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Who We Are and What We Do

RMI's Cofounder, Chief Scientist and Chairman Emeritus Amory Lovins describes "who we are" and "what we do."

Who we are

Rocky Mountain Institute is an independent, entrepreneurial, public-benefit, §501(c)(3)/509(a)(1) think-and-do tank. It was cofounded in 1982 by Amory Lovins, who remains its very active thought leader, Chairman, and Chief Scientist. Its CEO, Jules Kortenhorst, its 80+ staff, and its Board of Trustees are described at www.rmi.org, which also posts its extensive publications and news.

To achieve its vision of a world thriving, verdant, and secure, for all, for ever, RMI’s mission is to drive the efficient and restorative use of resources. This turns scarcity by inattention into Abundance by Design®. It replaces penury with sufficiency, envy with contentment, conflict with comity, tradeoff with synergy, and costs with profits. RMI shows how to wring far more benefit from energy, water, materials, and other resources, and how to do far more and better with less for longer. This reveals how to meet the needs of a secure, just, prosperous, and life-sustaining world not by scraping the bottom of the barrel from the ends of the earth, but by innovative design, technology, business strategy, and public policy—artfully combined, rigorously applied, and vigorously promoted. This effort takes three main forms: transforming design, busting barriers, and spreading innovation. RMI emphasizes strategic influence—changing the mindset of the people who make the rules—and “institutional acupuncture” to get blocked business logic flowing.

RMI’s 2010–15 strategic focus is Reinventing Fire: mapping the business-led transition from oil, coal, and ultimately natural gas to efficiency and renewable energy, then driving that transition through carefully focused and market-driven implementing initiatives in the transportation, building, industrial, and electricity sectors. These initiatives typically feature integrative design. Design is the alchemy of purpose into artifact, intention into action. RMI’s innovative design techniques optimize whole systems for multiple benefits and “tunnel through the cost barrier,” often turning diminishing into expanding returns.

Based in Colorado, RMI works chiefly in the United States but with global context and reach, spanning over 60 countries. Its transdisciplinary research and practice have earned a worldwide reputation for integrity, quality, originality, daring, scholarship, clarity, and effectiveness. With feet on the ground, not head in the clouds, RMI creates much of the basic intellectual capital needed for a richer, fairer, cooler, safer world.

What we do

RMI does solutions, not problems; practice, not theory; transformation, not incrementalism. Its style is non-adversarial, non-partisan, and trans-ideological, embracing diverse partners and collaborators in the private, nongovernmental, and public sectors. The Institute is apolitical and does not lobby or litigate.

Rocky Mountain Institute often applies the framework of “natural capitalism” (www.natcap.org). Natural capitalists radically improve resource productivity; produce the way nature does, with closed loops, no waste, and no toxicity; adopt business models that reward these shifts; and reinvest the profits from eliminated waste back into natural and human capital—the two most scarce and precious kinds. This new way of doing business as if nature and people were properly valued (but without needing to know or signal their value) makes more money, does more good, is more fun, and creates stunning competitive advantage.

RMI pioneered nonprofit enterprise via 11 revenue models—all successful, 10 entrepreneurial, and most still operating. Its hybrid approach first uses philanthropy-funded innovation to create new solutions to gnarly old problems. Its integrated team of researcher/practitioners then tests and refines that ideation (and leverages the philanthropic investment into revenue to support further research) via targeted consulting engagements that support the mission. That is, RMI’s experts collaborate with skilled and motivated private-sector partners, typically large and influential firms, to turn innovative concepts into rapid mutual learning, practical proofs, business insight and credibility, teachable cases, competitive pressure for emulation, and scaling by powerful partners. This model typically yields 30–70% of RMI's ~$13-million annual revenue, and has so far spawned five for-profit (three formal, two casual) and three non-profit spinoffs.

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