01 Dec 2000
Q&A: Andrew Kendallby Deborah BlaggTopics:
Growing up in Sharon, Massachusetts, Andrew W. Kendall (MBA 1988) developed a natural
affinity for the outdoors from family trips to the beach and from hiking,
snowshoeing, and camping in New England's mountains and forests. It wasn't until the
Amherst graduate went to work at Lincoln Electric in Cleveland after HBS that he
realized how much those experiences had meant. "There is no wilderness within easy
driving distance of Cleveland," he notes. "I had gotten to the point where I took
that aspect of my life for granted. When you lose access to nature, you really gain
an appreciation for it."
As much as Kendall loved the nuts and bolts of manufacturing — he even trained on
the company's assembly line and became a certified welder — he decided that the
demands of a career in manufacturing would leave little time for community activities
and outside interests. "I knew there was a real need for management experience in
nonprofits, and I decided to try to combine my business skills with my commitment to
the environment," says Kendall. He embarked on a "classic business school analysis of
the industry," talking to the leaders of many local, regional, and international
environmental organizations to determine how he would best fit into the field.
Since that time, Kendall has brought innovative and pragmatic leadership to
conservation efforts ranging from the protection of Costa Rican rain forests to
Massachusetts Audubon's development of a seventy-acre nature education facility
geared to inner-city Boston youth. In his current role as executive director of The
Trustees of Reservations, he oversees a revered, 109-year-old Massachusetts
institution dedicated to protecting properties of exceptional ecological, historic,
or scenic value.
In 1993, you left a locally focused job with New Hampshire Audubon to work on global
conservation issues in Costa Rica. What are the keys to success in working on environmental issues in a developing country?
Costa Rica is known for its environmental ethic, but even there you have to be
especially sensitive to low income levels, health issues, and basic survival needs.
You need to be able to show people how preserving the environment can help them
economically. For example, we created a buffer zone around a national forest by
establishing an "extractive reserve." We started a business using local labor to
harvest the valuable hardwoods that routinely fall in that region because of
excessive rainfall. By leaving behind the trees' branches and leaves — which is
where most of the soil-building nutrients are — by using water buffalo instead of
large hauling machinery, and by using portable sawmills, we were able to supply wood
to local artisans and the timber trade without degrading the land.
Are there similarities between your work in Costa Rica and the Massachusetts Audubon
project you tackled after returning to Boston?
The plan in Boston was a high-profile, $10-million effort by Mass Audubon to
redevelop a portion of an abandoned state hospital site in the city's Mattapan
neighborhood. I became involved in what were for me new aspects of conservation,
education, and state and local politics.
Massachusetts is a world away from Central America, but the successes of both
projects do have something in common: In Boston, as in Costa Rica, we were able to
build a strong connection with the constituents who stood to benefit the most. When
the people in Mattapan saw what we wanted to do and believed that we could do it,
their support helped break political logjams.
What takes up most of your time as director of The Trustees of Reservations?
Since I started only last April, much of what I'm doing now is getting to know the
organization. Eventually I will probably spend about half my time fundraising,
because I think I can be a persuasive advocate, and supporters always want to talk to
the person in charge. The other half will be split equally between general
administrative work and being out in the field. We are a decentralized operation,
with over eighty reservations and one hundred staff members scattered throughout the
state, so communication is very important.
How do you identify the properties you want to protect?
That's complicated, but I'll try to give you the short answer. We've identified over
a million acres in the state that should be protected, and many are in places, such
as the Buzzards Bay area, that are currently at high risk for development. We work
with the state, individual landowners, and local land trusts to prioritize these
properties and come up with workable plans to protect them.
Many people know our showcase properties — such as Crane Beach — that we own and
operate. However, much of our land conservation work is behind the scenes in
partnerships with the state and other organizations. Massachusetts, for example, has
a program to buy development rights on agricultural lands. This ensures that farming
will always have a place in the state. However, it takes up to three years for a
project to be completed under this program, and farmers often can't wait that long.
So we provide a bridge loan from an internal revolving fund, thus allowing the farmer
to receive cash immediately. We, in turn, pass the restriction along to the state
when the funding becomes available. It's a win-win for the farmer, the state, and us.
What's more difficult, acquiring properties or providing for their stewardship?
The age-old question! One of the biggest traps organizations like ours can fall into
is acquiring property even before developing a stewardship plan, out of concern that
further delay might mean that the property is lost. Once you acquire a property,
however, you are committed to maintaining it forever. Over time, that cost will far
exceed the acquisition price. We've got to be ready to invest significant resources
to endow the preservation of these properties so that my successor, and his or her
successor, will not be put in a bind.
You advocate putting the Trustees' properties to work to support themselves. Why?
Some of our properties are available for weddings and other events, and we now
operate two bed-and-breakfasts. Even if these operations only broke even, we would
come out ahead, because using these historic buildings is one way of making sure they
Another benefit is that these activities attract people who might otherwise never
visit our properties. There's a nice cycle here: We acquire a property, develop a
long-term management plan, and make this resource accessible to the public, who thus
become more aware of our work and help us identify new places to protect.
You are a trained commercial pilot. Is that useful in your work?
Over the years, I've been a volunteer pilot for many conservation organizations. With
aerial photography, surveys, looking at land-use patterns, or even counting bald
eagles, flying is a great way to gain the long view on much of the work that we do.
To learn more about The Trustees of Reservations, visit www.thetrustees.org.
Class of MBA 1988, Section I