Bob Massie's Biography

Robert Kinloch "Bob" Massie IV (born 1956) is an American activist and author known for his successful global leadership on corporate accountability, social justice, and climate change. He has created or led several transformative organizations, including Ceres, the Global Reporting Initiative, the Investor Network on Climate Risk, and the New Economy Coalition. His early activism centered on opposition to South Africa's apartheid regime and led to writing the definitive history on the relationship between the US and South Africa in the apartheid era. Internationally, he is best known for creating the Global Reporting Initiative, which changed the structure of corporate accountability in the global economy.

Education, and Early Career

Despite the physical challenges of being born with severe Factor VIII hemophilia, Massie entered Princeton University, graduating magna cum laude in 1978 with a degree in history. While at Princeton he became increasingly aware of the importance of politics in civil society, becoming a leader in the student movement for Princeton’s divestment from South Africa and campaigning for equal access to the university’s selective eating clubs, many of which did not admit women as members. As an officer of his alumni class, he established the Class of 1978 Foundation, one of the first university foundations to fund direct summer service for students.

Bob, age nine, holding forth on his porch with Muhammed Ali. — Photo by Gordon Park


Massie speaks against the bicker system at a rally on the steps of Princeton's Robertson Hall in February 1978.


During his college years, he spent three summers and parts of his sophomore year working in the office of U.S. Senator Henry M. Jackson (D-Washington). While investigating weaknesses in the U.S. blood supply system, he saw firsthand how industry pressures delayed the implementation of critical safety precautions that would have prevented the spread of bloodborne viruses to tens of thousands of patients using blood products. Massie’s concerns were confirmed several years later when he learned he had contracted HIV from contaminated blood products, a diagnosis considered a virtual death sentence at that time.

Lifting weights at Princeton, where he also swam two to three hours daily to build endurance and strengthen his legs and joints.


After graduating from Princeton, Massie entered Yale Divinity School, where he concentrated on social and theological ethics, taking a year off to return to Washington to work on issues of corporate responsibility with Ralph Nader and Mark Green at Congress Watch. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Yale in 1982 and was ordained in the Episcopal Church the following year.

From 1982 to 1984 he worked as an assistant and chaplain at Grace Episcopal Church in New York, co-founding a homeless shelter. Throughout this period Massie focused more intensively on the vital role of business, for good or ill, in shaping public policy and advancing or retarding economic, social and environmental progress. Determined to understand and harness this powerful force, Massie entered Harvard Business School in the fall of 1984 on a full scholarship. He completed the core of Harvard’s M.B.A. program as a portion of his doctoral studies and went on to write his dissertation on how large institutions balance organizational objectives with perceived moral obligations. He received a Doctorate in Business Administration from Harvard in 1989.

While a full-time graduate student, he also served as a minister at Christ Episcopal Church, a small congregation in the working class city of Somerville, Massachusetts, where he was responsible for preaching every week at Sunday services and ministering to parishioners. During this period he also edited the Harvard Business School’s weekly newspaper and served on the Ethics Advisory Committee at Boston Children’s Hospital.


From 1989 to 1996 Massie lectured at Harvard Divinity School, and served as Director of the Project on Business Values and the Economy there, forging ties between the business and divinity school communities.

He participated in the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School in 1991, and that year was also awarded a Henry Luce Fellowship (1991–1993).

In April 1992, alarmed by the increasing threat of global climate change, he organized the first large public meeting on climate change in the Boston area at the Museum of Science, featuring Senator Al Gore as the keynote speaker.

In 1993, Massie received a Senior Fulbright Research Award that enabled him to spend six months in South Africa, lecturing at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business and traveling the country to research his history of race relations and the anti-apartheid movement. During this trip, he met and interviewed major South African leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, National Party leader F.W. DeKlerk, and ANC president Nelson Mandela. In 1994 he also served as an official international observer during the first democratic elections in South Africa and was responsible for voting sites throughout the Western Cape. His book Loosing The Bonds: The United States and South Africa in the Apartheid Years was completed over the next three years, and published by Doubleday in 1997. It won the Lionel Gelber Prize for the Best Book on International Relations in 1998 and was reviewed favorably across the United States, including the New York Times.

Inspired by the rise of democracy in South Africa, Massie decided to enter politics in Massachusetts. In 1994 he won the statewide primary election and became the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Although he did not win, the campaign gave him the opportunity to traverse the length and breadth of Massachusetts and to meet thousands of citizens from all walks of life, many of whom would remain partners in subsequent issue-oriented initiatives.

From 1996 to 2003 Massie served as the executive director of Ceres, the largest coalition of environmental groups and institutional investors in the United States, increasing that organization’s size and revenue tenfold during his tenure. In 1998, in partnership with the United Nations and major U.S. foundations, he co-founded the Global Reporting Initiative with Dr. Allen White of the Tellus Institute and served as its chair until 2002. The GRI “produces the world's most trusted and widely used standards for sustainability reporting, the GRI Standards, which enable organizations to measure and understand their most critical impacts on the environment, society, and the economy. Thousands of reporters in over 90 countries use GRI's Standards – a free public good – for their reporting.” The GRI has transformed corporations approach to sustainability, integrating environmental and social concerns directly into their operating and financial models.

He also proposed and led the creation of the Investor Network on Climate Risk and the Institutional Investor Summit on Climate Risk, a major gathering of public and private sector financial leaders held every two years at UN Headquarters in New York City. At the most recent meeting of the INCR, global investors and pension funds worth more than $22 trillion explored the financial dangers of climate change and pressed for a tripling of investment in clean energy technology to reach an annual goal of $1 trillion a year.

Ceres and GRI pursue an innovative approach to corporate responsibility that relies on transparency and reputational incentives as opposed to traditional bureaucratic regulation alone. Initially considered impractical, this approach has proven effective and efficient at improving social, environmental and human rights performance when combined with traditional regulatory methods. More than two thousand major corporations and institutional investor groups now voluntarily participate in the GRI corporate disclosure standards. According to the most recent 2017 database, 10,509 organizations have produced 39,616 reports of which 26,453 are GRI reports.

In 2002, Massie was named one of the 100 most influential people in the field of finance by CFO Magazine. In the same year, he learned that Hepatitis C, contracted from blood product treatments for hemophilia, was causing severe liver damage, and he resigned from Ceres in order to rest and wait for a liver transplant, which he finally received in 2009. During this period, he continued to serve on a number of boards and was a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Law School.

In 2008, while still gravely ill, he founded and co-chaired the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Coalition, and led a campaign against slot machine and casino gambling in Massachusetts. In that year he was awarded the Damyanova Prize for Corporate Social Responsibility by the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts University, and in April, 2009 he received the Joan Bavaria Innovation and Impact Awards for Building Sustainability in Capital Markets. These awards are normally given to two separate persons, but in recognition of his global achievements, he was given both.

In 2010 he became an investment advisor to Domini Social Impact Fund, and a member of the Board of the Sustainable Investments Institute, and a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Hauser Center.

In January of 2011, after a successful liver transplant the restored his health completely, Massie declared his candidacy for the United States Senate and began actively campaigning for the Democratic nomination for that office. In April of 2011, noted Democratic strategist Joe Trippi joined the Massie campaign. Massie ended his campaign on October 7, citing the entrance of Elizabeth Warren into the race.

His autobiography, A Song in the Night: A Memoir of Resilience, was published in 2012 by Nan Talese/Doubleday books. He has shared a shorter version of his story in dozens of settings, including at Grand Rounds lectures at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School (ten times), and annually to classes of graduating seniors at Harvard Medical School.

In March of 2012, Massie became the president of the New Economy Coalition, then called the New Economics Institute, an organization dedicated to moving the American economy towards greater justice and sustainability. He stepped down from being the coalition's president in October of 2014.

In 2012, Massie began advising and speaking out for the campaign to divest from Fossil fuels. In May of 2014, Massie called on Harvard University to divest its endowment from fossil fuel corporations in an op-ed for The Harvard Crimson.

In November of 2015, Massie was appointed the executive director of the Sustainable Solutions Lab (SSL) at UMass Boston. Created by the deans of the School for the Environment, the College of Management, the College of Liberal Arts, and the John McCormack Graduate School for Policy and Global Studies, SSL has launched a strong drive to unite Boston area faculty and organizations concerned with social justice and resilience with those who are working on physical resilience against climate change with the premise that money spent to combat the effects of climate change and sea level rise should also benefit communities in need.

In April 2017 he announced that he would be seeking the Democratic nomination for Governor of Massachusetts.

Personal Life

Massie is the son of historians Robert K. Massie, winner of the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for biography;[1] and Suzanne Massie, who played a key role in forming the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, which led to the end of the Cold War.[2][3]

Massie was born on August 17, 1956, with severe classic hemophilia, an inherited blood disorder affecting one in 5,000 males in the United States. In the process of learning to manage this condition, his parents began to study its history, which led to Robert Massie Sr.'s book Nicholas and Alexandra (1967), a biography of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, produced as an Academy Award winning film four years later.

Massie's parents also wrote a more personal account of their son's challenges, titled Journey (Knopf, 1975), of which Time Magazine wrote, "Its portrait of Bobby Massie's enduring courage and the decency and devotion of those who helped him makes Journey a remarkable human document." He suffered from brutally painful joint bleeds and spent much of his childhood in a wheelchair. One consequence of the family's struggle with hemophilia was a heightened awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. health care system, its pivotal importance, and its potentially devastating costs. The family moved to France in 1968, where Massie’s health care was covered by the French government system. He improved there, regained the use of both legs and learned to self-administer injections of clotting factor. The family returned to the US after four years. He managed the illness with regular injections, yet was still plagued by bleedings and regularly used a wheelchair.

In 1984, he was told his blood tests showed he had contracted HIV back in 1978 from his injections. At the time the disease was considered a death sentence. He continued to live his life fully waiting for signs of the sickness. By 1994 he was one of the longest survivors with HIV and he offered his case for research. His immune response was intensively studied by physician Bruce D. Walker at Massachusetts General Hospital and was the subject of a NOVA documentary in 1999. Walker has pointed to Massie as the person whose immune system launched an entirely new area of international research on HIV. His case was critical to the definition of “elite controllers” -- people with a genetic disposition to suppress the virus -- and has contributed to research and treatment studies around the world.

In 1996 and 2002 Massie had surgeries to replace his knee joints, damaged from the repetitive joint bleeds. In late 2002, suffering from persistent exhaustion, he was diagnosed with liver damage from Hepatitis C, also contracted through blood products. This illness proved a much more stubborn adversary than the hemophilia and HIV, eventually requiring him to step down from his roles at Ceres and GRI and retire for nearly seven years to wait for a transplant, at that time the only cure.

In June of 2009, Massie finally received a long-awaited liver transplant, in an innovative “domino transplant” procedure performed at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta which cured not only his Hepatitis C, but also his hemophilia. (The clotting factor is produced in the liver.) The impact on his health was immediate and dramatic.

After graduation from Yale, in 1982, Massie met and married Dana Robert[9] with whom he had two sons, Samuel (b. 1987), and John (b. 1989). The couple divorced in 1995. In 1996 Massie married Anne Tate, an architect and professor at Rhode Island School of Design, with whom he has a daughter, Katherine (b. 1998).


With thanks to Wikipedia.