WRI’s President and CEO Dr. Andrew Steer will be departing the institute to become President and CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund. Steer leaves after more than eight years at the helm of WRI, where he oversaw an era of expanded growth, reach and impact. Guided by Steer’s strong vision and leadership, the institute’s staff grew 5-fold and its budget quadrupled between 2012 and 2021.
WRI’s Board of Directors announced that Manish Bapna, currently WRI’s Executive Vice President and Managing Director, will serve as the Interim President and CEO. Bapna serves on the Executive Team, with responsibility for WRI’s institutional strategy and programmatic work, as well as for knitting the global network together.
“To address the urgent challenges of the climate crisis, incremental change will not be enough. In his new role, Andrew will have the opportunity to use his extraordinary vision, intelligence and enthusiasm to spur transformational change. These are qualities that he brought to WRI each day, and which we will miss deeply,” said WRI Board Co-Chair David Blood. “Under Andrew’s leadership, WRI has developed a strong and dedicated team of leaders and staff throughout its network who will carry its mission forward. I’m very pleased Manish has agreed to serve as the interim head of the organization to ensure that WRI will not miss a beat in delivering impact to the world.”
As the President and CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund, Steer will set the strategic vision and oversee the distribution of grants from the $10 billion fund. The fund’s large scale and commitment to address climate, nature and social justice in an integrated manner offers scope for truly transformative change this decade. It will work with scientists, NGOs, activists, and the private sector to spur new technologies, investments, policy change and behavior. Since climate change disproportionately hurts poor and marginalized communities, the fund will have a strong emphasis on supporting environmental justice organizations. Last November, the first round of Bezos Earth Fund grants were announced, with 16 not-for-profit organizations receiving $791 million in grants, including $141 million going to four organizations with deep roots and expertise in environmental justice.
“The $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund has the potential to be a transformative force for good at this decisive point in history. Andrew’s global reputation, deep technical knowledge and experience, and commitment to social justice make him a perfect leader for the fund,” said Christiana Figueres, co-founder of Global Optimism and former Executive Security of the UNFCCC. “Under Andrew’s leadership, WRI has expanded its profile as a highly influential international institution, bringing its “Count it, Change It, Scale It!” approach to the most important challenges of our times. WRI has a deep bench and will undoubtedly continue to drive global change. The coming decade will determine whether we succeed or fail in addressing climate change and becoming nature positive. Today’s announcement brings success a little closer."
During his tenure at WRI, Steer guided the institute on an impressive run, refocusing its work around seven inter-related global challenges: food, forests, water, energy, cities, climate and the ocean. Steer placed a greater emphasis on economics and equity, and he expanded WRI’s connection with world leaders and CEOs.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to join the Bezos Earth Fund as its CEO, where I will focus on driving systemic change to address the climate and nature crises, with a focus on people. Too many of the most creative initiatives suffer for a lack of finance, risk management or the right partnerships. This is where the Earth Fund will be helpful,” Steer said. “My time at WRI has been one of the happiest and most productive of my career. We have enjoyed wonderful growth in impact, size and geographical reach. We have built a superb team of experts and managers. I feel heartened to be leaving WRI in the hands of a remarkable leadership team and top-notch Board, along with an array of trusted donors and partners. I’m looking forward to this next chapter to identify new and transformative solutions to address the same global challenges.”
Steer oversaw the development of more than a dozen impactful, high-profile coalitions and major initiatives, including working with leading economists to reshape understanding around the economics of climate change, mobilizing a global commission to elevate climate adaptation on the political agenda, and launching a $10 million per year initiative to support over 100 countries in implementing their national climate plans. Other initiatives that have thrived during Andrew’s watch, include accelerating landscape restoration in Africa and Latin America, enlisting more than 1,500 companies to commit to science-based emissions targets, and partnering with the World Economic Forum to accelerate a global shift to a circular economy.
Steer encouraged the organization to expand its global reach. When he arrived at WRI in 2012, most of WRI’s staff were based in Washington, DC. Today, the majority of its 1,400 staff are based outside the United States. WRI has opened offices in Indonesia, the UK, and Colombia, as well as regional hubs for Africa in Ethiopia and for Europe in the Netherlands. The institute has also enhanced is capacity in existing offices in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Mexico.
"Hiring Andrew to lead WRI was one of the best decisions I ever made," said WRI Board Co-Chair Jim Harmon. "During his tenure, Andrew fostered a culture of excellence and created unexpected and high-impact coalitions, including with leaders in the private sector, that have given WRI the ability to drive change on a global scale. I am delighted that he will bring these qualities to the Bezos Earth Fund, and I’m confident that WRI will benefit from his legacy for years to come."
In November 2020, WRI was selected as a recipient of resources from the Bezos Earth Fund, which has helped the organization launch two major initiatives and expand its impact. WRI is using these funds to oversee two major climate-related projects. The first one will support the electrification of the entire U.S. school bus fleet, which will benefit communities across the United States by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. The second initiative will be the creation of a global land and carbon monitoring system that will provide accurate emissions data around land use that will be accessible to anyone.
Steer will be starting his new position in the coming weeks. He is just the 3rd president in WRI’s 39-year history.
“I am deeply thankful to Andrew for his leadership and friendship. He pushed the organization to sharpen its strategy and seize many exciting opportunities. The Bezos Earth Fund will greatly benefit from his vision and inspiring spirit. I look forward to continuing our work with the fund in pursuit of our shared goals of driving system-wide change to create an equitable and sustainable world,” said Manish Bapna, Interim President and CEO. “WRI’s mission is critical, and even more so given the extraordinary moment in which we live. I look forward to working with colleagues and partners to push our agenda forward with passion and perseverance to tackle the great challenges of our times.”