Stephan Schmidheiny (b. 1947), is the second of four children. His business career started at age 29 when his father handed him the leadership of an important family construction company.
For thirteen years (1976–1989) he was the director of the Swiss Eternit Group (SEG). He restructured the company and propelled a series of reforms that made him the pioneer and world leader in the elimination of the use of asbestos.
He was awarded four Honorary Doctorate Degrees by prestigious international universities; he was the author and co-author of several books on business sustainability; he has spoken at numerous conferences around the world explaining his business model and commitment to attain more sustainable and inclusive societies.
His philanthropic ambition led him to establish a series of non-profit organizations, particularly in Latin America—among them the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), FUNDES, Fundación Avina, and MarViva—in order to contribute to the sustainable growth of entrepreneurs, SME, and social projects in the region, and for the protection of the environment. He has also counseled multiple non-profit organizations in several countries.
At the beginning of 2000 Schmidheiny gradually retired from his business and philanthropic organizations, ensuring the sustainability of his Latin American endeavors by establishing VIVA Trust.
Nowadays, free from active functions, he resides in Switzerland with his family.