The Institute

Our History

Tellus Institute was established in 1976 as an interdisciplinary, not-for-profit research and policy organization. Our aim was, and is, to bring scientific rigor and systemic vision to critical environmental and social issues. The time was right for a young institute bringing fresh thinking to new challenges, and we grew rapidly. Since 1976, we have conducted 3,500 projects throughout the world, becoming an internationally recognized leader in the emerging field of sustainable development.

Riding a Wave of Change

The story of Tellus has unfolded in the context of staggering changes around us. Many of the terms we use to describe our current work—global scenarios, planetary phase of civilization, sustainability, climate change, etc.—were not part of our vocabulary at our inception nearly a half-century ago. As the world’s challenges have grown more daunting and interlinked, the scope of our work has broadened to whole social-ecological systems, a global panorama, and timeframes that stretch to many decades.

A Far-Reaching Program

We have worked at all geographic levels—global, regional, national, local, and enterprise—bringing an integrated perspective to bear on environmental, social, and economic questions. Key thematic foci have included energy, water, sustainable communities, corporate responsibility, and climate change, with projects often featuring the development of alternative scenarios of the future. The Institute’s range of sponsors—private foundations, government agencies, the United Nations, and civil society and business organizations—has reflected the diversity of our program. Tellus has partnered with hundreds of organizations, notably the Stockholm Environmental Institute, with which we coordinated programs for nearly two decades.

A New Phase

At Tellus, we are now embarked on a new phase, reframing our programs around the larger mission of advancing a just and sustainable planetary civilization. This Great Transition would entail a fundamental shift in human values and in the ways we produce, consume, and live. The key is balancing the rights of all people now alive with those of future generations and the wider community of life. Realizing this depends on generating viable, attainable visions of another world, cultivating a sense of global citizenship, and engaging in collective action for systemic change. These are the aims that animate the research, outreach, and network-building efforts of the Tellus Institute.