Philanthropy - Stephan Schmidheiny


Entrepreneurial Philanthropy

Stephan Schmidheiny’s philanthropic activities remain true to his fundamental entrepreneurial approach while centring on a threefold result, a so-called triple bottom line. His foundations incorporate social, ecological and financial criteria in their efforts.

Stephan Schmidheiny’s foundations take business risks. They often and very specifically provide seed money in order to motivate other investors to also participate in the projects in a second phase once the supported projects have been borne out.

With the establishment of the Viva Trust in 2003, Stephan Schmidheiny once again entered unchartered philanthropic territory. He established an irrevocable trust according to British law and donated his companies in Latin America to it. Ever since, the Viva Trust has been investing a significant portion of the profits in the Fundación Avina.

Together with the Archbishop of Panama, Marcos McGrath, Stephan Schmidheiny launched the Fundes initiative in 1984, a foundation for the sustainable development of the Latin American private sector. The objective of Fundes is to strengthen the entrepreneurial capacities of small and mid-sized enterprises in Latin America, thereby supporting social and economic progress and contributing to sustainable development in this region. The foundation was one of the first institutions in the region to grant micro-loans. Today, it is active in twelve Latin American countries.

In 1993, after the early death of his younger brother Alexander, Stephan Schmidheiny established the Alexander Schmidheiny Stiftung, a foundation focusing on local initiatives in Eastern Switzerland, the home of the Schmidheiny family. Alexander was a passionate art collector. Together with his old friend Thomas Ammann, he laid the foundation for the remarkable Daros Collection. In memory of Alexander Schmidheiny, the Alexander Schmidheiny Stiftung supports cultural, social, and ecological projects, particularly in Switzerland’s Rhine Valley region.

Logo Avina Stiftung

As early as 1994, Stephan Schmidheiny established the Avina Stiftung in Switzerland, a charitable institution committed to social and ecological sustainability, issues that were unheard of at the time. Its aim is to create opportunities for as many people as possible to improve their living conditions through their own efforts. The Avina Stiftung now focuses mainly on projects in Switzerland.

In 2001, the Avina network in Latin America reached a critical size, which is why Stephan Schmidheiny founded the Fundación Avina. Today Fundación Avina is present in 15 countries of Latin America through a network of physical and virtual offices. The Fundación Avina and Avina Stiftung foundations are now financially and organisationally independent of each other.

Together with Erica Knie, Stephan Schmidheiny called the Fundación MarViva to life in 2002. The Foundation is focused on the preservation and sustainable exploitation of marine life and the coastline in the eastern tropical Pacific. MarViva currently operates in Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia.

In 2003, Stephan Schmidheiny irrevocably made over his Latin American industrial group, GrupoNueva to the Viva Trust, which he had established. GrupoNueva consists of companies active in the forestry and building materials industries, which are also managed in accordance with financial, social and ecological criteria. The Viva Trust is meant to contribute to development in Latin America in the long term. Accordingly, a significant portion of the profits from industrial activities is invested in the Fundación Avina and other philanthropic activities.