About NRDC: Our Priorities

NRDC works on a broad range of issues as we pursue our mission to safeguard the Earth; its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends. As an institution, we have six main priorities.

Curbing Global Warming and Creating the Clean Energy Future

Climate change is the single biggest environmental and humanitarian crisis of our time. The world must unite to combat this crisis, and our best weapon is clean energy. Renewable power, conservation, energy efficiency in buildings and elsewhere, more efficient vehicles and clean fuels-these are the solutions that will reduce the impacts on our climate, revive our economy, and create jobs. NRDC works to jumpstart the clean energy future not only here in America, but also in China, where we have worked on energy issues for more than a decade, and in India, where we have established a new program to promote clean energy policies.

Reviving the World's Oceans

Powerful forces have pushed the world's oceans to the brink of ecological collapse. NRDC believes we can restore marine vitality by ending overfishing, creating marine protected areas and improving oceans governance. By focusing on these solutions, we can achieve the broadest, most long-lasting benefits for our oceans and those who rely on the more than 2 million oceans-related jobs in America. We will also combat emerging threats, such as carbon pollution that has caused ocean waters to become overly acidic and climate change that has led to ice melts which expose the Arctic Ocean to fishing, shipping, drilling, and mining.

Defending Endangered Wildlife and Wild Places

Wild places across the Americas are being threatened by a surge of reckless industrialization. The destruction of these wildlands means the loss of vast troves of biological diversity, critical regulators of global climate, and irreplaceable sanctuaries for recreation and contemplation. Through our BioGems program, NRDC's advocacy team joins forces with online activists and local partners to defend some of our hemisphere's most imperiled ecosystems.

Protecting Our Health by Preventing Pollution

Toxic chemicals in our environment, such as mercury, lead, and certain manmade chemicals, have been linked to cancer, birth defects and brain impairments. Reducing or eliminating the load of these dangerous chemicals in the products we buy, the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink can help reduce the toll of human disease and suffering. NRDC's health experts use law, science and the power of international commerce to keep the worst toxic chemicals off the market, out of the air, and away from our bodies.

Ensuring Safe and Sufficient Water

Clean and plentiful water is the cornerstone of prosperous communities. Yet as we enter the 21st century, swelling demand and changing climate patterns are draining rivers and aquifers and pollution is threatening the quality of what remains. NRDC is integrating our expertise in pollution prevention, water efficiency and climate change to sustain America's precious water resources. We're helping cities build green infrastructure that will keep pollution out of waterways and bolster drinking water supplies. And we're working to advance smart water efficiency policies to ensure that communities get the water they need while keeping our lakes, rivers, and streams full and healthy.

Fostering Sustainable Communities

With their dense populations, opportunities for mass transit, greater energy efficiency, and potential for green jobs, cities across the nation have the ability to become incubators for environmental innovation. Indeed, the right policies can turn cities into cleaner, healthier, safer and more prosperous centers of human community. NRDC is combining the expertise of our urban, health, open space, smart growth, energy and transportation teams to promote those shifts and create more just, sustainable and livable cities.

Our Capacity for Reaching Our Goals

NRDC has an unparalleled arsenal of core capacities that allow us to attack an issue from every angle and with maximum force. These core capacities set NRDC apart. Many groups have extraordinary experts in one or two areas or focus their resources on one tool or another. NRDC's effectiveness stems from that fact that we fight battles on many fronts at once. By taking a comprehensive, yet focused approach, NRDC gets results.

These critical capacities include:

  • A broad range of coordinated advocacy tools, including policy expertise, law, science, communications, finance acumen and diverse partnerships.
  • A strong presence in the centers of government, finance, manufacturing, environmental innovation and entertainment that allows for effective collaborations with influential sectors.
  • A track record of success in China, India and the Americas, where we can solve problems that are global in scope and leverage solutions.
  • A loyal group of supporters, including more than a half million members who give us access to the courts, provide public backing for local, state and federal advocacy and augment the passion of NRDC's staff.
  • A world-class platform of administration, finance, human resources and information technology that enables us to attract and retain the best staff and accomplish policy goals.

How We Measure Our Progress

In 2005, NRDC undertook a comprehensive strategic planning process, in which we established institutional priorities and set goals for how we could advance these priority issues. In 2010, we conducted a five-year update, and the result is a revised strategic plan that incorporates the lessons learned during the last five years and sets a course for the next five years and beyond.

To measure our progress, we have identified benchmarks for each one of our priorities. Here are just a few examples of what success would look like within the next five years.

A cap is set on the amount of carbon American polluters can release, and as a result, private investment in clean energy grows by hundreds of billions of dollars and workers find jobs manufacturing solar components and hybrid cars.
Overfishing in America's ocean waters ends, and dwindling fish stocks begin to recover.
A majority of Americans no longer assume that economic prosperity and environmental protection are at odds, and recognize that efficiency creates good jobs that cannot be outsourced and that clean air and water save health care costs and increase productivity.
Green infrastructure solutions-such as pocket parks and grassy swales that slash stormwater pollution-are required in all new development in California's urban centers.
The Chilean public decides to protect its wild rivers from hydroelectric dams and meet its growing electricity demand through clean energy measures instead.
California's smart growth planning law is adopted in several regions in the nation, reducing oil imports, climate change, and the time wasted in traffic, setting the stage for its adoption by the federal government.
Industry is required to demonstrate that the chemicals they manufacture are safe for human health and the environment. Starting with the apparel industry, multinational corporations develop global supply chain policies that include quantifiable measures of success, including cutting pollution discharge and more efficient energy and water use.

How We Report on Our Progress

None of NRDC's work could be accomplished without the support of our dedicated members and donors. These supporters offer wise counsel, provide standing in court, and take to their phones and computers when we need to hold lawmakers accountable. To keep them informed of our progress, we produce annual reports that include updates on each one of our institutional priorities. We also provide up-to-the-minute dispatches on our work through NRDC's Switchboard blog, our magazine OnEarth, and our website.

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