The Institute has celebrated seven Hillary Laureates in the past decade, three of whom have also been awarded US$100,000 Hillary Step awards. While coming from across the globe - US, UK, China, South America and Kiribati - Hillary Laureates are united by exceptional mid-career, leadership, impact at scale, and a deep sense of purpose driving their work. 


Photograph above: Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay approaching the South East ridge at 27,300 feet. Photograph courtesy of The Royal Geographic Society (with IBG).


Johan Rockström (Sweden) - 2017

Tim Jackson (UK) - 2016

Michael Brune (USA) - 2014


Atossa Soltani (Amazon) - 2013

Anote Tong (Kiribati) - 2012

Aimée Christensen (USA) - 2011


Peggy Liu (China) - 2010

Jeremy Leggett (UK) - 2009


How Are Laureates Selected?

The Hillary Laureates are found via a global search programme and watch-list developed over the past decade.

Laureates cannot self-nominate - the Institute’s Director delivers the International Governors a short-list of six candidates by 31st March each year, and they make a determination on one by June. This is then ratified by the Institute’s Board of Trustees in New Zealand, whose Chair also convenes the International Governors.

No-one has refused the Laureate honour. The Institute provides support and holds annual Symposia both in New Zealand and internationally, usually in the home communities of Laureates, creating integrated linkages representing the latest thinking on our chosen leadership topic. Our current topic is “Capital for Change”. 2009-12 was “Climate Change Solutions” and 2012-15 “Climate Equity.” Hillary Laureates are also encouraged to collaborate with former Laureates to further grow their international impact. 


The Hillary Step

Named after the final, almost vertical 40-foot cliff-face that Hillary and Tenzing Norgay scaled in reaching the summit of Everest, the Hillary Step is a metaphor for the challenges innovative leaders face.

Hillary and Tenzing Norgay at Camp IV after their ascent of Everest. Photograph courtesy of The Royal Geographic Society (with IBG).

The Hillary Step is a prize that is given every four years to the person (likely but not necessarily a Hillary global Laureate) whom the Hillary Summit determines has a project where direct financial support from the Institute may enable a significant hurdle to be overcome in the chosen topic area.

The Hillary Step is valued at a minimum of NZD100,000 and complements similar awards at the highest international level. Attracting international focus upon the recipient and their work, the Hillary Step brings further international attention to those leaders who raise the bar and make the world a better place.

The inaugural Hillary Step was awarded in 2012 to 2010 Laureate Peggy Liu. The 2016 Hillary Step was jointly awarded to Mike Brune and Atossa Soltani.