Resources for the Future is an independent, nonprofit research institution in Washington, DC.

aka RFF   |   Washington, DC   |


RFF’s mission is to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement.

Notes from the nonprofit

Resources for the Future (RFF) is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that conducts independent research – rooted primarily in economics and other social sciences – on environmental, energy, natural resource and environmental health issues. Although RFF is headquartered in Washington, DC, its research scope comprises programs in nations around the world. Founded in 1952, RFF was created at the recommendation of William Paley, then head of the Columbia Broadcasting System, who had chaired a presidential commission that examined whether the United States was becoming overly dependent on foreign sources of important natural resources and commodities. RFF became the first think tank devoted exclusively to natural resource and environmental issues. For years, RFF has pioneered the application of economics as a tool to develop more effective policy about the use and conservation of natural resources. Its scholars continue to analyze critical issues concerning pollution control, energy and transportation policy, land and water use, hazardous waste, climate change, biodiversity, ecosystem management, health, and the environmental challenges of developing countries. Most RFF researchers hold doctorates in economics, but others hold advanced degrees in engineering, law, ecology, city and regional planning, American government, and public policy and management, among other disciplines. In addition to the research staff, RFF has a development office, a communications office, and various research support functions, including a specialized libary. Operating as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, RFF has earned a reputation for conducting independent, nonpartisan research and policy analysis of the highest quality. RFF eagerly shares the results of its work with policymakers in government at all levels, environmental and business organizations, academicians, the media, and the interested public. RFF neither lobbies nor takes positions on specific legislative or regulatory proposals, although individual researchers, speaking for themselves and not for RFF, do formulate specific policy recommendations based on the findings in their work. RFF’s success is made possible by the financial support of individuals and organizations that have the vision to see the role research plays in formulating sound public policies.

Ruling year info


President & CEO

Dr. Richard G. Newell

Main address

1616 P St. NW Suite 600

Washington, DC 20036 USA

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NTEE code info

Economics (as a Social Science) (V22)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (V05)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (C05)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Sign in or create an account to view Form(s) 990 for 2022, 2022 and 2021.
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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Climate change is the single greatest environmental threat of our time, with pervasive economic consequences. Securing our future requires major change in energy systems and other economic sectors—concrete governmental and corporate strategies working in tandem that are based on a deep understanding of the economic system and the behaviors underpinning it. How can we manage demand for energy and natural resources while reducing pollution and minimizing costs to consumers? Which policies will support a clean energy transition while also providing jobs and enhancing equity? How these questions are answered will impact the health, wealth, and wellbeing of humankind and the planet for generations to come. It is critical that decisionmakers have access to the best available information to make smart and equitable decisions. Resources for the Future (RFF) delivers this expertise, bringing rigorous economic analysis to bear on these complex and urgent questions.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Carbon Pricing

Economists around the world consider carbon pricing the most economically efficient climate policy option. RFF experts are informing the design and examining the impacts of carbon pricing to help leaders better understand the fiscal and environmental costs and benefits.

Population(s) Served

Communities and decisionmakers across the globe are grappling with how to measure climate risks as they seek to respond to the impacts of climate change, from coastal flooding due to sea-level rise to heat waves and wildfires. Experts at RFF are quantifying the economic and social impacts of climate change and evaluating strategies to enhance resilience, ensuring that communities and decisionmakers are equipped with the tools they need to respond.

Population(s) Served

Limiting global climate change will require widespread decarbonization of the power sector and electrification of the economy. RFF's research and policy engagement holistically evaluates market designs and federal, state, and local policies to facilitate a smooth transition to a decarbonized power sector that serves a broad range of sectors and energy needs.

Population(s) Served

RFF scholars are examining how socioeconomic mechanisms and policies have contributed to the legacy of environmental injustice for historically underserved and marginalized communities. Our EJ research informs decisionmaking to address these inequities.

Population(s) Served

The United States and the world need to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. RFF research is examining the potential effects of how these efforts will affect the energy system and identifying pathways towards a more equitable and sustainable energy future.

Population(s) Served

RFF experts use the best-available data and analyses to inform actions by the US federal government to address and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Population(s) Served

RFF researchers are exploring technological and policy solutions that can decarbonize the industrial sector, including regulations, performance standards, policies for public procurement, market-creation approaches, and policies to fund innovation—alongside the equity, financing, and economic considerations that accompany decarbonization.

Population(s) Served

Forest, agricultural, and other land uses are both a source of emissions and a way to remove carbon from the atmosphere. RFF scholars are identifying and measuring land management solutions that can sustain people, ecosystems, and the climate, through effective incentives, investments, and protections.

Population(s) Served

RFF researchers are leading a team of distinguished economists and scientists to improve the science behind estimates of the social cost of carbon—the means by which the US federal government, state governments, and foreign governments account for climate change in their actions—through a process that ensures the highest levels of scientific quality and transparency and builds the scientific foundation for future estimates.

Population(s) Served

A growing economy relies on an effective and efficient transportation system; yet climate change, pollution, congestion, and safety issues reduce that value. RFF experts are analyzing the effectiveness, benefits, costs, and distributional consequences of transportation policies that reduce emissions and positively influence consumer and producer behaviors.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of meetings held with decision makers

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Number of research or policy analysis products developed, e.g., reports, briefs

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

RFF’s mission is to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement. RFF has earned a reputation for conducting independent, nonpartisan research and policy analysis of the highest quality since our founding in 1952. RFF is committed to being the most widely trusted source of research insights and policy solutions leading to a healthy environment and a thriving economy. Our work is shared with policymakers in government, environmental and business organizations, academics, the media, and the interested public.

Our work is organized around two areas. The first is designing smart emissions reductions strategies, from economy-wide solutions that send consistent economic signals to the marketplace to sector-specific strategies for all major areas of the economy. Our goal is to create climate solutions that are effective, efficient, equitable, beneficial to the economy, and able to achieve net-zero emissions goals. The second area is confronting risks and building resilience. We evaluate the physical and economic impacts of climate change, using data to assess risks and uncertainties at global, national, sectoral, and local scales; and ensure that decisionmakers are equipped with the information they need to build resilience in their communities.

We strive to remain on the cutting edge of environmental economics and policy research, identifying major new issues and providing critical, timely insights to inform stakeholders and the public. We provide a reliable source of information and serve as a neutral convener of some of the top minds working on environmental issues today.

RFF is committed to achieving our Vision for a Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive (DEI) Future. This vision, which is available on our website, includes achieving our goals of recruiting and retaining a diverse pool of talent across the organization, providing equitable opportunities for professional development and leadership; creating a culture of inclusion that prioritizes collaboration, respect, and diverse voices; and prioritizing diversity and inclusion in our internal and external engagement, holding ourselves accountable and being transparent in our goals and progress.

For more than 70 years, Resources for the Future has served as a steward of natural resources, working to build a better world and more vibrant future by driving economic and policy analysis, facilitating discussion, and informing policymaking. Fundamental to RFF's mission is our top quality economic and policy research, supplemented with advanced modeling capabilities and thoughtful legal analysis. RFF brings to bear our staff of PhD researchers who, in addition to economics, have backgrounds in biology, ecology, physics, geology, and more.

RFF experts consistently publish peer-reviewed research in leading journals that provides technical information to assist decisionmakers in understanding important policy design choices. This technical expertise also brings trust in our engagement with these decisionmakers.

In addition to our legacy of rigorous environmental research and analysis, we disseminate our findings to relevant government, industry, media, NGO, and public stakeholders through a combination of intentional outreach and engagement opportunities. Our Policy Leadership Forum event series, inaugurated in 2003, hosts a sterling array of public figures on a wide range of policy issues. These public forums have featured speakers such as then-Senator Barack Obama, bp CEO Bernard Looney, Nobel Prize winner Robert Engle, and former US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. Our RFF Live event series covers topics from RFF’s research program, which ranges from air quality to natural disasters. We also regularly host academic seminars, workshops, and policy discussions on major environmental policy topics, bringing together RFF experts and thought leaders in the academic, government, and business sectors.

RFF is home to the largest group of PhD economists specializing in environmental issues in the world. With such a substantial number of respected economists and other experts working together, we bring unparalleled intellectual resources to bear on the most critical climate and environmental issues of our time.

In our capacity as a convener of some of the top minds in environmental policy, RFF has helped a broad number of constituencies come together. RFF hosts dozens of events annually to help decisionmakers and the public at large understand some of the most important climate and environmental challenges and opportunities facing the world today.

RFF’s modeling capabilities are a key part of our success, including our 13 leading microeconomic simulation models. These tools have tremendous value for policymaking, and our state-of-the-art modeling informs critical economic and environmental decisions. These models are in continuous use supporting domestic and international policymaking. Those needs increasingly focus on the economic cost of climate policies in the aggregate, the distribution of those costs across sectors and households, and the fairness of that distribution; the emission reductions and consequent environmental benefits to be achieved by any particular policy and over what timeframe; the employment impacts of those policies; and concerns about competitiveness.

In addition, RFF has an extensive network of collaborators, as well as partnerships with academic institutions and other NGOs. Our joint European Institute on Economics & the Environment, our satellite data consortium with NASA, and our Climate Insights public opinion surveys with Stanford University are all examples of how we partner with other experts to maximize our impact.

RFF has also built a reputation for independent, credible analysis based on our decades of rigorous research, which facilitates our relationships with decisionmakers. RFF has long been a source of advice to policymakers at the state and federal level on a variety of issues, with researchers regularly testifying before Congress and assisting state agencies with their work on environmental policies. Several RFF staff members previously worked on Capitol Hill, including the Senate Finance Committee and Senate Energy Committee, which informs and strengthens our policymaker outreach. We also have staff members with high-level experience within the executive branch, including as Under Secretary and Assistant Secretary within the Departments of Commerce, Energy, and Agriculture. Their first-hand knowledge of the policymaking process is a tremendous asset for RFF and helps ensure the policy relevance of our research.

As the first think tank dedicated exclusively to environmental and natural resource issues, RFF has been a trailblazer in the field of environmental economics. Our researchers put forth the fundamental idea that the impact of economic growth on environmental quality was a much more significant problem than any threat of natural resource shortages. RFF's groundbreaking 1963 study “Resources in America's Future” laid a blueprint for projecting long-term availability of natural resources and understanding their role in the US economy. Our 1979 landmark study “Energy: The Next Twenty Years” provided the impetus for what is now the routine and systematic collection and analysis of energy data by the federal government and private industry.

RFF was the first to identify the economic value of undisturbed natural environments such as rivers and forests, creating the modern theory of resource conservation. Because of the work of RFF’s influential researchers, legislation and policy now recognize that people experience economic losses when fragile ecosystems are damaged, which has transformed environmental policy analysis.

RFF’s pioneering work also advanced the idea of using market-based incentives to encourage environmental improvements, showing that pollution fees were more effective than conventional regulation. We demonstrated that it was possible to calculate the fees that would push pollution down to a given standard while leaving it up to each polluter to find the cheapest and easiest way to do so. This idea was embodied in the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act. A system of permit trading was established for sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain, and it ended up reducing compliance costs far below earlier forecasts.

Today, we continue our tradition of impactful research and policy analysis. Here is RFF in 2022 by the numbers:

1: We're ranked #1 for energy economics from a field of 3,000 global institutions by RePEc

350: RFF staff engaged in over 350 interactions with key policymakers and government officials

223: We wrote 223 publications and commentaries

1,600: Our expertise was cited by the media more than 1,600 times

1,200,000: Our website generated 1.2 million page views

125,000: Our podcast Resources Radio was played more than 125,000 times by listeners

70: RFF hosted more than 70 virtual and in-person events

12,700: More than 12,700 people attended our 28 public events

Going forward, RFF’s agenda will continue to focus on optimizing reductions of greenhouse gas emissions throughout all sectors of the economy, along with developing policy options to help communities adapt to growing threats from climate change. RFF is also looking to help ensure a just transition in the move to a clean energy economy, focusing on policies that can enable fairness for workers and communities. Across our agenda, we will continue to play an integral role in connecting decisionmakers with actionable solutions to help craft sm

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals, To inform the development of our research and external engagement agenda, now and in the future.

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback



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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Board of directors
as of 02/13/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Susan Tierney

Analysis Group, Inc.

Richard Schmalensee

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Robert N. Stavins

Harvard University

Richard G. Newell

Resources for the Future

Vicky A. Bailey

BHMM Energy Services, LLC

Sue Tierney

Analysis Group, Inc.

W. Bowman Cutter

The Roosevelt Institute

Mary Landrieu

Van Ness Feldman, LLP

Kyung-Ah Park

Goldman Sachs

Jonathan Silver

Tax Equity Advisors

Janet F. Clark

James L. Connaughton

Nautilus Data Technologies

H. Russell Frisby Jr.

Stinson LLP

Jonathan Garfinkel


Paula Glover

Alliance to Save Energy

R. Glenn Hubbard

Columbia University

Peter Kagan

Warburg Pincus, LLC

Barbara Kates-Garnick

Tufts University

William Pate

Par Pacific

Catherine Wolfram

Harvard Kennedy School

Jeff Luse

Warburg Pincus

Ramya Swaminathan

Malta Inc.

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 2/13/2024

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation