We started in Vermont. But really, we started in Eastern Europe.
In June 1990, Vermont Governor Madeleine M. Kunin travelled 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 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. The organization now works in partnership with government agencies, businesses, universities, and other organizations to develop practical solutions that reduce harmful emissions and improve people’s lives in the United States, China, India, and Bangladesh.
Governor Kunin remains on our board and George Hamilton is leading our growing organization as we bring the approaches we’ve developed to new communities and new citizen leaders tackling the urgent challenges of urbanization and climate disruption.
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.
We never come to a country or community and say, “This is how you do it.” We always take great pains to engage the local people and to work with local nonprofits. While we can’t provide all the answers, we can offer some hope, some technical assistance and education that can help people solve their own problems.