Swiss Billionaire Makes $1B Donation to Preserve Natural Resources

Hansjörg Wyss is a Swiss billionaire who made a fortune in the American market by founding medical device manufacturer Synthes. Before his 2012 sale of his company to Johnson & Johnson, he donated approximately $300 million dollars. Since the $21 billion sale, his giving has increased dramatically. Like Bill Gates, Tim Cook, Elon Musk, and David Rockefeller, he has signed The Giving Pledge, an informal commitment to donate at least half of his net worth to philanthropic causes.

On Wednesday, October 31, Wyss wrote in an op-ed piece in the New York Times in which he revealed that he is donating $1 billion “to help accelerate land and ocean conservation efforts around the world.”

The money will be divested through his Wyss Foundation over the next 10 years, targeted at preserving and expanding public parts, conservation areas, and wildlife and marine reserves.

Wyss’s donations have already helped protect approximately 40 million acres of land and sea on or near four continents, to the tune of half a billion dollars. With this massive increase, he wants to protect 30 percent of the world’s surface by 2030.

“Every one of us—citizens, philanthropists, business, and government leaders—should be troubled by the enormous gap between how little of our natural world is currently protected and how much should be protected. It is a gap that we must urgently narrow, before our human footprint consumes the earth’s remaining wild places,” he wrote.

Climate scientists push for at least 50 percent of the planet to be protected to maintain biodiversity and prevent an extinction event. Currently, only about 15 percent of land and seven percent of ocean area is protected in a natural state—numbers that are being whittled down all the time.

“For the sake of all living things,” concludes Wyss, “let’s see to it that far more of our planet is protected by the people, for the people, and for all time.”