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Environmental alliance names new head

The Alliance for Global Sustainability (AGS), a university research alliance focusing on sustainable development, announced last week 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 -- 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 alliance into the second phase of its existence, aiming at developing strategies to disseminate the information and technology gained through the research funded by the 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 President Charles M. Vest. "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, said, "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 the 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 the 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 interuniversity research projects headed by teams of investigators from the three partner universities, with participationby 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.
  • Performing 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 semiarid regions.

"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," Dr. Lindahl said. "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, DSc (Eng), the president and CEO of ABB since January 1997, stepped down from that position in December. He holds a graduate degree in engineering from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden He 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 before his appointment as president and CEO.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 24, 2001.

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