Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Lyuba Zarsky


Professor Zarsky has a PhD in Economics and has a distinguished record of professional experience and publication in the fields of sustainable development and business and sustainability.

She was Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability (1992-2001) and staff economist on the Commission for the Future for the Government of Australia (1989-1991). Since 1991, she has consulted to numerous international and national organizations, including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Asian Development Bank, United Nations Development Program, and the Government of Australia and Environment Institute at Tufts University in Boston (2002-present).

Professor Zarsky has a joint appointment with the International Master of Business Administration (MBA) and the International Environmental Policy (IEP) programs in the Graduate School of International Policy and Management. She leads the Business, Sustainability and Development track in the IEP program and coordinates the Joint MBA-International Environmental Policy program which trains students to be leaders in business sustainability initiatives. Her courses on Business, Sustainability and Society and Business Models for Sustainable Development provide cutting edge knowledge and skills for students seeking to harness market forces to address critical global problems such as climate change, poverty, and sustainable livelihoods.

Professor Zarsky is an affiliated faculty member with the Center for the Blue Economy and is  spearheading research on innovative approaches to private sector finance for climate resilient coastal infrastructure. She is also researching the costs and benefits of coal mining and port expansion near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, a World Heritage site.

Recent Accomplishments

Professor Zarsky was a catalyst in the creation of the Institute’s Joint MBA / International Environmental Policy program, launched in fall 2013.

Professor Zarsky’s paper, “Can extractive industries promote sustainable development? A net benefits framework and a case study of Guatemala’s Marlin mine,” was published in the Journal of Environment and Development, in April, 2013. Co-authored with Leonardo Stanley of the Center for State and Society in Buenos Aires, the paper was based on a report produced for the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tuft University, where Professor Zarsky is a Senior Research Fellow.

In July, 2013, The World Policy Review published a feature article written by Professor Zarsky entitled “Extractive industries and local communities: the elusive search for sustainable development.”

Professor Zarsky and Whitney Anderson (MIIS graduate, May 2013), presented a paper “Shooting in the dark? Assessing costs and benefits of proposed coal development and port expansion on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef,” at the Fourth National Forum on Socioeconomic Research on Coastal Systems. Sponsored by the Center for Natural Resource Economics and Policy at Louisiana State University, the Forum was held in New Orleans in March, 2013.

In October, 2013, Professor Zarsky was awarded a faculty development grant to undertake research in Queensland, Australia during her sabbatical in the Spring semester, 2014.


Sustainable development, business and sustainability, foreign direct investment and the environment, collaborative governance, development economics, global environmental governance.

Video interview of Dr. Zarsky


Ph.D. Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2006; M.A. Economics, Department of Economics and Political Economy, New School for Social Research, New York 1986.


Can extractive industries promote sustainable development? A net benefits framework and a case study of the Marlin Mine in Guatemala, (co-author), Journal of Environment and Development, 20(2), 131-154, April, 2013.

Extractive industries and local communities: the elusive search for sustainable development, World Policy Review, July, 2013, available at http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com.

Searching for Gold in the Highlands of Guatemala: Economic Benefits and Environmental Risks of the Marlin Mine, (co-author), Global Development and Environment Institute, September, 2011.

"Climate Resilient Industrial Development: Design Principles and Alternative Models", in S.R. Khan and J. Christiansen, ed., Towards New Developmentalism: Market as Means Rather than Master, Routledge Economics, 2010.

Enclave Economy: Foreign Investment and Sustainable Development in Mexico’s Silicon Valley (co-author), Boston: MIT Press, 2007.

“No Miracle Drug: Foreign Direct Investment and Sustainable Development” (co-author), in L. Zarsky (ed.), International Investment for Sustainable Development: Balancing Rights and Rewards, London: Earthscan Press, 2005.

International Investment for Sustainable Development: Balancing Rights and Rewards (contributing editor), London: Earthscan Press, 2005.

“Stuck in the Mud? Nation-States, Globalisation and the Environment," in OECD, Globalisation and the Environment, Paris: OECD, 1997. Reprinted in K. Gallagher and J. Werksman (eds.), Earthscan Reader on International Trade and Sustainable Development, London: Earthscan Press, 2002, pp. 19-44; and in K. Conca and G. Dabelko, Green Planet Blues, Environmental Politics from Stockholm to Johannesberg, Westview Press, 2004.

Human Rights and the Environment: Conflicts and Norms in a Globalizing World (contributing editor) London: Earthscan Press, 2002.

Beyond Good Deeds: Case Studies and A New Policy Agenda for Corporate Accountability (co-author), Berkeley: Natural Heritage Institute, July 2002.

“APEC and the ‘Sustainable Development’ Agenda,’ in R. Steinberg (ed.), The Greening of Trade Law, Rowman and Littlefield, 2002.

“Global Reach: Human Rights and Environment in the Framework of Corporate Accountability,” in L. Zarsky (ed.), Human Rights and Environment: Conflicts and Norms in a Globalizing World, London: Earthscan Press, 2002, pp. 31-56.

“Civil Society and the Future of Environmental Governance in Asia,” (co-author), in D. Angel and M. Rock, (eds.), Asia's Clean Revolution: Industry, Growth and the Environment, Greenleaf Publishing, 2001, pp.128-154.

“From Bystanders to Collaborators, New Roles for Civil Society in Urban-Industrial Environmental Governance,” in Asian Development Bank, Asian Environment Outlook, Manila: ADB, 2001.

“Environmental Norms in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum,” in D. Shelton (ed.), Commitment and Compliance, The Role of Non-Binding Norms in the International Legal System, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 303-329.

“Havens, Halos, and Spaghetti: Untangling the Evidence About FDI and the Environment,” in OECD, Foreign Direct Investment and the Environment, Paris: OECD, 1999, pp. 47-74.

"Energy and the Environment in Asia-Pacific,” in P. Chasek, (ed.), The Global Environment in the 21st Century, Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 1999.

"Lessons of Liberalization in Asia: From Structural Adjustment to Sustainable Development," in Financing for Environmentally Sustainable Development, Asian Development Bank: Manila, 1994.

“Towards an International Eco-Labeling Framework,” in OECD, Life Cycle Management and Trade, Paris: OECD, 1994, pp. 194-204.

“Sustainable Development: Challenges for Australia,” in Our Common Future, Australian Edition, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1990. Also published as a monograph by the Commission for the Future, Melbourne, February, 1990.

Course List

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

IEPG8507 - Governing the Global Commons      

The concept of ‘governing the commons’ is emerging as the overarching paradigm in both functional and legal approaches to international environmental cooperation. In the traditional approach to international environmental law, nation-states are considered to be the sole actors in governing trans-boundary resources such as water, the atmosphere and the ocean. In contrast, the commons approach highlights the role of collaborative governance by all users in designing, implementing and enforcing sustainability rules and norms. While nation-states remain key, a commons approach is poly-centric (international, regional, national, sub-national) and multi-actor (government, business, civil society).

This course provides a foundation in the theory and practice of global commons governance. Part One introduces the conceptual framework and empirical underpinnings of through an examination of the Elinor Ostrom’s work on common pool resources. Part II explores the history and structure of international environmental law based on governing through multilateral environmental agreements. Part Three examines trans-boundary water governance with a focus on adaptive management to climate change. Part Four focuses on global atmospheric governance and examines the promise and challenges of the evolving, polycentric climate regime.

Working in teams of three, students will write and orally present a case study of transboundary water governance. The class will wrap up with class debates on three key issues of global climate governance.

Spring 2015 - MIIS, Spring 2016 - MIIS

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IEPG8562 / DPPG9562 - SustnabilityInExtractvIndustry      

This course probes the sustainability dilemmas of the global mining industry, including water risk and rights, energy use and climate change, human rights, financial instability due to commodity pricing cycles, and the sharing of economic benefits from the mining process. The focus of the class is on metal and minerals mining, with a strong emphasis on copper and gold. It will spotlight Latin America, where mining projects have generated both large revenue streams and intense conflicts between global mining companies and local communities, mostly around water use and pollution. This class is research and writing-intensive: the primary deliverable is a case study of the sustainability challenges of a mining project in Latin America.

This class is a pre-requisite for students interested in applying for the 2016 Complex Global Problems Research Fellowship.

Fall 2015 - MIIS

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IEPG8598 / MBAG9614 - Business,Sustainablity&Society      

This course provides a foundation in the core concepts and strategic management tools in the dynamic field of global business sustainability. The central aim of the course is to prepare students to design and lead sustainability innovations in or in partnership with global business organizations. Students will work in teams to produce a sustainability strategy for a global corporation.

The course covers six key topics:

• Global sustainability challenges and the role of business in responding to them;

• New social expectations of business and the promise and limitations of corporate social responsibility;

• Sustainability as global business strategy and opportunity;

• Business opportunity and challenges in promoting development in poor markets;

• Managing sustainability, including performance metrics, partnerships, and financing

• Public policy innovations that support business sustainability.

Fall 2014 - MIIS

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IEPG8611 - Sustainable Coastal Management      

Coasts are an important source of native species diversity and provide a rich array of ecosystem services to humans. About forty percent of the world’s population lives within 100 km of a coast. Urban and economic development over the past fifty years has taken a heavy ecological toll on coasts and they are highly degraded. Going forward, coastal economies, communities and ecosystems are all highly vulnerable to the projected impacts of climate change, including flooding, storm surges, subsidence and sea level rise.

This course provides a foundation in the management challenges and governance frameworks of sustainable coastal management. The central focus of the course is on coastal climate vulnerability and resilience. Taught by a multi-disciplinary team, the course integrates science, economics, and policy perspectives on climate risk, adaptation, and resilience. Part One examines the socio-economic vulnerability of coastal communities to climate change, explores the benefits and costs of both top-down and bottom-up adaptation options, and considers the role of households and the private sector in promoting community resilience. Part Two examines current policy and legal frameworks for coastal management, explores ecological vulnerability to climate change and considers how current frameworks promote or impede adaptation.

Many of the readings focus on the California coast but we will examine case studies from other parts of the US and internationally. Students will work in teams to produce a Consultation Practicum and an Adaptation Options Analysis.

Fall 2014 - MIIS, Fall 2015 - MIIS

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IEPG8620 / MBAG9620 - Sustainability Reporting      

Sustainability reporting is the primary vehicle by which global businesses internally assess and publicly disclose their sustainability risks, management strategies, and commitments. Sustainability disclosures are used by external stakeholders, including investors, to evaluate sustainability performance and by company managers to benchmark and improve operational performance.

This class introduces students to the concepts, frameworks and methodologies utilized in the public reporting of sustainability-related risks, targets and opportunities. After an introduction to the concepts of “stakeholder capitalism” and “embedded sustainability” as business strategy, the class explores two reporting frameworks: the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI); and the CDP climate and water risk reporting. We also explore the emerging Integrated Reporting Framework which brings financial and sustainability performance assessments together in one report.

Students will work in teams to research, write and orally present a Sustainability Performance Assessment of three global mining companies. The Assessment will be based primarily on company sustainability reports but students will also consult academic, media and NGO reports.

Fall 2015 - MIIS

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IEPG8621 / MBAG8615 - Environmental Entrepreneurship      

This course provides an introduction to the creation, design, financing, and management of business start-ups aimed at tackling environmental problems. The central aims of the course are

1) to understand the principles, possibilities and challenges of environmental entrepreneurship;

2) to develop confidence and skills in starting an environmental business.

The first part of the course explores the concepts of entrepreneurship, innovation, business model design and the lean start-up and surveys the landscape of impact measurement and finance. The second part examines case studies of early-stage start-ups that address a range of sustainability problems, including de-carbonization of energy and transport, biodiversity conservation, sustainable fishing, and water stress. In each case, we will explore how the start-up analyzed the sustainability problem, came up with a business concept, designed (and red-designed) a business model and go-to-market plan, garnered (or is trying to garner) finance/investment, measures (or aim to measure) environmental impact, and whether and how it plans to scale.

Students work in pairs to produce and present a case study of an early-stage environmental start-up and to generate a business concept aimed at solving an environmental problem.

Spring 2016 - MIIS

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IEPG8623 / MBAG9623 - Sem:Bus Models for Sustain Dev      

This seminar explores the growing role of the private sector in promoting sustainable development goals in low and middle income countries through core business activities. The overarching aim of such business models is to reduce poverty and promote sustainability by: 1) stimulating access to global markets and supply chains; 2) delivering affordable and sustainable goods and services; 3) responding to the demands of climate change mitigation and adaptation; and/or 4) promoting local capacities for sustainable production. The seminar will examine case studies of five business models, ranging from small-scale, for-profit and non-profit enterprises to partnerships between multinational corporations and NGOs and/or development agencies. Students will work in teams to undertake their own case studies. Together, we will seek to draw lessons for scalability.

Spring 2015 - MIIS

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IPMG8605 / IEPG9605 - GCPR Fellowshp Research Design      

This class is restricted to Global Complex Problem Research Fellowship fellows. Fellows will collaborate on the development of a comparative case study research design focused on an inquiry into the nexus of mining, fresh water, corporate risk, human rights, and national development. Fellows will leave the course with detailed research designs for their country and mining company case, collaborative agreements with partner research institutions in their country, and approved budgets for research implementation during Summer 2016.

Spring 2016 - MIIS

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