Swiss entrepreneur donates a billion dollars to environmental protection

Wyss claims to have already invested more than $450 million in environmental projects around the world. Keystone

The Swiss businessman and philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss, the US-based founder of the Synthes medical technology group, plans to give the huge donation to help better protect wildlife areas. 

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In an open letter published on Wednesday in the New York Times, the 83-year-old said the money would be released over the next ten years. The Wyss Foundation will direct funds to efforts aimed at creating protected areas for wildlife and improving management of existing ones. The goal of the foundation is to keep about 30% of the earth in its natural state until 2030. 

“This money will support locally led conservation efforts around the world, push for increased global targets for land and ocean protection, seek to raise public awareness about the importance of this effort, and fund scientific studies to identify the best strategies to reach our target,” said Wyss in the New York Times. 

Swiss institutions like the University of Bern stand to benefit from the Wyss largesse with CHF2 million earmarked for sustainable development projects in Kenya and Peru. 

Philanthropist credentials

Wyss, who now lives in Wyoming, claims to have already invested more than $450 million (CHF451.5 million) in environmental projects in Africa, South America, North America and Europe that helped protect about 40 million hectares of land and water. 

Wyss made his fortune by selling his company Synthes to the American multinational Johnson & Johnson in 2012. His assets were estimated at between seven and eight billion francs last year by the magazine Bilanz. 

In 2017, Forbes magazine described him as “one of the most philanthropic people in the world”. He has signed the so-called “Giving Pledge” to agree to give away the majority of his fortune to charity.

In the US, he helped found the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. In Switzerland, he has been involved in the creation of the Campus Biotech and its Wyss Center for Bio- and Neuro-engineering in Geneva. In 2014, he donated $120 million to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) and the University of Zurich for a joint medical research centre. As president of the Beyeler Foundation, he is also involved in art and sports.


 

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