Biography - Stephan Schmidheiny


Introduction Biography

Stephan Schmidheiny has made industrial history, as both an entrepreneur and pioneer. After taking over responsibility for the family firm Swiss Eternit Group in 1976, he began to push for an end to asbestos processing, leading the way in the world in this regard. He subsequently played a key role in saving the Swiss watch industry, and built up an industrial group in Latin America. He served as an advisor to the United Nations and the OECD, established the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and set up numerous organisations that promote sustainability. As a philanthropist and author, and as the person who coined the term 'eco-efficiency', he has lent crucial impetus to the debate on sustainable economic, social and environmental development worldwide.

Humanitarian initiative in Italy

By the end of September, more than 1,900 people in northern and southern Italy have accepted the humanitarian offer that has been in place since 2007. The compensation payments are based on international standards

Eternit trial

The initial hearings in the Italian Eternit trial begin in December. In November 2014, Italy’s highest appeal court, the Corte Suprema di Cassazione, acquitted Stephan Schmidheiny of the charges


Biography by René Lüchinger und Ueli Burkhard entitled “Stephan Schmidheiny. Sein langer Weg zu sich selbst – Erbe – Unternehmer – Philanthrop” in German

Humanitarian initiative in Italy

Becon AG launched a humanitarian-motivated initiative for former employees of the Italian Eternit SpA, in which the Swiss Eternit Group had a participation. The Italian Eternit SpA declared bankruptcy in 1986; therefore no legal succession took place


Parallel to his retirement from the business life, Stephan Schmidheiny assigned the handling of the asbestos dossier of the former Swiss Eternit Group SEG to Becon AG

Viva Trust

Established the irrevocable Viva Trust, mainly by donating stock of the GrupoNueva Holding. The yields of the Viva Trust, managed by independent Trustees, are used to fund Fundación Avina in Latin America


Founding of the non-profit MarViva Foundation together with Erica Knie. The Foundation is focused on the preservation and sustainable exploitation of marine life and the coastline in the eastern tropical Pacific

Walking the Talk

Publication of “Walking the Talk: The Business Case for Sustainable Development”

Fundación Avina

Established non-profit Fundación Avina, a sister foundation of the Swiss Avina Stiftung. The foundation aims at creating and implementing a new conception of philanthropy for Latin America, which combines the objectives of non-profit activities with methods and tools taken from the business world

Universidad Católica Andres Bello

Doctor honoris causa of Universidad Católica Andres Bello, Caracas, Venezuela