Mark Tercek might seem an unlikely boss of the Nature Conservancy, a big American green group. He spent little time outdoors in his youth and then a quarter of a century working for an investment bank. He has probably worn sandals from time to time; he is not known to have worn a beard. Yet this is apposite. Mr Tercek is at the forefront of a new, businesslike sort of environmentalism, which is changing the way companies and governments view nature.
It typically involves putting a valuation on the useful things that nature does, such as the provision of clean water by a spring or flood protection provided by a forest. Once the value of such “ecosystem services” is established, it can be included in business plans. Thus, New York City’s planners established that, to address their polluted water supply, they could either spend $8 billion to build a giant water treatment plant or $1.5 billion on planting trees and otherwise improving the Catskills watershed. At a stroke, they had a business case for tree-hugging.