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Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives (ZERI) was established by Gunter Pauli in 1994 at the United Nations University (UNU) with the support of the Japanese Government. Three years before the Kyoto Protocol was agreed upon in 1997, Pauli directed a team of scientists to design a new business model that operates without emissions and without waste. Inspired by the way ecosystems work, the research initiative proposed to cascade nutrients, materials and energy so that our production and consumption system uses all that is available.
The principle of ZERI is that the only species capable of making something no one desires, is the human species.[clarification needed] In 1996, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Gunter Pauli decided to create the ZERI Foundation with the goal to translate the designs into pioneering experiences. Originally, ZERI was headquartered at UNDP in Geneva, and later at IUCN in Gland. However, by 2008 the members decided to convert the central organization into a decentralized, time and place specific structures. By 2014, there are 34 project offices around the world.
ZERI brings together creative minds which are looking for solutions to the principal challenges of the world. Always based on science and publicly available information, the common vision shared by each and every member of the ZERI network is to find and improve sustainable solutions for the society, from unreached communities to corporations inspired by what is locally available.
At the 20th anniversary of the creation of ZERI on November 12, 2014 at the UNU in Tokyo, it was reported that 34 organizations from around the world associated and inspired by this initiative of Gunter Pauli, have implemented 188 projects, mobilized €4 billion in capital and generated approximately 3 million jobs.
Sustainable solutions are based on local culture and expertise.
Business must ... respect the license under which it is granted a right to operate: respond to the needs of the client. Government is not exempt from this golden rule: respond to the needs of the tax payer and the needs in the community. Unfortunately the current notions of leadership are based on power and control. Going beyond for ZERI means focusing on creating a future generation, working with young minds which believe in "impossible dreams". Throughout the stimulation of creativity and innovation, ZERI believes in affirming the creative potential of each individual and their unique contribution towards the development of themselves and their communities.
For ZERI, the real investment lies in the creation of a present and future generation which is assured of sustainable livelihoods, capable of responding to the basic needs of all living species on Earth. This is why besides research and project implementation, ZERI is dedicated to education.