Pavan Sukhdev

Pavan Sukhdev

Pavan Sukhdev is Founder-CEO of GIST Advisory, an environmental consulting firm that helps governments and corporations discover, value, and manage their impacts on natural and human capital. He has been awarded the 2011 McCluskey Fellowship by Yale University. Previously, he was Special Adviser and Head of UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative, lead author of their “Green Economy Report”, and Study Leader for the G8+5 commissioned project on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (“TEEB”). A former banker at Deutsche Bank, he founded and chaired Global Markets Centre – Mumbai, a leading-edge front-office offshoring company.  Pavan chairs the World Economic Forum’s “Global Agenda Council” on Biodiversity, was a speaker at Davos in 2010 and 2011, and serves on the boards of Conservation International and the Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Photo Credit: Pexels

Island Press Holiday Gift Guide 2016

This holiday season, give the gift of an Island Press book. With a catalog of more than 1,000 books, we guarantee there's something for everyone on your shopping list. Check out our list of staff selections, and share your own ideas in the...

This holiday season, give the gift of an Island Press book. With a catalog of more than 1,000 books, we guarantee there's something for everyone on your shopping list. Check out our list of staff selections, and share your own ideas in the comments below. 

For the OUTDOORSPERSON in your life:

Water is for Fighting Over by John Fleck | An Island Press book

Water is for Fighting Over...and Other Myths about Water in the West by John Fleck
Anyone who has ever rafted down the Colorado, spent a starlit night on its banks, or even drank from a faucet in the western US needs Water is for Fighting Over. Longtime journalist John Fleck will give the outdoors lover in your life a new appreciation for this amazing river and the people who work to conserve it. This book is a gift of hope for the New Year.

Satellites in the High Country: Searching for the Wild in the Age of Man by Jason Mark
Do you constantly find your friend waxing poetic about their camping tales and their intimate connection to the peaceful, yet mysterious powers of nature? Sounds like they will relate to Jason Mark’s tales of his expeditions across a multitude of American landscapes, as told in Satellites in the High Country. More than a collection of stories, this narrative demonstrates the power of nature’s wildness and explores what the concept of wild has come to mean in this Human Age.

What Should a Clever Moose Eat?: Natural History, Ecology, and the North Woods by John Pastor
Is the outdoorsperson in your life all dressed up in boots, parka, and backpack with nowhere to go? Looking for meaning in another titanium French press coffeemaker for the camp stove? What Should a Clever Moose Eat leaves the technogadgets behind and reminds us that all we really need to bring to the woods when we venture out is a curious mind and the ability to ask a good question about the natural world around us. Such as, why do leaves die? What do pine cones have to do with the shape of a bird’s beak? And, how are blowflies important to skunk cabbage? A few quality hours among its pages will equip your outdoor enthusiast to venture forth and view nature with new appreciation, whether in the North Woods with ecologist John Pastor or a natural ecosystem closer to home.

Also consider: River Notes by Wade Davis, Naturalist by E.O. Wilson

For the CLIMATE DENIER in your life:

Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change by Yoram Bauman
This holiday season, give your favorite climate-denier a passive aggressive “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” with The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change featuring self –described Stand-up Economist Yoram Bauman and award-winning illustrator Grady Klein. Give the gift of fun, entertaining basic understanding of what is, undeniably and not up for subjective debate, scientific fact!

Also consider: Heatstroke by Anthony Barnosky, Straight Up by Joseph Romm

For the HEALTH NUT in your life:

Unnatural Selection: How We Are Changing Life, Gene by Gene by Emily Monosson
Give the health nut in your life the gift of understanding with Unnatural Selection. Your friends and family will discover how chemicals are changing life on earth and how we can protect it. Plus, they’ll read fascinating stories about the search for a universal vaccine, the attack of relentless bedbugs, and a miracle cancer drug that saved a young father’s life.

Also consider: Toms River by Dan Fagin, Roads Were Not Built for Cars by Carlton Reid, 

For the ADVOCATE in your life:

Prospects for Resilience: Insights from New York City's Jamaica Bay by Sanderson, et. al
Need an antidote to the doom and gloom? Stressed-out environmental advocates will appreciate Prospects for Resilience: Insights from New York City's Jamaica Bay. It’s a deep dive into one of the most important questions of our time: how can we create cities where people and nature  thrive together? Prospects for Resilience showcases successful efforts to restore New York’s much abused Jamaica Bay, but its lessons apply to any communities seeking to become more resilient in a turbulent world.

Ecological Economics by Josh Farley and Herman Daly
Blow the mind of the advocate in your life with a copy of Ecological Economics by the godfather of ecological economics, Herman Daly, and Josh Farley. In plain, and sometimes humorous English, they’ll come to understand how our current economic system does not play by the same laws that govern nearly every other system known to humankind—that is, the laws of thermodynamics. Given recent financial and political events, there’s a message of hope within the book as it lays out specific policy and social change frameworks.

Also consider: Tactical Urbanism by Mike Lydon, Cooler Smarter by The Union of Concerned Scientists

For the CRAZY CAT PERSON in your life:

An Indomitable Beast: The Remarkable Journey of the Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz
The cat lovers in your life will lose themselves in An Indomitable Beast, an illuminating story about the journey of the jaguar. This is the perfect book for any of your feline loving friends, whether they want to pursue adventure with the big cats of the wild, or stay home with a book and cup of tea.

Also consider: The Carnivore Way by Cristina Eisenberg, Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz 

For the GARDENER in your life:

Wild by Design: Strategies for Creating Life-Enhancing Landscapes by Margie Ruddick
Give your favorite gardener an antidote to the winter blues. The lush photographs of Wild by Design, and inspirational advice on cultivating landscapes in tune with nature, transport readers to spectacular parks, gardens, and far-flung forests. This book is guaranteed to be well-thumbed and underlined by the time spring planting season arrives!

Also consider: Brilliant Green by Stefano Mancuso, Principles of Ecological Landscape Design, Travis Beck

For the STUBBORN RELATIVE in your life:

Common Ground on Hostile Turf: Stories from an Environmental Mediator by Lucy Moore
For the person keeping the peace in your family this holiday season, the perfect gift is Common Ground on Hostile Turf, an inspiring how to guide demonstrating it is possible to bring vastly different views together. This book gives lessons learned on setting down at the table with the most diverse set of players and the journey they take to find common grounds and results. If your holiday dinner needs some mediation, look to the advice of author Lucy Moore.

Also consider: Communication Skills for Conservation Professionals by Susan Jacobson, Communicating Nature by Julia Corbett

For the HISTORY BUFF in your life: 

The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation is Reviving America's Communities by Stephanie Meeks with Kevin C. Murphy
When it comes to the the future of our cities, the secret to urban revival lies in our past. Tickle the fancy of your favorite history buff by sharing The Past and Future City, which takes readers on a journey through our country's historic spaces to explain why preservation is important for all communities. With passion and expert insight, this book shows how historic spaces explain our past and serve as the foundation of our future.

Also consider: The Forgotten Founders by Stewart Udall, Aldo Leopold's Odyssey, Tenth Anniversary Edition by Julianne Lutz Warren

For the BUSINESS PERSON in your life:

Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature by Mark Tercek
For the aspiring CEO in your life who drools at phrases like "rates of return" and "investment," share the gift of Nature's Fortune, an essential guide to the world's economic (and environmental) well-being.

Also consider: Corporation 2020 by Pavan Sukhdev, Resilient by Design by Joseph Fiksel

#ForewordFriday: Corporation 2020 Edition

Earlier this week, Corporation 2020 author Pavan Sukhdev wrote about...

Earlier this week, Corporation 2020 author Pavan Sukhdev wrote about Peabody Energy filing for bankruptcy protection in light of news that the company has funded dozens of climate-denying groups. Read what he had to say about how this funding undermines the resilience of business and relates to lessons from Corporation 2020, and check out an excerpt from his book below. 


Evolve or Perish: Lessons from Peabody Energy

On its way to bankruptcy, Peabody, along with four other major U.S. coal producers spent nearly $100 million over the last ten years on political lobbying to help protect federal tax-funded fossil fuel subsidies.

Pavan Sukhdev, author of  Corporation 2020reflects on Peabody Energy filing for bankruptcy protection in light of news that the company has funded dozens of climate-denying groups. He offers his thoughts on how this funding undermines the resilience of Peabody and how it undermines the resilience of all businesses. 

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal producer, applied for “reorganisation” under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code on April 13, 2016. This means it will retain control of its operations, but under judicial oversight, and present to the court a reorganization plan within 120 days, and persuade its creditors to accept the plan within 180 days. The company had been struggling to stay afloat due to a drop in coal prices, competitive natural gas prices, the Chinese economic slowdown and increasing environmental regulation.

In late-2015, Peabody settled an investigation launched in 2007 by the New York State Attorney General, recognising the need for and agreeing to make full disclosures around the business risks posed by climate change to its investors. The AG’s office accused Peabody of “providing incomplete and one-sided discussions” of the International Energy Agency’s findings by only reporting the highest future coal use projections in an attempt to mislead investors2. Further, a consulting firm hired by Peabody projected in March 2014, that a $20/tonne carbon tax would reduce coal demand for power generation in 2020 by 38% - 58%; it did not disclose this either to its investors.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Investors ought to have been sceptical of a carbon intensive company claiming inflated future profit projections, as Peabody’s bankruptcy was by no means an outlier. Since 2012, around 50 coal companies in the U.S. have declared bankruptcy, including three of the four largest coal producers in the U.S. - Peabody, Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources - accounting for 41% of total output. Given such adverse conditions, investors now find themselves in a risky environment where, on a conservative scenario analysis, global assets worth $2 trillion risk becoming stranded assets. Over 500 institutions valued at $3.4 trillion have already divested from the fossil fuel industry.

Peabody’s stock price has fallen from a high of $72.71 in April 2011 to $1.37 in June 2016. This is not the first time we have come across such a story. Years ago, Enron also pursued risky investments under highly leveraged structures to the point that they declared bankruptcy. Their stock also tumbled from $90 in 2000 to less than $1 in 2001. Much of Peabody’s downfall can be ascribed to its poorly timed $5.2 billion purchase of Macarthur Coal in 2011, for which it borrowed $4.1 billion, even as industry experts projected a grim outlook. Peabody’s pursuit of size and overleveraging, much akin to Enron’s, placed in danger the futures of its 7,000 employees, its creditors, and its investors.

On its way to bankruptcy, Peabody, along with four other major U.S. coal producers spent nearly $100 million over the last ten years on political lobbying to help protect federal tax-funded fossil fuel subsidies. As part of its aggressive and unethical lobbying, Peabody made generous Political Action Committee (PAC) donations to federal candidates—an alarming majority of which went to Republican candidates over each of the last nine election cycles (Table 1).

Peabody’s bankruptcy filing inadvertently exposed its funding of the "climate denial" movement by means of donations to think tanks, climate sceptic scientists and lobby groups. In 2014-15, the company donated $332,000 in “charitable gifts and donations” through the Peabody Investment Corporation to organisations involved in attacks on climate science. Donations were also made to several climate deniers, most notably Richard Berman, who had once compared the U.S. EPA to terrorists. Peabody is also a vocal opponent of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which is widely hailed as the most  ambitious step taken against climate change and supported by major corporations such as Unilever, Nestle, eBay and L’Oréal.

By funding the climate denial lobby, Peabody acted in a self-serving manner in a failed attempt to maintain its position in the market. It was evidently trying everything it could to survive in a changing economic landscape where the vast majority of consumers have chosen to no longer ignore anthropogenic global warming.

We have been here before—with the tales of Enron, Volkswagen, ExxonMobil, BP and others.

In my book Corporation 2020 I identify some key characteristics of today’s dominant yet defunct corporate model, which I call “Corporation 1920:” the pursuit of size, aggressive and unethical lobbying, unethical advertising, leverage without limits, all leading to huge negative externalities: the public costs of private profits. Peabody ticks every box of “Corporation 1920.”

In an evolving landscape of consumer interests and citizen demands, Peabody’s “Corporation 1920” model and ethics are outdated. Peabody undermined its own future and survival by acting against the public interest. Worldwide, capital misallocation to earth-system-threatening fossil fuel fuels over the last decade has been huge, averaging an estimated USD 950 billion a year. Markets are meant to punish the misallocation of capital, and the message from investors is clear: they recognize that fossil fuel investments are stranded assets, and will gradually re-allocate capital away from them. The lesson for the fossil fuel industry as well as those that produce fossil-fuel-intensive goods and services is clear: evolve or perish.      

We have been here before—with the tales of Enron, Volkswagen, ExxonMobil, BP and several other such corporations that made considered choices to pursue private profits at the expense of public risks and losses. They all have recurring themes that revolved around the DNA of “Corporation 1920.” We must address these recurring corporate traits through appropriate legislation while improving citizen education in order to tackle the demand and supply sides of our Corporation 1920 challenge. To build an inclusive green economy of permanence, one that works for everyone, we need Corporation 2020. Its time is now.


Peabody Bankruptcy Papers