Werbach in 1999.
Tarzana, California, USA
Adam Werbach, is the Co-Founder of the San Francisco startup, yerdle, a platform for giving away things away to people you know, or getting things you need from them. Adam is probably best known as an environmental activist who was the youngest to ever be elected national president of the Sierra Club, in 1996 when he was 23 years old. He is the author of Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto, published by Harvard Business Press, and named one of the top business books of the year by Fast Company Magazine. The book appeared on the Inc. Magazine bestseller list. Werbach is a web correspondent for The Atlantic, serving as the magazine's online "sustainability expert."
As a high school student in 1991, he founded the Sierra Student Coalition, the United States' largest student-run environmental organization. In 1994, Werbach galvanized students nationwide to generate crucial votes to pass the California Desert Protection Act, which created Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park. Werbach was a protégé of noted 20th Century environmentalist and Sierra Club Director David Brower, who hand-picked Werbach to run for the club's presidency. As President of the Sierra Club Werbach helped negotiate a behind-the-scenes agreement with the Clinton Administration to create the 1,900,000-acre (7,700 km2) Grand Staircase of the Escalante National Monument.
In 1997, while president of the Sierra Club, Werbach wrote "Act Now, Apologize Later," a series of essays and autobiographical anecdotes published by HarperCollins. In it, he recounted the stories of the many average citizens he'd met while visiting nearly every local chapter of the Sierra Club: "From rural priests to animal trackers, from a 12-year-old girl in California to three elderly women in Georgia, from senators to surfers and from Woody Harrelson to llama riders, an incredible array of people give us a thousand reasons to be hopeful."
In 2001, Werbach became one of the founders of the Green Zionist Alliance: The Grassroots Campaign for a Sustainable Israel, and ran in elections for the World Zionist Congress on a platform of environmentalism and social justice.
"It's important to work within the system to make it better," Werbach told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on his decision to help found the Green Zionist Alliance. "If you ignore it, it's at your own peril."
Werbach later formed a company, Act Now Productions, to consult to nonprofits and work with corporations that wished to green their enterprise, including clients such as Autodesk, Procter & Gamble, Cisco Systems, Columbia Records, Frito Lay, General Mills, Sierra Club, and World Wildlife Fund. In 2006, he controversially began to work with Wal-Mart to help lead their efforts in sustainability. In January 2008, Act Now Productions joined the global advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi to become Saatchi & Saatchi S, which consults with large corporations to "create sustainable visions." Today, Werbach spearheads Saatchi & Saatchi's global sustainability efforts in 80 countries.
In late 2004, Werbach wrote and presented a speech referred to as "Is Environmentalism Dead?" (the official title was "The Death of Environmentalism and the Birth of the Commons Movement") at the Commonwealth Club of California. This widely-circulated, controversial speech suggested that advances in environmentalism had stalled, due to outdated thinking and approaches. He challenged the environmental establishment to tackle the issues differently, by linking environmental goals with other broad social and economic goals.
Werbach, a San Francisco resident, was appointed in 2003 by San Francisco city supervisor Chris Daly to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission while then Mayor Willie Brown was out of town. Additionally in April 2006, Werbach was elected to the six-member international board of Greenpeace He was subsequently re-elected and later resigned to focus on writing his next book, Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto. In 2010, Werbach wrote Extinction/Adaptation, a one-hundred copy limited edition ABC book illustrated by the artists Andrew Schoultz and Kyle Knobel. The book catalogued extinctions and adaptations in human behavior.
Werbach was named to the American Advertising Federation's "Hall of Achievement" for his contributions to promoting pro-social, anti-consumptive marketing. Werbach commented, "Giving an advertising award to a lifetime ecological activist is like the American Grammatical Association giving a lifetime achievement award to Sarah Palin."
Werbach lives in San Francisco and Bolinas, California and is married to Lyn Werbach. They have three children.
In 2009, he distanced himself even further from the green lobby with a new book, Strategy for Sustainability, an appeal to the business world to consider long-term profitability and transparency above everything else. "Environmentalism still has a role to play", he says. "Particularly a focus on reducing the carbon in the atmosphere... But that's certainly not enough to run a company on. They've tried to use it as a business framework and it doesn't work. It's too narrow a definition."
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