Jane Nelson is the founding director of the Corporate Responsibility Initiative, established in 2004, at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and an adjunct lecturer in public policy. She is a nonresident senior fellow in the Center for Sustainable Development, housed within the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution.
Nelson has authored or co-authored six books and over 100 reports, book chapters, articles, and other publications on public-private partnerships, sustainability and the changing role of business in society, especially in emerging markets. She was awarded the Academy of Management’s 2015 “Best Book Award” in the Social Issues in Management Division for a book she co-authored with Professor David Grayson from Cranfield University entitled, "Corporate Responsibility Coalitions: The Past, Present and Future of Alliances for Sustainable Capitalism" (2013). Information on other publications is available in the attached publications list.
She is a former senior associate at the Institute for Sustainability Leadership at Cambridge University and a former member of the advisory council at the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, at Case Western Reserve University. She has served on the faculty of executive education programs for Harvard Business School’s Corporate Social Responsibility and Purpose and Profit – Creating Shared Value executive programs; Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative; the Schwarzman Scholars program at Tsinghua University; Cambridge University’s Business and Poverty leadership program; the World Bank Institute; and the United Nations Staff College. In 2009, she was a track leader for the Clinton Global Initiative, leading the content and programming for the track on developing human capital, and served on CGI’s program advisory group for several years. She was a 2016 Arthur Vining Davis Aspen Fellow, and a recipient of the Keystone Center's 2005 Leadership in Education Award.
In 2015, Nelson was one of 34 people selected from the United Nations, business, civil society, and academia to be profiled in a book entitled “Next: Sustainable Business,” published to mark the 15th Anniversary of the United Nations Global Compact and outlining leadership perspectives on the future of corporate responsibility and sustainable development. In 2008, she was profiled in a book by Professor Sandra Waddock from Boston College entitled “The Difference Makers” as one of 23 people who has played a pioneering role in building the field of corporate responsibility.
Nelson currently serves on the Boards of Directors of Newmont and the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative and as an emeritus director of the World Environment Center. In 2021, she was appointed as a Commissioner on the Business Commission to Tackle Inequality, hosted by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. She serves on the Stewardship Board for the World Economic Forum’s Food Systems initiative and has served two terms on the Forum’s Global Future Council (GFC) on Transparency and Anti-Corruption, as well as previously being the co-chair of the Forum’s GFC on Food Systems Innovation and a member of the Forum’s GFC on International Cooperation, Public-Private Partnerships and Sustainable Development. She serves on the following advisory councils: the Advisory Group, Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform; the National Community Advisory Council, Bank of America; the Global Citizenship Advisory Council, Abbott Laboratories; the Sustainability Advisory Council, Griffith Foods; the Sustainability Advisory Council, ExxonMobil; the International Advisory Council, APCO Worldwide; the Circle of Advisers, Business Fights Poverty; the Corporate Responsibility Research Project Advisory Board, High Meadows Institute; and the International Advisory Network, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.
Nelson was a director and then senior adviser at The Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum (later IBLF) from 1993 to 2012, where she led research and policy programs on public-private partnerships and the role of the private sector in global development. In 2001, she was seconded to the executive office of the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, where she worked with the UN Global Compact, researching and writing the Secretary-General’s report for the United Nations General Assembly, entitled, (A/56/323), “Cooperation between the United Nations and all relevant partners, in particular the private sector,” which was submitted to the Fifty-Sixth Session of the General Assembly and subsequently adapted and published by the UN as a book. Prior to joining the IBLF in 1993, she worked for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development in Africa, researching and co-authoring their Africa report for the 1992 Rio Earth Summit; for FUNDES (Fundación para desarrollo sostenible) in Latin America, undertaking research and co-authoring a book on small enterprise and sustainable development; with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), leading a global research project on business and sustainable development partnerships; and as a Vice President in the Financial Institutions Group at Citibank, with responsibility for marketing the bank’s Worldwide Securities Services in Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East, and was awarded one of the groups All-Star awards in 1989.
Previously, Nelson has served on the Boards of Directors or Trustees of FSG, Abraaj, SITA (now part of Suez Environnment), the World Environment Center, the UK Environment Foundation, AIESEC (one of the world’s largest youth-led networks focused on leadership development and cultural exchange), and the International Council of Toy Industries CARE Foundation (focused on improving working conditions in Chinese factories). She previously served on advisory councils for the IFC, InterAction, The Norwegian Business for Peace Foundation, Pearson, Merck Vaccines, British Telecom, Youth Business International, Henderson Fund Managers, UNDP’s Inclusive Markets Initiative, the UK Department for International Development, the Danish Ministry for Social Affairs, the Copenhagen Centre, Instituto Ethos in Brazil, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, the Ford Foundation’s Corporate Involvement Initiative, the International Council on Mining and Metals, the Global Business Coalition Against HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria (now GBCHealth), and the 21st Century Trust.
Born in Zimbabwe, Nelson has lived and worked in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, and has work experience in the Middle East and Latin America. She has a B.Sc. in Agricultural Economics (Cum Laude) from the University of Natal in South Africa, and a B.A. and M.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.