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‘this is what I want to do’,” he recalls. “I’d always felt, like most people do about govern- ment: ‘Well, these are big problems, I can’t solve it but I’ll pay my taxes and expect it to get taken care of’, and I’d contribute to a non- profit to help now and again.”

After meeting John Cronin, the first full- time environmental watchdog to help restore the Hudson River’s ecology, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cronin’s lawyer, Tamminen formed the Santa Monica BayKeeper non- profit group, taking on the mantle of full-time ‘aqua-cop’. Over

the course of a six-year

period he went on to co-found five additional Waterkeeper programmes in California. Taking a leaf out of Kennedy’s book dur-

ing this period, he also helped co-found the Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic at the University of California’s School of Law, a project that eventually led to the formation of the Environment Now think-tank. It was Kennedy himself

that put

ity is banging your head against the wall and expecting a different outcome.

“There’s that pent up demand from compa- nies who need funding, who need cooperation from government,” he adds.

“There’s pent up demand from investors, and there’s frustration from policymakers so I think it is a kind of perfect storm that has just crested. People are looking for solutions and things that work. You’ve got to have a bottom up solution to help the top-down.” Tamminen’s vehicle for bringing about this kind of change is Seventh Generation Advisors, a non-profit organisation he formed in 2007, and describes as a kind of “Wizard of Oz dot connector”.

The five-man operation’s main project is the ever-evolving R20, but there has also been high-impact work for clients like Walmart, Netjets, and Pegasus Capital, for which the team is primary sustainability policy advis- er for the $2B-strong Sustainable Century Merchant Bank.


Tamminen’s rise to become one the world’s influential and – in terms of


achievement – successful environmental poli- cy minds is remarkable by any standards. Born in Wisconsin in 1952, he led a peripa- tetic life with his mother and stepfather taking in Las Vegas, Texas, Mexico, Australia and Los Angeles, before embarking on a career arc that can only be described as berserk. In addition to his success in the afore- mentioned pool-cleaning business and Shakespearean predilection, he has at one time or another contributed to a tropical fish- breeding company; studied conch depletion

in the Bahamas and mariculture in the Gulf States; managed the largest sheep reach east of the Mississippi; developed new methods of livestock disease control for the University of Minnesota; assisted Nigeria with the creation of its first solid waste recycling programme; and managed a multimillion dollar real estate company.

“Jack of all trades master of none,” says Tamminen with a chuckle after running through his CV. “But I think that has helped me. My work is not in one silo – I’m not just a researcher, policy wonk or investor. It allows me to walk a little bit in everyone’s shoes and see the world from their perspective which, I hope, makes me a more effective advocate for what I’m trying to get done.”

Tamminen had been a “closet environmen- talist” his entire life, but it wasn’t until the early 1990s, having made a relative fortune in business, that he decided to take it to the next level.

“Maybe it was my midlife crisis but I sold my business, looked around and decided

Man in demand: last year Tamminen delivered more than 50 speeches and his latest book, Cracking the Carbon Code (left), featur- ing a foreword by Schwarzenegger, is published in the UK this month

in a

strong word for Tamminen when he saw Schwarzenegger (who is married to Kennedy- clan relation Maria Shriver) at a family get- together. “Arnold asked me to help him prepare a team of Republican and Democratic environ- mentalists,” Kennedy told the LA Times, “and the first person I called was Terry. Terry fit that bill because he had basically done every- thing. As a Shakespearean actor, I knew Terry would be good at articulating policy.” And the rest, as they say, is history. Unsurprisingly, Tamminen’s mind is in much demand at the moment (pre-interview he was helping Schwarzenegger pinpoint which conferences would be worth speaking at, and his phone is constantly ringing in the background). Last year he delivered over 50 speeches, and his latest book, Cracking the Carbon Code: The Keys to Sustainable Profits in the New Economy, has just hit the shops. Seventh Generation Advisors could easily evolve into a huge organisation, Tamminen says, taking on full-scale managerial control of projects like the R20 entirely, but he wants to stay small and nimble, ready to take on the next challenge, to “connect the next dot”. “I just don’t have enough hours in the day frankly to deal with all the people who hear about the R20, or the successful investment portfolios moving into clean technology,” he says.

Among those seeking his guidance of late are California’s freshly minted Governor Jerry Brown. “I don’t worry about where the next hill is to take. When I get to the point where the phone stops ringing I’ll worry about that, but for the moment I’ll just keep moving forward.”

Sustainable Business | February 2011 | 21

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