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Launching Capitalism 2.0

Dream Couple: The Malkins envision a more sustainable business model.
Longtime NRDC trustee Shelly Malkin is a conservationist who feels at home painting wildlife in Africa and scaling the red rock walls of Zion National Park in Utah. At the same time, her family has deep roots in the oil and gas industry, and her husband, Tony, represents the third generation of a real estate dynasty whose crown jewel is the world's most famous skyscraper, New York City's Empire State Building. In their daily life the Malkins have worked hard to find a middle ground where prosperity and stewardship go hand in hand. "We want companies to understand that it is in their economic interest to deal with environmental problems like global warming," Shelly says. "Clean, green energy is going to be the next great industry. We want to direct capital to solutions that support sustainable growth."
The trouble is, capital markets and environmental groups haven't often been allies. The Malkins are helping to change that. As founding supporters of NRDC's new Center for Market Innovation, they are leading an effort to shape market forces so that environmentally sound practices are rewarded. The center works with executives from Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, and other financial concerns to encourage clean energy through smart investment and market-based policy such as national climate legislation.
Tony, a member of the center's advisory council, has been instrumental in convincing investment fund managers not only to back future climate legislation but also to make clean investments right now. And he is already seeing results: "Now, when we sit down with people, I can see the lightbulbs go off."
"Tony is helping us stop the financial sector from sinking more money into long-lived polluting infrastructure like coal plants," says Rick Duke, the center's director. Tony has also encouraged NRDC to use financial data to strengthen its hand in the climate debate. "We have done some hard-number analyses so people understand what cap-and-trade legislation will do for the economy," Duke says, "so they know the ramifications of their vote. That is often missing in policy debates."
Maybe it's that combination of financial acumen and sound decision-making that is winning over the Malkins' relatives. "My family has been in business for generations," Shelly says. "They are not from the deep-green side of things, but they all support these ideas. They think this model makes sense."
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Emily Cousins blogs about life after cancer for young survivors at She also writes about climate change, clean energy, and toxins in the environment for NRDC. After four years exploring the redrock desert, she and her family now liv... READ MORE >