Alan AtKisson

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Summary: Over twenty years of experience in sustainability leadership, consulting, analysis, and communication - and a passion for helping others succeed.

Consulting Experience

Alan advises large companies, governments, cities, foundations, NGOs, and the United Nations. He helps them to develop new strategy, design initiatives, manage complex programs, assess progress, and find better pathways to effective sustainability leadership. He recently assisted the United Nations in designing and launching its first global Office for Sustainable Development. His other current and recent clients include Levi Strauss & Co., Ernst & Young, WWF-USA, the Government of Serbia, the Egyptian National Council on Competitiveness, and the Nile Basin Initiative. In addition to his general strategic expertise, Alan has specialized experience in the areas of sustainability indicators and reporting, climate change strategy, renewable energy finance, green economic transformation, and large process facilitation. Alan also coaches sustainability executives on how to sharpen their knowledge, capacity, and effectiveness at leading change.

Leadership Experience

Alan draws on over twenty years of leadership experience in sustainable development, including chief executive roles in organizations such as Sustainable Seattle (which he co-founded and -led 1990-1995) and the International Network of Resource Information Centers (also known as the Balaton Group, he has served as President or Co-President since 2006). He has directed numerous projects and programs and has also, on two occasions, served as a transitional chief executive helping to lead institutions through major change processes. One of these occasions was for the economic policy institute Redefining Progress in 1996-97; the other was for the global Earth Charter Initiative in 2006-2007. With a background that combines business management, economics, journalism, science and the arts, he is dedicated to helping other leaders meet the practical challenges of sustainability with innovation and strategic vision.


In addition to writing dozens of essays and reports on sustainability-related topics, Alan is the author of two highly regarded books on sustainability theory and practice. Believing Cassandra: An Optimist Looks at a Pessimist's World (1999, updated and reissued in 2010) explains the origins of the modern sustainability movement through the lens of the mythological character, "Cassandra," who was given the special gift to see the future, but cursed so that no one would believe her warnings. An Amazon bestseller, reviewers called Believing Cassandra "a pivotal book" and "a very important work," and organizations purchased it by the carton to spread its "message of hope" to their colleagues. The new edition is also being translated into Russian and Chinese.

Alan's latest book is The Sustainability Transformation (Earthscan, 2010). Using the same personal, engaging writing style that made Believing Cassandra so popular, The Sustainability Transformation is an empowering and inspirational look at doing sustainability in practice, today. Mixing global trends, practical guidance, systems-based analysis, case studies, and profiles of successful "Change Agents," The Sustainability Transformation is a highly readable guide to the theory, practice, tools, methods, as well as the ethics of professional sustainability work. It has been called "the essential guide" (H. Lovins) as well as "inspiring and informative, offering clear and easy-to-follow framework and tools" (the journal Ecological Economics).

Speaker, Trainer, Creative Presenter

Alan frequently makes inspirational keynote speeches to conference audiences around the world. Through The ISIS Academy, he leads motivational workshops, training intensives, and Master Classes on sustainability and change. As a communicator, he writes for websites, blogs, tweets, and generally tries to share mission-critical information for accelerating sustainability. He can present effectively in English, Swedish, and French.

Alan is also known for his music: he writes songs and makes albums, which are available on iTunes and A singer-guitarist who led bands in New York in his 20's, Alan is known for occasionally surprising conference or workshop audiences with songs designed to make sustainability ideas engaging and memorable.

His website is:

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