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Center for Environment, Economy, and Society


The Center for Environment, Economy, and Society expounds the interdependence of environment, economy, and society through research, education, professional development, and worldwide outreach.

CEES believes that government alone cannot be responsible for the health of the environment: The task is too complex and interacts with too many spheres of daily life. Communities need to recognize the social and economic value of the natural environment. Businesses must join communities as welcome and active partners by investing in the environment to promote economic growth that benefits rather than degrades natural capital. If businesses recognize the economic benefits of a healthy environment and the costs of a degraded environment, they will be motivated to invest in surrounding environmental and societal infrastructures. Effective strategies for both economic growth and environmental sustainability are more likely to emerge from this realization than through onerous, costly, or unenforceable regulatory requirements. Effective strategies are characterized by community compatibility and long-term horizons for economic and environmental sustainability, and by innovative means of bringing these issues to students, professionals, and the general public.

CEES  has a two-pronged strategy for promoting its core belief in the interdependence of environment, economy, and society: one focus is on Applied Research and Implementation (ARI) and the other focus is on Education, Professional Development, and Outreach (EPDO).


CEES was formed in 2006 under the auspices of Columbia University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Consistent with its belief in the necessity of bridging the gap between conservation science and business, CEES is led by its Co-Directors Don Melnick, Thomas Hunt Morgan Professor of Conservation Biology in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology (E3B); and Geoffrey Heal, Paul Garrett Professor on Public Policy & Business Responsibility at the Columbia Business School (CBS) and Professor at the School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA). CEES is funded by more than a dozen foundation grants and gifts.


  • Jonathan R. Cole Professor of Sociology
  • G. Unger Vetlesen Professor Emeritus of Earth and Climate Sciences, Professor Emerutus of Applied Physics and Applied Math, Special Research Scientist in the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
  • Donald C. Waite III Professor of Social Enterprise in the Faculty of Business, Professor of International and Public Affairs
  • Alan and Carol Silberstein Professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering and of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Director, Columbia Water Center in the Earth Institute
  • Thomas Hunt Morgan Professor of Conservation Biology in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Professor of Anthropology and Biological Sciences, Director, Center for Environment, Economy and Society