GUNTER PAULI, Founder-Director ZERI Foundation, Creator and Designer of The Blue Economy (TBE)

“If we get used to continuity, we do not learn. Discontinuity is what keeps us developing.”

A core guiding principle for Gunter Pauli – “go beyond reason” – is based on his understanding of the essential interconnectedness of technology, economy, society and the ecosystem:  That broad, multi-disciplinary and sustainable practices are required to solve today’s biggest problems. He also embraces continual self-questioning and openness to improvement:  “I always have the right to say I was wrong. Or, rather, to say that I can do better.”

An early breakthrough for Gunter occurred after earning his MBA at INSEAD.  “An MBA is the worst education you can get today, believe me. I can criticize because I have one myself.” He formed a pioneering biodegradable soap company in his native Belgium, yet despite its success as one of the first clean factories, Gunter discovered that the palm oil ingredients were leading to Malaysian rainforest destruction. Shifting gears, Gunter responded by creating a range of new systems models.  One of his ideas has had tremendous impact: the concept of zero waste and emissions, launched in 1991.

In 1994 Gunter established Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives (ZERI) program, sponsored by the United Nations University in Japan. Since 1996 it operates as an independent global network of scientists and project teams. “ZERI has done around 50 projects around the world. I did not do any of them – I am just the enzyme.” In the beginning, its focus was the core concept that “the waste of one becomes food for another.”  This evolved into distinct design principles such as “biomimicry”, and further initiatives extended to the higher education of systems design.

Gunter also has strong interest in children and he has written many books and fables addressing another core ZERI initiatives: to inspire and enlighten young people at a very early age to take care of each other and the planet. Since 2009, his principle of ‘Gross National Happiness’ has been a  focus, developing into an initiative relating to Ginter’s advisory role with Bhutan.  And Gunter keeps going:  His latest venture is the Blue Economy, based on his book of the same name, established in contrast to the so-called Green Economy which is too expensive for most people. Gunter Pauli is an alchemist of impact, bridging worlds of east and west, science and nature, technology and people.  Mind and heart, body and soul.

Additional quotes

“People and companies thinking about core competencies are the biggest problem in our economy today.”

“For some reason we accept the dogma of scarcity. Human beings are the only species on earth that lives in scarcity. All other species live in abundance. Why don’t we learn from them?”

“We need science for most things we are trying to achieve. But only very few people can navigate across the different disciplines and challenge them.”


Country: USA

Type of Education: INSEAD; MBA, Business, Universiteit Antwerpen; TEW, Applied Economics Limburg Blue Economy Training

Awards: Global Leader of Tomorrow (WEF Davos 1992); Ten Outstanding Young Persons in the World (1983) scholarship from Rotary International Foundation

Foundation Affiliation: Member of the Club of Rome; Fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences; Creative Fellow of the Club of Budapest

Pathway to Impact: Path of Effect

Impact Area/s:  Security – Secure resource access, Security from disasters; Basic Material Needs – Adequate livelihood, Sufficient nutritious food, Access to goods; Health – Access to clean air & water; Social Relations – Mutual respect; Ability to Help Others

Organisation Type: Non-profits; Corporations; Academia

Facts & Figures:


Other Media


Zen and the Art of Blue; Gunter’s Fables; UpSizing; Steering Business towards Sustainability (with Fritjof Capra); A Portrait of Aurelio Peccei: Crusader for the Future; The Blue Economy; Breakthroughs

Balancing Energy, TEDxTokyo

About the author Charles Blass

Charles is a media advisor with experience as a copy writer, journalist, broadcaster and content developer. Charles founded Lovevolv Inc, a non-profit arts and education company, and co-founded the LiveWired music network. Current activities include editing digital media and business writings, teaching English, mind-mapping, and producing two Zurich-based radio programs. See

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