad omen, he jumped out to see how bad it was. To his relief, he’d done far more damage to his vehicle than the tree.

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Outside Magazine Power List

Outside MagazineYes, Ted Turner owns two ­million acres in North America. Kris and Doug Tompkins have protected more than two million in Chile. But the world’s largest, wealthiest conservation organization, TNC, has preserved some 119 million acres (count ’em!) in more than 30 countries. Since taking the reins in 2008, Mark Tercek, 54, a former Goldman Sachs managing director who headed its Environmental Strategy Group and Center for Environmental Markets, has weathered a recession that saw TNC’s war chest dip by more than $257 million; spearheaded the conservancy’s expansion into Africa; and cut funding from foundering programs in places like Panama and Guatemala to emphasize big-idea initiatives like an international water fund and a program that gives indigenous people a say in local conservation. He also brought discipline to the organization following a 2003 Washington Post investigation that led to an IRS audit. In meetings, he’s known for repeating (and repeating) his mantra, “Focus like a laser.”

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Natural Causes

WSJNearly two years ago, Mark Tercek left his job as a managing director at Goldman Sachs to attend to an ecosystem devoted to another kind of green: the Nature Conservancy. TNC, which watches over 119 million acres of land in more than 30 countries, has a significantly different culture from the one he’d dominated on Wall Street. While conducting his first organization-wide online meeting in 2008, Tercek swigged from a Poland Spring water bottle. The next day, he was greeted by half a dozen welcome gifts from colleagues in the form of reusable water containers. “Not so good to be the brand-new head of the biggest conservation organization and drinking out of a plastic water bottle,” he says.

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