Adam Smith Prize

Since 2004, FÖS has awarded the Adam Smith Prize to outstanding personalities who have made a scientific, political or journalistic contribution to the development of an ecologically and socially sustainable economy.


Why Adam Smith?

No one recognized as early and as clearly as the Scottish economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith that self-interest and the common good don’t need to be mutually exclusive and must not be allowed to be mutually exclusive in the future. "People will do anything for money, even the good" - this saying may not have been made by Adam Smith, but the original idea can be traced back to him. So the motto of the Adam Smith Prize is: Putting self-interest at the service of the common good, especially by requiring prices to tell the economic, environmental, and social truth. In our perspective, Adam Smith foresaw the necessary means to achieve a market-based, ecologic economy.

As a pioneer of a decent market economy and restrained self-interest, Adam Smith is more relevant than ever. What does Adam Smith stand for? 225 years after the death of the Scottish pioneer, the German broadcaster WDR asked this question. FÖS Honorary Chairman Dr. Anselm Görres says: Adam Smith was a humane philosopher of enlightened self-interest and not a prophet of brutal egoism. A manuscript in German is available online.

"Although there were no environmental protection regulations in Adam Smith's time, we may assume that Adam Smith would also have regarded restrictions on market-economy freedom as necessary and would have defended them when it came to avoiding imminent environmental damage. All the more we may assume that he would have advocated market-based instruments of environmental protection such as the environmental tax reform."
(Prof. Dr. Hans C. Binswanger, first laureate)


"I am particularly pleased about the Adam Smith Prize because it honours an idea that I believe can provide the answer to some of the most important questions of our time. The idea is the principle of true costs: that the actual, and therefore also social and ecological, costs of the production and consumption of goods are reflected in their prices."
(Prof. Dr. Horst Köhler, former Federal President of Germany, in his acceptance speech for the Adam Smith Prize 2014)

The Laureates at a Glance

The 2021 Adam Smith Prize for Market-Based Environmental Policy goes to Prof. Dr. Mariana Mazzucato. The FÖS honours Prof. Mazzucato's contribution to the debate on the important and often underestimated role of the state in shaping markets and accelerating the shift towards greater sustainability. Her work helps us to understand the crises of our time and find solutions to them by rebalancing the relationship between the state and the private sector and further developing the rules of the market economy in the interest of the common good. The award ceremony took place following the FÖS conference on Financing the transition to a more sustainable and socially just transport system on Oct 7th, 2021.

The press release (in German), the laudatory speech (in English) by Prof. Dr. Achim Truger as well as the event’s recording (in English) are available online.

This year, the Adam Smith Prize for Market-Based Environmental Policy 2019 goes to the Secretary-General of the WBGU, Prof. Dr. Maja Göpel. The FÖS thereby honours both her long-standing personal commitment to the socio-ecological transformation of society and the economy and her scientific contributions to the societal transformation towards sustainability and the question of what an economy for the 21st century might look like. The prize was awarded as part of the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of FÖS.

The FÖS press release and the laudation by FÖS advisory board member Prof. Dr. Angelika Zahrnt are available here.

We are pleased to award this year's Adam Smith Prize for Market-based Environmental Policy at the conference "In Dialogue: Climate Protection and the Market Economy" to Achim Steiner, Head of the United Nations Development Programme. FÖS thereby honours his extraordinary commitment to global environmental protection.

You can find more information here. The laudation by Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer is available online.

From left to right: Kai Schlegelmilch (Chairman of FÖS), Prof. Dr Claudia Kemfert (2016 prize winner) and Achim Steiner (2018 prize winner).


The FÖS has awarded this year's Adam Smith Prize for Market-based Environmental Policy to the energy economist Prof. Dr. Claudia Kemfert. The head of the department "Energy, Transport, Environment" at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) and professor for Energy Economics and Sustainability was honoured as one of the most prominent and present advocates of an ecological tax reform, the 'polluter pays' principle and a sustainable energy economy. The official award ceremony took place on 20 October 2016 in Berlin - more information on the event is available online.

From left to right: Dr. Anselm Görres (Honorary Chairman of FÖS), Prof. Dr. Claudia Kemfert (laureate) and Kai Schlegelmilch (Chairman of FÖS). Photo: FÖS / O. Brzoska

The FÖS has awarded the Adam Smith Prize 2015 to the former EU Environment Commissioner and head of the UNEP International Resource Panel, Dr. Janez Potočnik. In the run-up to the world climate conference COP21 in Paris, at this prize ceremony ways to a sustainable economy were discussed - more precisely, how we manage to put self-interest in the service of the common good. The award ceremony took place on Wednesday, 25 November 2015, at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

V. l. n. r.: Dr. Anselm Görres (Vorsitzender des FÖS), Dr. Janez Potočnik (Preisträger 2015) und Hans Eichel (Jury-Mitglied und Bundesminister a. D.)

Former Federal President Prof. Dr. Horst Köhler was awarded the Adam Smith Prize for Market-based Environmental Policy on 17 October 2014. With this award, the FÖS honoured Horst Köhler's commitment to an ecological-social transformation of society and the economy. As Federal President, Horst Köhler campaigned for environmental costs to be more strongly integrated into market prices, thus paving the way for a further development of the Ecological Finance Reform by the CDU/CSU and FDP coalition government. The laudations were held by last year's laureate Hans Eichel (former Federal Minister) and Ralf Fücks (Chairman of the Heinrich Böll Foundation). The public award ceremony took place within the framework of the annual and anniversary conference "20 years for a sustainable future".

From left to right: Anselm Görres (Honorary Chairman of FÖS), Ralf Fücks, Eva Luise Köhler, Prof. Dr. Horst Köhler (2014 laureate), Hans Eichel (2013 laureate).


The Adam Smith Prize for Market-based Environmental Policy 2013 was awarded to the former Federal Minister of Finance Hans Eichel on 15 March 2013. The public awarding of the Adam Smith Prize with speeches by Hans Eichel, Rüdiger Kruse, MdB (CDU) and Kai Schlegelmilch (Chairman of FÖS) will take place within the framework of the FÖS annual conference "Postwachstumsgesellschaft konkret".


The Adam Smith Prize for Market-based Environmental Policy 2012 was awarded to EU Tax Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta. Before his award speech, two laudators, Günter Verheugen, former Vice-President of the European Commission and Prof. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, UNEP International Resource Panel, spoke. The award ceremony took place at the end of the conference "Resource Efficiency through Economic Instruments. What framework does the Green Economy need?


The Adam Smith Prize 2011 was awarded to Prof. Dr Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker. With Prof. von Weizsäcker, the FÖS honoured one of the most distinguished pioneers for a more resource-efficient economy. Early on, he emphasised the importance of economic instruments such as environmental taxes for the success of a sustainable economy. From 1998 to 2005, Prof. von Weizsäcker was also significantly involved in the introduction of the Ecological Tax Reform as a member of the Bundestag. The award ceremony took place on Friday, 6 May 2011 from 18:00 at a reception following the symposium "Resource tax concepts on the test bench" at the Representation of the European Commission in Berlin.

The Adam Smith Prize 2010 was awarded on Friday 23 April 2010 in the course of the conference "A greener and fairer tax system against climate problems and national debt" at the Rotes Rathaus in Berlin. The prize went to the green conscience of the CSU, Josef Göppel. In doing so, the FÖS paid tribute to the outstanding environmental policy achievements of Josef Göppel in the almost 40 years of his political work in the Federal Republic.

The Adam Smith Prize 2009 was awarded on Friday, 29 May 2009 during the conference "Solving the Crisis with Government Spending - The Contribution of Free-Market Environmental Policy" at the Rotes Rathaus in Berlin. The laudators were Dr. Reinhard Loske (Senator for the Environment in Bremen and laureate 2008) and Dr. Anselm Görres (Chairman FÖS). This year's laureate is the Deputy Director General of the European Union's Directorate General for the Environment, Mr Jos Delbeke. He is considered the "father" of European emissions trading and is being honoured for his services to its establishment.

For the fifth time, the Adam Smith Prize for Market-based Environmental Policy was awarded by the FÖS. The 2008 laureates are Dr Barbara Hendricks (SPD) and Dr Reinhard Loske (Bündnis 90/ Die Grünen). The public award ceremony of the Adam Smith Prize took place on 31 May 2008 during the conference "The Market in Climate Protection" in Hofgeismar.

The Adam Smith Prize for Market-based Environmental Policy, awarded for the fourth time, went to Prof. Dr Klaus Töpfer at the 8th World Environmental Tax Conference in Munich on 18 October.

For the third time, the Adam Smith Prize for free-market environmental policy was awarded - to Jürgen Trittin, Member of the German Bundestag, at the FÖS conference "Öko- statt Merkelsteuer" in Berlin in April 2006.

For the second time, the Adam Smith Prize for Market-based Environmental Policy was awarded at the FÖS conference "Ökosteuer wohin?" in Tutzing in April 2005, this time to Dr Dieter Ewringmann.


For the first time, the Adam Smith Prize for Market-based Environmental Policy was awarded to Prof. Dr. Hans-Christoph Binswanger at the 2004 General Assembly. The prize is endowed with 1000 euros and we were pleased to receive donations from supporters.