World Resource Institute

WRI Annual Report 2020-21

Reckoning and Recovery

Working Toward a More Equitable and Sustainable Future

WRI Annual Report | 2020-2021

A Message from Our Board

2020 was a year like no other. The pandemic upended lives, cutting far too many tragically short, and the pervasiveness of social injustice and racism was on display.

Everyone has been touched by the pandemic, but it has struck vulnerable and marginalized communities hardest, revealing deep inequities across society.

At the same time, we see rays of hope—we can envision a world where people come together around common challenges and nature is prioritized. In the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as in the voices of climate activists and environmental defenders, a growing wave of people are standing up for a better, more equitable future. As the vaccine becomes more widely available, communities are beginning to bounce back. Human resilience cannot be denied.

As WRI’s Global Board Chairs and Co- Chairs, we are responsible for ensuring that the organization is on sound footing and guided by a clear strategic vision. This is especially true during these turbulent times. Over the past year, WRI has continued to focus on the interrelated challenges at the heart of its mission: climate, nature, economics and human development. Of course, staff had to adapt how they work—and they did. Thanks to the generosity and dedication of our partners and donors, who stuck with us through these difficult circumstances, the Institute pivoted quickly. WRI not only continued to run on all cylinders, but it made progress on core issues that exceeded our expectations.

We learned many lessons from 2020—about vulnerability and resilience and the importance of strong institutions and global cooperation. These lessons are increasingly embedded in WRI’s strategy and programs. Inclusion and equity have always been important to WRI; now we are making sure they are fully integrated into the Institute’s research agenda and recommendations.

WRI is also undergoing its own transition. After more than eight years, Andrew Steer has left the Institute to become the President and CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund. We are grateful to Andrew for his leadership and excited for him about this opportunity. Andrew left a bright mark on WRI, one which will continue to shine for years to come. During his tenure, he helped refocus WRI’s programs, sharpened its vision, expanded its reach and recruited many new partners. He pushed WRI to act boldly by emphasizing the importance of collaboration and catalyzing coalitions to drive systemic change. Thankfully, Andrew drew together a strong core of leaders and dedicated staff who will carry the mission forward.

We feel very fortunate that Manish Bapna has agreed to serve as Interim President and CEO. Manish, who is known for his sharp intellect and thoughtful demeanor, has been central to advancing WRI’s strategy over the last decade. We have full confidence in him and the rest of the leadership team, who will ensure that the Institute delivers on its agenda.

This is a critical year in a decisive decade. We are not naive about the challenges, but we firmly believe brighter days are approaching. The new U.S. administration has rejoined the Paris Agreement and has signaled its interest in working collectively to address climate change and other global challenges. More than 100 countries have committed to net zero emissions by midcentury. More than 1,200 companies have committed to set science-based emissions targets. Automobile manufacturers are expanding their fleets of electric vehicles, customers are embracing plant-based diets and communities are restoring degraded lands.

As we look beyond the pandemic, we envision a world that has closed the gap in inequity, drastically cut carbon emissions and better manages natural resources to improve the lives of all people.

We are grateful to all our partners and especially the donors who continue to generously support WRI on this journey. Together, we will continue to push toward the goal of a better and brighter future.

With best regards,

David Blood
WRI Global Board of Directors

James Harmon
WRI Global Board of Directors

Pam Flaherty
Vice Chair
WRI Global Board of Directors

Sue Tierney
Vice Chair
WRI Global Board of Directors

Our Global Network

WRI operates on five continents. Our 12 offices are united by our shared Count It, Change It, Scale It approach. Our global network advances rapid, systemic change in response to urgent environmental challenges while creating opportunities for inclusive growth and prosperity for all.


Through WRI Africa, we have been expanding our presence on the continent with a strong focus on conducting research and analysis and building partnerships to spur equitable economic growth and sustainable development. Our work spans 14 African countries, supported by offices in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Madagascar, as well as a regional hub in Ethiopia. Our WRI Africa strategy emphasizes developing solutions for Africa by Africans, informed by WRI’s global research, data and technology.


WRI Brasil is helping the country build back better from the COVID-19 crisis while tackling long-standing environment and development challenges. We conduct independent analysis and provide recommendations to spur inclusive urban development, reimagine mobility systems, scale up landscape restoration and make the economic case for inclusive low- carbon development in Brazil and the Amazon region.


Supporting China’s pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 and its 14th Five-Year Plan, WRI China develops comprehensive strategies that create opportunities for cities and regions to peak their carbon emissions before 2030. Our goal is to shift Chinese investments toward renewable energy and low-carbon technologies and to make supply chains more resilient.


WRI Europe works with the European Commission, national governments, companies and civil society organizations to support European leadership on climate, the environment and human development, including the continent’s contribution to the global recovery from COVID-19. With offices in The Hague and London, we foster innovative partnerships with government donors, foundations and thought leaders, working across WRI’s seven global programs.


WRI India provides evidence-based research and analysis on cities, energy, forests, resilience and climate that inform decision-making by government officials and business leaders. Our work aims to facilitate just transitions associated with the shift to clean energy, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the restoration of landscapes to help India mainstream resilience into development planning.


WRI Indonesia works with government officials to build back better from COVID-19 and advance sustainable economic growth through Indonesia’s new low-carbon development initiative. Our programs support sustainable agriculture production and protect intact forests while expanding clean energy access, enhancing food security, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing marine plastics.


WRI México focuses on climate, cities, forests, energy and the ocean. We work with federal and local governments and the private sector to increase climate ambition in Mexico as well as Colombia, where WRI recently opened an office. In 2020, we supported the response and recovery from the pandemic by focusing on social equity and climate justice.

United States

Our U.S. team collaborates with local, city, state and national leaders; members of Congress; and the Biden administration to accelerate the shift to a strong, equitable, zero-carbon economy. We focus on opportunities to decarbonize the economy, especially in transport and industry, and to promote a green and fair recovery from COVID-19. We also work to bolster U.S. engagement in the international arena on climate change and related global challenges.

“As we look to the world after COVID-19, we need to ensure that countries recover in a way that makes them stronger. Nowhere is this more critical than in Africa. I’m excited about WRI’s new strategy for Africa which aims not only to improve people’s lives, but to make them more resilient for the future.”
—Carlos Lopes, Professor, Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance University of Cape Town, WRI Global Board of Directors

Our Approach

WRI is a global, non-profit organization that works with governments, businesses and civil society to advance practical solutions that simultaneously improve people’s lives and ensure that natural systems thrive.

In working to achieve global change, we apply a threefold approach:

We start with data, creating user-friendly information systems, protocols and standards. We conduct independent, unbiased research to design solutions and communicate our findings in a compelling manner.

We work with communities and leaders of cities, companies and countries to achieve change, testing and adapting solutions in complex, real-world situations. We set clear objectives and hold ourselves accountable.

We identify and overcome barriers to change so that proven solutions spread quickly and widely. We create innovative coalitions that transform business sectors, societies and economies, nationally and globally. We achieve our greatest impacts through partnerships.


“Over the past decade, WRI has raised its profile as a leading organization, working with broad coalitions to drive transformative shifts in thinking and action. This approach is more urgent than ever to get the world on course to a safer and stronger future.”
—Christiana Figueres, Founding Partner, Global Optimism Former Executive Secretary, UNFCCC WRI Global Board of Directors

Focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

To achieve our global goals, WRI brings together a workforce from diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives who share common values. As the challenges of climate change, racial injustice, inequity and poverty are inseparable, so too, are the solutions. We recognize that working with people from different backgrounds, races, ethnicities and socioeconomic status is pivotal to our success. Our position is clear: WRI welcomes and respects diversity in all forms.

In light of the events of 2020, we have begun to place greater emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion where we work around the world. We are especially aware of the racism that persists in the United States. We are strengthening our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion to ensure that all of our staff and partners are fully engaged and supported.

We recognize that we have further to go to become an anti-racist organization. We recently created two working committees, which complement our existing affinity groups, to develop strategies and take action. Our U.S.-based committee focuses on advancing anti-racism, while our global committee focuses on advancing justice and social inclusion throughout our teams, as well as in our program work. The committees will analyze conditions and recommend changes in behavior and structure to enhance talent recruitment and retention philosophy. We are also working with colleagues across our global network to strengthen cultural humility by better understanding different cultural dimensions and how these issues play out in different contexts. Then we will develop tailored strategies to advance equity in those settings.

In addition, WRI has established a new internship program, DreamGREEN, that aims to increase diversity. The program offers six-month paid positions to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. In the coming year, we will also hire a senior team member, design and conduct a culture audit, implement a diversity recruitment plan, and help put equity and inclusion at the heart of our culture.

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