The Tellus Institute is a non-profit research and policy organization based in Boston, Massachusetts. Its mission is to advance the transition to a sustainable, equitable, and humane global civilization. The Tellus Institute was founded in 1976 by Paul Raskin, Richard Rosen, Stephen Bernow, John Stutz, and David Nichols for the purpose of research on resource and environmental strategies. Dr. Paul Raskin is the President of the Institute. In the early years, it was not called Tellus but was rather, the Energy Systems Research Group (ESRG).
Since 1976 Tellus has conducted over 3,500 resource management and environmental strategy projects throughout the world. The Institute is well known in the environmental strategies domain for its many studies on state and municipality recycling programs, including its 1992 Packaging study, the 2008 Assessment of Options for Massachusetts' Solid Waste Master Plan, the Preliminary Analysis of the Costs and Benefits of Bottle Bills study done for the US EPA, and the 2000 study "Measuring Waste Prevention in New York City", conducted jointly with the SAIC (U.S. company).
Through the years Tellus has created numerous scientific tools and reports in many different areas, including energy, water, sustainable communities, corporate social responsibility, and climate change; however, since 2005 the Institute has shifted its focus to developing a Great Transition vision for a sustainable future.
Research and Programs
The main body of Tellus' current research specializes in the application of quantitative analysis to the development of possible future scenarios.
Tellus has also launched a number of subsidiary working groups and research programs:
- The Global Scenario Group (GSG) was convened in 1995 in order to compile a set of possible scenarios for global development in the twenty-first century. Its goal was to identify a sustainable and equitable future within this set of scenarios and to isolate the policies, actions, and human choices required to achieve this scenario. Its findings indicated that an environmentally sustainable, socially equitable future was possible; the GSG termed this future the Great Transition. The GSG’s work culminated with the 2002 publication of Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead. Paul Raskin led the GSG, which consisted of more than 20 environmental scholars from throughout the globe. Scenarios developed by the GSG have informed the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global Environment Outlook series, as well as other international and national vision studies.
- The Great Transition Initiative (GTI) was formed in 2003 to re-channel the momentum of the GSG. Its mandate is to continue scenario development, disseminate the Great Transition vision to a larger audience, and build a network of GTI members. The GTI coordinating unit consists of Paul Raskin, Orion Kriegman, Tariq Banuri, and Allen White.
- Corporation 20/20 is an initiative of Tellus focused on corporate social responsibility. Its mission is to develop and advocate the redesign of corporations so that business is guided by social purpose as well as financial gain. Co-founded in 2004 by Allen White, Vice President of Tellus, and Marjorie Kelly, co-founder and former Editor of Business Ethics magazine, Corporation 20/20 hosts a forum of leading thinkers, practitioners, and advocates who work to construct alternate visions of the corporate structure, which it then disseminates into the corporate community.
- The Global Reporting Initiative, founded by Ceres (organization) and Tellus Vice President Allen White, had the goal of developing and disseminating a standardized framework for sustainability reporting. Now an autonomous organization based in Amsterdam, the GRI's framework has become the de facto international standard used by over 1,200 companies for corporate reporting on environmental, social and economic performance.
- The Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings (GISR) is an initiative launched by Ceres and Tellus in 2011 whose goal is to develop an independent, standardized framework for sustainability ratings.
- Although no longer a separate entity from Tellus itself, the Center for Social Philanthropy, founded by Tellus Fellow Joshua Humphreys, is still actively researching Impact investing and Socially responsible investing as part of Tellus' efforts to develop a vision for a sustainable, Great Transition world. The Center was most well known for its influential 2010 report Educational Endowments and the Financial Crisis: Social Costs and Systemic Risks in the Shadow Banking System, which was widely circulated and cited as the basis for the Higher Education Transparency Act, sponsored by State Senator Patricia Jehlen and Representative Mike Moran in the 2011-12 Massachusetts State House legislative session.
- Boston Scenario Project was initiated in 2005 as a process for developing local scenarios for the Boston metropolitan region that mirror the global-scale scenarios described in the Great Transition essay. The project seeks to reconcile worldwide effects with local actions in order to envision a future of sustainability, pluralism, justice, and global responsibility for the Boston region, which would also contribute to worldwide sustainability and equity. The Boston Scenario Project is coordinated by James Goldstein, Tellus Senior Fellow.
Tellus developed and uses a series of software programs in its research. These programs were designed for strategic planning and scenario analysis, allowing the user to create, evaluate, and compare alternative futures based on current data and hypothetical trends. LEAP software facilitates energy-environment planning; WEAP, water planning; WastePlan, solid waste planning; and PoleStar, sustainability planning.
- Game On: The Basis of Hope in a Time of Despair. GTI Perspectives Series. 2013.
- US Investment in Large-Scale Land Acquisitions in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. Published by Oxfam America, 2013.
- Worker Equity in Food and Agriculture: Practices at the 100 Largest and Most Influential U.S. Companies. Published jointly with Sustainalytics, 2012.
- Total Portfolio Activation: A Framework for Creating Social and Environmental Impact across Asset Classes. 2012.
- Reinventing the Corporation. Chapter 7 of the WorldWatch Institute's "State of the World 2012" book, Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity. 2012.
- Recent Trends in Sustainable and Responsible Investing in the United States. The Journal of Investing. 2011.
- More Jobs, Less Pollution: Growing the Recycling Economy in the U.S. 2011.
- Global Scenarios for the Century Ahead: Searching for Sustainability. 2010.
- Educational Endowments and the Financial Crisis: Social Costs and Systemic Risks in the Shadow Banking System. 2010.
- Sustainable development
- Global Reporting Initiative
- Paul Raskin
- Great Transition
- Scenario analysis
- "Tellus Institute - About". Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- "Economic & Environmental Benefits of Beverage Container Recycling: The Case for Updating Massachusetts’ Bottle Bill". Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- "Comparison of System Costs and Materials Recovery Rates: Implementation of Universal Single Stream Recycling With and Without Beverage Container Deposits - Draft Report". Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- "Michigan Bottle Bill - A Final Report to: Michigan Great Lakes Protection Fund". Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- Tellus Packaging Study - P2 InfoHouse Reference Collection
- "Assessment of Materials Management Options for the MA Solid Waste Master Plan Review". Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- EPA Online Library System Reference
- "Is a National Bottle Bill Worthwhile?". Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- "Measuring Waste Prevention in New York City". Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- Tellus Institute - About
- Great Transition essay - GTI
- "Global Environment Outlook Scenario Framework: Background Paper for UNEP's Third Global Environment Outlook Report". Retrieved 15 May 2013.
- Great Transition Initiative - Who We Are
- Marjorie Kelly Bio
- Corporation 20/20 Website
- "What is GRI?". Retrieved 13 May 2013.
- "Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings - Why GISR". Retrieved 13 May 2013.
- "GISR Takes Major Step Towards Establishing a Standard of Excellence for Corporate Sustainability Ratings". Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- "Bill Seeks More Financial Data from Private Colleges". Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- "Using WastePlan to Enhance Full Cost Accounting and Integrated Waste Management in Wisconsin". Retrieved 15 May 2013.
-  Tellus Institute website
-  Great Transition Initiative website
-  Global Scenario Group website
-  Boston Scenarios Project website
-  Corporation 20/20 website
-  Stockholm Environment Institute website
-  Stockholm Environment Institute-US website
-  Information on PoleStar sustainability planning software
-  Information on WEAP water planning software
-  Information on LEAP energy and environmental planning software