State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

An Explanation of Sustainable Economics

By Ashlyn Brulato

The Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development was pleased to welcome Alexander Quinn, director of sustainable economics at Hatch to its Sustainable Development Speaker Series this spring. Quinn spoke to undergraduate and graduate attendees about his role in sustainable economics, which includes experience in economic planning, real estate consulting, triple bottom line assessment, economic policy analysis, resource economics and public finance service.

Students were particularly interested in Quinn’s explanation of Hatch’s triple bottom line assessments, often described as “ecology, equity and economy.” Quinn spoke of the work he did under this lens for the PlaNYC’s challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Quinn also explained the concept of sustainable return on investment, which accounts for and monetizes both social and environmental externalities associated with new projects and/or developments. A few individuals posed questions regarding the level of support Quinn receives from residents in the cities in which he leads these projects. Quinn assured the students that the “progressive actors of change are cities.”

Quinn’s advice for students interested in this field was to familiarize themselves with cost-benefit analyses and to narrow their academic focus during their studies. He noted, “sustainable economics is a growing field in sustainability” and encouraged attendees to explore the field further as it presents a unique public-private partnership opportunity. Ending on a positive note, Quinn explained his belief that being a pioneer for the environment is easier than ever, especially in regard to the growing social inequity issues that cities are simultaneously tackling alongside climate change.

Sustainable economics is just one of many topics covered by the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development’s speaker series during the Spring 2019 semester. To see a full list of upcoming speakers, visit the events section of our website.

 To learn more about the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development, visit our website or contact Cari Shimkus, Program Manager at

 Ashlyn Brulato is an intern for Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development at the Earth Institute, Columbia University. She is a graduate student at Columbia University and will graduate in 2020 with a Master of Science degree in Sustainability Management.


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