Skip to Main Content


We started in Vermont. But really, we started in Eastern Europe.

In June 1990, Vermont’s then-Governor Madeleine M. Kunin traveled to monitor the first democratic elections in Bulgaria. She brought along her policy advisor, George Hamilton, and the trip introduced them to the environmental health challenges of Eastern Europe.

The following winter, after discussions with advisors including Douglas Costle and Jonathan Lash, Governor Kunin and George Hamilton created a new organization, the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC). ISC worked in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union on capacity-building programs focused on environmental management, clean energy, economic development, and public health.

In 2005, the ISC Board of Directors shifted ISC’s strategic priority to focus on addressing climate change and environmental health in the United States and Asia.

Our focus further refined through our 1999-2022 strategic direction that clearly defined our dedication to building equitable climate change solutions through partnerships with community-based organizations, local government, and other organizations. We do this work in the United States, China, India, Bangladesh, and the Mekong.

Key Historic Events Leading to ISC (1987-1989):

  • 1987: the United Nations published Our Common Future which elevated the concept of sustainable development. 
  • 1988: Gov. Kunin chaired the Environment Committee of the National Governors Association where she created the climate change task force. 
  • 1989: The State of Vermont helped organize the first international conference on sustainable development in North America. Kunin was the first U.S. governor to promote the concept.
serbia, community parachute
Madeleine Kunin, George Hamilton, Partrick Leahy