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International business executive named head of Alliance for Global Sustainability

University research partnership seeks to move sustainability strategies to forefront of business and policy-making agendas
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LAUSANNE/ZURICH, Switzerland -- The Alliance for Global Sustainability (AGS), a university research alliance focusing on sustainable development, announced today that Goran Lindahl, former president and CEO of ABB Ltd. in Zurich, will be the next chairman of the AGS International Advisory Board.

Dr. Lindahl succeeds Stephan Schmidheiny, the Swiss philanthropist who founded the AGS in 1996 with an initial amount of $10 million and brought together three universities -- the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH) and the University of Tokyo (UT) -- to form a partnership for addressing complex issues at the juncture of environmental and economic goals.

Dr. Lindahl, who has served on the AGS Board since 1997, will carry the five-year-old AGS into the second phase of its existence, aiming at developing strategies to disseminate the information and technology gained through the research funded by AGS to date.

"Goran Lindahl exemplifies the visionary leadership that is needed to move the agenda for sustainable development forward on a foundation of sound science and technology," said Charles M. Vest, president of MIT. "We are delighted that he has accepted our invitation to serve as the next chairman of our International Advisory Board."

Olaf Kubler, president of ETH, said, "Under Goran Lindahl's leadership, ABB joined forces with the AGS to address the critical problem of meeting China's energy needs. The China Energy Technology Project is a model AGS project, one that combines education and outreach with top-flight multidisciplinary research, and exemplifies the tremendous good that can come of partnerships between industry, academia and other agents of change in society."

The president of UT, Shigehiko Hasumi, stated, "I can think of no better successor to the tremendous leadership of Stephan Schmidheiny, whose generosity and vision made the AGS possible, than Goran Lindahl. I visualize several Japanese companies supporting AGS's future."

Dr. Schmidheiny said, "I see Goran Lindahl with his international standing and network as one of few who can take AGS into its next phase. Goran and I share the values of closing not only the poverty gap but also the skills gap. I expect AGS to make major contributions to world development."


The announcement was made following the AGS's annual meeting, held this year in Lausanne, Switzerland from January 14-17. The central theme of this year's meeting was tools for sustainable development. Attendees first articulated major problems in specific sectors, then identified strategies, methods and technologies for linking science and decision making to solve these problems using the results of AGS-supported research.

Through aggressive outreach and education, the AGS aims to transform the decision-making process at all levels of society, providing people with an awareness of the issues of global sustainability. A further goal is to translate research findings into effective action on a timely basis and to prepare a new generation of business, government and academic leaders to meet these challenges.

The AGS funds inter-university research projects headed by teams of investigators from the three partner universities, with participation by scientists from other institutions, often in the regions being studied. Since its founding it has supported more than 50 projects engaging hundreds of graduate students and faculty, mainly in the areas of mobility, energy, and water and agriculture. Additional information can be found at the AGS web site.

Current projects include:

  • reducing pollution and increasing energy efficiency in China's township, village and state-owned enterprises
  • creating cleaner technologies for China's coke-making industry
  • designing comprehensive models for forecasting worldwide transportation demand and its implications of greenhouse gases
  • analyzing and developing tools for improved watershed management; a case study of Mexico City to better understand the relationship between urban, regional and global air pollution
  • creating methodologies to assess the sustainability of agriculture, especially in arid and semi-arid regions

Goran Lindahl stated, "It is with a lot of modesty and respect that I take on this obligation to promote a sounder state of the world. It is a difficult mission to follow Stephan Schmidheiny with his major contribution and deep values that have penetrated AGS policies. His initiative to create AGS and his devotion of time, as well as his generosity in sharing, make this a hard act to follow. I can only promise to try to do the best of my ability."


Goran Lindahl, D.Sc. (Eng.), the president and CEO of ABB since January 1997, stepped down from that position at the end of December 2000. Among the strategic changes carried out at ABB during his time as CEO are the 2-billion-pound acquisition of Elsag Bailey Process Automation, the divestiture of ABB's 50-percent interest in the Adtranz rail joint venture with DaimlerChrysler and the creation with France's ALSTOM of the ABB ALSTOM POWER joint venture, the world's largest power generation company.

Dr. Lindahl, who holds a graduate degree in engineering from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, first joined ASEA AB, the former Swedish co-parent of ABB, as a development engineer in 1971. He subsequently held a number of management positions in research and marketing. In 1985 he was appointed president of ASEA Transmission and in 1986 became a member of ASEA Group Executive Management. He was appointed executive vice president of ABB and a member of the company's Executive Committee when the company was created in 1988 through the merger of ASEA and BBC Brown Boveri of Switzerland. He also served as executive vice president in charge of the power transmission and distribution segment in the Middle East and North Africa Region before his appointment as president and CEO.

Under his leadership, ABB became one of the original signatories of the United Nations Global Compact and extensively transferred value-added activities to emerging markets. Dr. Lindahl helped develop ABB's engagement in Poland, Russia, China and Latin America and had a deep personal involvement in furthering the company's business in the United States, Europe and Japan.


Stephan Schmidheiny served as the principal advisor for business and industry to Maurice Strong, the secretary-general of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro). In order to involve the international business community and formulate a position on the ways in which corporations could merge business aims with environmental consciousness, Dr. Schmidheiny formed the Business Council on Sustainable Development. He personally recruited 47 CEOs of multinational corporations to serve on the council.

In January 1995, the council merged with the 85-member World Industry Council for the Environment to become the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). Today the WBCSD continues to respond to challenges resulting from the Earth Summit and has become the most important business voice on sustainable development.

At about that same time, Dr. Schmidheiny formulated his idea for the Alliance for Global Sustainability and selected MIT, ETH and UT to partner the organization. Dr. Schmidheiny has provided leadership to the AGS since its founding through his role as chairman of the International Advisory Board, a role that Dr. Lindahl now steps into.

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