Hazel Henderson, lifelong futurist, author, and environmental thought leader


Hazel Henderson (1933-2022), D.Sc. Hon., FRSA, went virtual (her own words) on May 22, 2022, at the age of 89.  A prolific writer, Henderson authored nine books and hundreds of articles leading to what is now known as sustainability and growing the “green” economy. Henderson is best known as a Lifelong Futurist who 40 years ago forecasted the need for the current transition from the fossil fuel era to the 21st century green economy worldwide in her groundbreaking book, The Politics of the Solar Age, (Doubleday, 1981) which was the lead review in the New York Times Book Review on Sept. 13, 1981.  Her passion for the environment and her grasp of finance led to her creation of the global socially responsible investment industry single handedly. Her accomplishments are valuable and current going forward especially her advocacy to hold polluters accountable to the world’s stakeholders, not just the stockholders.

Born in Britain, Henderson was a naturalized US citizen who shared the 1996 Global Citizen Award with Nobelist A. Perez Esquivel of Argentina. She was remarkably proud that in the 1970s the Public Relations Society of America called her “the most dangerous woman in America” for her pioneering work.  A phenomenal lifelong learner, Henderson earned Honorary Dr. of Science degrees from the University of San Francisco, Soka University in Tokyo, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.

For her critiques of corporate power and economics, she was lionized by environmentalists and ostracized by the economics community as she famously reiterated “economics is a form of brain damage.” Henderson’s early articles in The Harvard Business Review during the 1960s and 1970s predicted the necessary overhauling of conventional economic theory to take account of pollution, resource depletion and social costs which textbooks held could be “externalized” from company balance sheets and national accounts: GDP/GNP so that the cost impact was not seen as a corporate responsibility.

She co-founded Citizens for Clean Air in New York City in 1964 which persuaded city hall and the major TV and radio stations to create the first Air Pollution Index for weather broadcasts, a standard today. Henderson was named Citizen of the Year by the New York County Medical Society in 1967 for her environmental leadership and was recognized by President Johnson on the signing of the Clean Air Act.  She would go on to serve on the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, the National Science Foundation, and the National Academy of Engineering Committee on Public Engineering Policy.

A compilation of articles from The Financial Analysts Journal, the New York Times and other publications were published in her first book Creating Alternative Futures (1978) with a foreword by British economist E.F. Schumacher, author of Small Is Beautiful (1973). Her later books Paradigms in Progress (1991, 1995) and Building a Win-Win World (1996) laid out the theoretical and measurement underpinnings for creating societies based on renewable resources, energy, materials efficiency, and social equity – beyond GDP. Henderson proposed multi-disciplinary models and metrics to transition to a global “green” economy and “de-materialize” the GDP as services and information became the new basis for wealth and progress.  Henderson herself became an early investor in renewable energy companies in the 1980s and joined the Advisory Council of Calvert Social Investment in 1982.  Henderson and Calvert co-created a non-dollar denominated set of metrics to measure national trends in the USA, the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators (2000).

Her partner and later husband, Alan F. Kay (1925-2016), Ph.D., internet pioneer and social entrepreneur, author of Locating Consensus for Democracy (1998) and Eliminating War (2009), together with Henderson founded the Global Commission to Fund the UN.  With input from diplomats from around the world, the Commission proposed new ways of financing global public goods – health, education, environmental protection, and peacekeeping by charging fees for all commercial uses of the global commons (air, oceans, space, the electromagnetic spectrum, cyberspace) and fines for over­ exploitation and damage.

Henderson co-edited the Commission’s report The United Nations: Policy and Financing Alternatives (1995, 1996) with Harlan Cleveland, former US Ambassador to NATO, and Inge Kaul, a founder of the UN Human Development Index. Henderson and Kay proposed and devised a means to tax currency speculation – the computerized Foreign Exchange Transition Reporting System (FXTRS). They also advocated taxing arms sales to support peacekeepers for countries following Costa Rica in abolishing their militaries. Henderson’s Beyond Globalization in 1999 summarizes these and many other issues of global governance.

Her visits to China from 1986 to 2001 and to Japan starting in 1973 led to the publication of Planetary Citizenship (2004), a dialogue on the future with the Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda, president of Soka Gakkai International. During her career, Henderson traveled to over 60 countries, giving lectures and teaching at business schools, including Brazil’s famous Amana-Key Institute for Management Development in Sao Paulo.  Very active in her later years, Henderson chose to deliver her addresses live as videocasts, opting to minimize her carbon footprint on the globe.

In 2004, Henderson founded Ethical Markets Media, LLC, (EthicalMarkets.com), producing the TV series “Ethical Markets,” the financial lifestyle program seen on PBS stations, covering socially responsible investing, global corporate citizenship, and the rapidly growing “green” economy, ignored, discounted, or ridiculed for 20 years by mainstream financial media.   Henderson founded the EthicMark® Award for Advertising that Uplifts the Human Spirit and Society, with the World Business Academy, where she was a fellow.  Her book, Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy (2007) won the Axiom Best Business Book Bronze Award in 2008.  While leading Ethical Markets Media, Henderson co-created the Green Transition Scoreboard which tracked $10 trillion in investments in the increasingly important green economy and Ethical Biomimicry Finance which outlines a regenerative investment model.

Ethical Markets Media will continue to function as intended as will the Hazel Henderson and Alan F. Kay Library, which houses their 6000-volume collection on sustainable development, eco-system management, socially­ responsible business and investing, globalization and the evolutionary economics of efficiency and renewable uses of all resources, systems integration and multi-disciplinary indicators of true wealth and progress beyond GDP. The library also houses all Henderson and Kay’s archives and papers for the use of visiting scholars from around the world who follow Henderson’s work.

Throughout her long career, Henderson served on several editorial boards, including Futures Research Quarterly, Kosmos, The State of the Future Report, The Environmental Magazine (all in the USA), Resurgence, Foresight and Futures (UK). She was an active member of the National Press Club (Washington DC).  Her editorials appeared in 27 languages and more than 200 newspapers syndicated by InterPress Service, Rome, New York, and Washington, DC., and her numerous works have been translated into Portuguese, Spanish, French, Swedish, Dutch, German, Japanese, Korean and Chinese.

Her many board memberships included Worldwatch Institute (1975-2001), Calvert Social Investment Fund (1982-2005), the Social Investment Forum and the Social Venture Network; the International Council of the Instituto Ethos de Empresas e Responsabilidade Social, Sao Paulo, Brazil; and the New Economics Foundation (London, UK).  Henderson was a Regent’s Lecturer at the University of California-Santa Barbara; held the Horace Albright Chair in Conservation at the University of California-Berkeley (1982), was a member of the World Future Society (USA), a Fellow of the World Futures Studies Federation and a member of the Association for Evolutionary Economics. Henderson earned many awards and is listed in Who’s Who USA, Who’s Who in the World, Whos Who in Business and Finance and Who’s Who in Science and Technology. She was an Honorary Member of the Club of Rome and the Club of Budapest and served on the World Wisdom Council.  In 2007, she was elected a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society for the Arts. Until her death, she led the Transforming Finance initiative, co-developed with the Calvert group and the GDP alternative known as the Ethical Markets Quality of Life Indicators. She was an active and sought after speaker and an early adapter of technology webinars including a recent program with Ralph Nader in May, 2022 which is accessible through her website.

Henderson is survived by her daughter Alexandra Leslie Camille Henderson, son-in-law Gary Cassidy, and her grandson, Brendan A. Cassidy.

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