Jane Nelson

Jane Nelson is the founding director of the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and an adjunct lecturer in public policy, co-teaching “Corporate Responsibility and New Governance Models.” She is a nonresident senior fellow in the Center for Sustainable Development, housed within the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution.

Nelson has authored or co-authored five books and over 100 reports, book chapters, articles, and other publications on public-private partnerships and the changing role of business in society, especially in emerging markets, and co-authored five of the “World Economic Forum’s Global Corporate Citizenship” reports. She was awarded the Academy of Management’s 2015 “Best Book Award” in the Social Issues in Management Division for a book she co-authored with Professor David Grayson from Cranfield University entitled, “Corporate Responsibility Coalitions: The Past Present and Future of Alliances for Sustainable Capitalism” (2013). She was a 2016 Arthur Vining Davis Aspen Fellow, and a recipient of the Keystone Center’s 2005 Leadership in Education Award.

Other publications include: co-author of “Advocating Together for the SDGs: How civil society and business are joining voices to change policy, attitudes and practices” (2018); co-author of “The 2030 Water Resources Group: Collaboration and country leadership to strengthen water security” (2018); author of “Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Collective action by business, governments and civil society to achieve scale and transform markets” (2017); co-author of “Tackling Global Challenges: Lessons in system leadership from the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture initiative” (2016); co-author of “Business and the Sustainable Development Goals” (2015); coauthor of “A Path to Empowerment: The role of corporations in supporting women’s economic progress” (2015); author of “Expanding Opportunity and Access: Approaches that harness markets and the private sector to create business value and development impact” (2010); author of “Building Linkages for Competitive and Responsible Entrepreneurship” (2007); co-author of “Profits with Principles: Seven strategies for delivering value with values” (2004); co-author of “Business and the Millennium Development Goals: A framework for action” (2003); author of “Building Partnerships: Cooperation between the United Nations system and the private sector” (2002); author of “The Business of Peace: The private sector as a partner in conflict prevention and resolution” (2001); and author of “Business as Partners in Development” (1996).

Nelson currently serves on the Boards of Directors of Newmont and the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative and as an emeritus director of the World Environment Center. She serves as the co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Food Systems Innovation and on the Forum’s Stewardship Board for Food Security and Agriculture, having previously served on the Forum’s Global Future Council on International Cooperation, Public-Private Partnerships and Sustainable Development. She serves on the following advisory councils: the Economic Advisory Board of the International Finance Corporation; the Advisory Group, Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform; the National Community Advisory Council, Bank of America; the Global Citizenship Advisory Council, Abbott Laboratories; the Sustainability Advisory Council, ExxonMobil; the International Advisory Council, APCO Worldwide; the Advisory Group, Pearson’s Project Literacy campaign; the NGO Futures Advisory Group, InterAction; the Bellagio Program’s Advisory Group, the Rockefeller Foundation; the Circle of Advisers, Business Fights Poverty; the International Advisory Network, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre; and the Programme Advisory Committee, Norwegian Business for Peace Foundation.

In 2015, Nelson was one of 34 people from the United Nations, business, civil society, and academia to be profiled in a book entitled “Next: Sustainable Business,” published to mark the 15th Anniversary of the United Nations Global Compact and outlining leadership perspectives on the future of corporate responsibility and sustainable development. In 2008, she was profiled in a book by Professor Sandra Waddock from Boston College entitled “The Difference Makers” as one of 23 people who has played a pioneering role in building the field of corporate responsibility.

Nelson is a former senior associate of the Institute for Sustainability Leadership at Cambridge University and a former member of the advisory council at the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, at Case Western Reserve University. She has previously served on the faculty of executive education and training programs for Harvard Business School’s Corporate Social Responsibility program, Cambridge University’s Business and Poverty leadership program, the World Bank Institute, and the United Nations Staff College. In 1983, she was a lecturer in agricultural economics at the University of Natal in South Africa.

Nelson was a director and senior adviser at The Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum (later IBLF) from 1993 to 2012, where she led research and policy programs on public-private partnerships and the role of the private sector in global development. In 2009, Nelson was a track leader for the Clinton Global Initiative, leading the track on developing human capital, and served on CGI’s program advisory group. In 2001, she worked in the executive office of the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, with the UN Global Compact, researching and writing the Secretary-General’s report for the United Nations General Assembly (GA) on cooperation between the UN and the private sector, which supported one of the first GA resolutions on such cooperation. Prior to joining the IBLF in 1993, she worked for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development in Africa, researching and co-authoring their Africa report for the 1992 Rio Earth Summit; for FUNDES (Fundación para desarrollo sostenible) in Latin America, undertaking research and co-authoring a book on small enterprise and sustainable development; with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), leading a global research project on business and sustainable development partnerships; and as a Vice President in the Financial Institutions Group at Citibank, with responsibility for marketing the bank’s Worldwide Securities Services in Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East, and was awarded one of the groups All-Star awards in 1989.

Previously, Nelson served on the Boards of Directors of FSG, Abraaj, SITA (now part of Suez Environnment), the World Environment Center, the UK Environment Foundation, AIESEC (one of the world’s largest youth-led networks focused on leadership development and cultural exchange), and the International Council of Toy Industries CARE Foundation (focused on improving working conditions in Chinese factories). She previously served on advisory councils for Merck Vaccines, British Telecom, Youth Business International, Henderson Fund Managers, UNDP’s Inclusive Markets Initiative, the UK Department for International Development, the Danish Ministry for Social Affairs, the Copenhagen Centre, Instituto Ethos in Brazil, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, the Ford Foundation’s Corporate Involvement Initiative, the International Council on Mining and Metals, the Global Business Coalition Against HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria (now GBCHealth), and the 21st Century Trust.

Born in Zimbabwe, Nelson has lived and worked in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, and has work experience in the Middle East and Latin America. She received a B.Sc. in agricultural economics (Cum Laude) from the University of Natal in South Africa, and an M.A. in philosophy, politics and economics from the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.

  • Areas of Expertise

    • Corporate Social Responsibility
    • Enterprise development in emerging markets
    • Private sector participation in developing countries
    • Agricultural economics
  • Current Positions

    • Founding Director, Corporate Responsibility Initiative, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
  • Past Positions

    • Director and Senior Adviser, Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum
    • Vice President & Head of Marketing, Worldwide Securities Services, Citibank
    • Lecturer in Agricultural Economics, University of Natal, South Africa
  • Education

    • M.A. Politics, Philosophy and Economics, Oxford University
    • B.Sc. Agricultural Economics, University of Natal, South Africa
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