China’s economic growth over the past 40 years has taken a toll on the country’s environment, natural resources, and ecosystems. In recent years, the Chinese government has prioritized ecological restoration and pushed for more coordination between economic growth and environmental protection. But China is not alone in facing the challenge of sustainability, with global threats like climate change, resource scarcity, and air pollution continuing to persist. As China seeks innovative solutions to foster sustainable development, it can provide models for the rest of the world.

The Paulson Institute launched the Paulson Prize for Sustainability with its Chinese partners in 2013. The Prize is awarded annually to a project in China that represents an innovative, scalable, and market-based sustainability solution at the intersection of economics and the environment.

The Prize-winning project is determined by an independent jury committee composed of prominent American and Chinese leaders in the fields of economics, finance, energy, and ecology. The jury chairman is Richard Daley, former mayor of the city of Chicago. The jury committee will evaluate submissions against the award’s criteria, visit and inspect the finalist projects, and ultimately select the winning project.

Why Apply?

  • Be a Leader on Global Climate Issues: The Prize is presented by the Paulson Institute and Tsinghua University, giving awarded projects authority and prestige in their industry.
  • Honor: The mayor of the city where the winning project is located will be invited to the award ceremony for recognition.
  • Recognition: Finalists will receive international and Chinese mainstream media attention.
  • Empowerment: Finalists will be invited to exclusive events and featured in case studies by the Paulson Institute and Tsinghua University. The Prize can lead to additional intellectual, industrial, and financial support to empower the project’s future.


Entities registered in China, including NGOs, businesses, and other institutions are invited to submit their projects, which should already be in development or on their way to full-scale implementation. Applicants must provide relevant facts and data to demonstrate the project’s benefits and impact.

Applications for the 6th Paulson Prize are currently closed. Any questions can be directed to prize@paulsoninstitute.org.


Others: We also welcome projects that help promote coordinated economic growth and environmental protection, such as rural-urban integration, green agriculture, rural energy transition, and cultural heritage preservation.


  • Environmental Impact (25%) Does the project increase energy efficiency and resource utilization rates? Does the project remediate air, soil, or water pollution? Does the project reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Please provide the methodology for quantification.
  • Creativity (25%) How innovative is the project’s solution?
  • Financing Mechanism (20%) What is the financing mechanism for the project? Does the project incorporate the private sector and promote market-driven solutions?
  • Scalability (20%) Does the project’s business model, technology or economics have the potential to be replicated across China and even in other countries?
  • Social Co-benefits (10%) Does the project have any social co-benefits, in terms of promoting equal access to public services for rural and urban residents alike, equalizing rural and urban residents’ quality of life, narrowing the gap between urban and rural areas, or preserving cultural heritage? Are there any quantifiable social co-benefits?

Previous Winners

The Jury Committee

The independent jury committee is chaired by Richard Daley, former Mayor of Chicago. Each Prize category has at least one expert juror specialized in that category.


Richard Daley

Former Mayor of Chicago, Jury Committee Chairman


Tracy R. Wolstencroft

Former President and CEO of the National Geographic Society


Lynn Scarlett

Vice President for Policy & Government Relations, The Nature Conservancy; former Deputy Secretary, Department of the Interior of the United States


Huang Nubo

Chairman, Beijing Zhongkun Investment Group


Niu Gensheng

Founder, Lao Niu Foundation and Mengniu Group


Zhao Jiarong

President, China Association of Circular Economy; former Secretary-General, Department of Resource Conservation and Environmental Protection, National Development and Reform Commission


Zhuang Weimin

Dean, Architecture School, Tsinghua University, Ph. D Supervisor