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.”

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Out of the Limelight: The Jobs’ Generous Giving

Steve and Laurene Powell Jobs
IMG: via Forbes

The world loved Steve Jobs. The innovative, intelligent college-dropout who founded Apple and Pixar was charismatic and easy to like. He inspired people with his products and vision, and devastated many with his death.

But not everyone had all nice things to say about the Apple CEO. He eventually reached a net worth of $10.2 billion before his death in October 2011, and many criticized the business magnate for not being generous with his fortune. He was worth so much money, yet he hadn’t mentioned any charitable giving to his biographer nor had he gone public about large donation like Bill Gates did. People felt that someone who had such a large fortune ought to be giving more of it away.

But what they didn’t know is that he was giving some of it away. He and his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, had quietly been giving to charitable causes for over two decades—they just didn’t feel a need to go public about it.

“We’re really careful about amplifying the great work of others in every way that we can, and we don’t like attaching our names to things,” Powell Jobs said in an interview with the New York Times. In other words, they are a private family that doesn’t feel the need to blast their famous name at every good deed.

It’s only recently that Laurene Powell Jobs has decided to step a little more into the limelight. She’s pushing for changes in education, conservation, nutrition, immigration, and even gun control. About a decade ago, Powell Jobs formed a group called Emerson Collective, which is an organization that awards grants and investments in education and other initiatives.

Emerson Collective is an LLC, rather than a certified non-profit, which means it can donate to for-profit, non-profit, and even political causes alike. And unlike a foundation, it doesn’t have to publicly report what it gives. That allows for an incredible amount of freedom and privacy, which is right up the Jobs family’s alley.

Powell-Jobs also helped form an initiative called College Track in 1997, which provides college prep for aspiring college students. Through College Track, she has served as a mentor to young people, helping them achieve their goals.

“It’s not about getting any public recognition for her giving, it’s to help touch and transform individual live,” said one of Powell Jobs’ close friends, philanthropist Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen.