Dr. Cortese is Co-founder and Senior Fellow of the Crane Institute of Sustainability and the Intentional Endowments Network. He has been actively engaged in public policy and educational transformation on climate change and other large system sustainability challenges for 40 years. He founded Second Nature, the Boston-based advocacy organization committed to promoting sustainability through higher education, along with U.S. Senator John Kerry, Teresa Heinz Kerry and Bruce Droste. He served as Second Nature’s president from March 1993-August 2012.
He was the organizer of the Presidents' Climate Leadership Commitment and co-founder of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and the Higher Education Association Sustainability Consortium.
He is Principal of Sustainable Visions, LLC a frequent consultant to higher education, industry and non-profit organizations on institutionalization of sustainability principles and programs.
Dr. Cortese was one of the founding employees of the US EPA and the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. He was the first Dean of Environmental Programs at Tufts University and founded the award-winning Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute in 1989 that helped integrate environmental and sustainability perspectives in over 175 courses. He also organized the effort that resulted in the internationally acclaimed Talloires Declaration of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future in 1990 now signed by over 350 presidents and chancellors in over 50 countries.
Dr. Cortese is a trustee of Green Mountain College and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He served as a trustee of Tufts University and was a founding member of the board of directors of The Natural Step US and of the Environmental Business Council of New England. He has been a consultant to UNEP, a member of the EPA Science Advisory Board, President Clinton's Council on Sustainable Development's Education Task Force and a Woodrow Wilson Fellow for Higher Education.
Dr. Cortese is a frequent presenter to a wide variety of professional audiences. His writing can be found in a wide spectrum of publications. His essays on Education for Sustainability serve as foundational reading for transforming the process, content and practice of higher education.
Dr. Cortese has B.S. and M.S. Degrees from Tufts University in civil and environmental engineering, a Doctor of Science in Environmental Health Sciences from the Harvard School of Public Health, an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Allegheny College and the University of Maine Presque Isle and an Honorary Doctor of Science from State University of New York Oswego.