(Español) Julio Saguier: Por una prensa libre e independiente (13 de abril 2015)

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(Español) Adolfo Brennan: Una apuesta innovadora por el bien común de la región

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Jeremy Leggett is a British green-energy entrepreneur

I met Stephan Schmidheiny in 1990, nearly a quarter of a century ago. That was two years before the Italian government outlawed asbestos, but 14 years after he began his efforts to his programme to develop asbestos-free products in the factories he held shares in, 9 years after he announced his exit from asbestos processing, and six years after the point where the majority of products were asbestos free. I knew him then, as now, as a pioneer – way ahead of almost anyone else, including the Italian authorities – in alerting the world to the horrific dangers that were being discovered in use of asbestos.

His painful experience with discovering the ghastly downsides of the products of the family business he inherited had made him wary of many other industrial chemicals and processes. That was why he founded the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. That was one of the main reasons why he set up a philanthropic foundation that has poured more money into sustainable development in Latin America than most governments combined.

I saw him at work on all this, from 1990 on. I came to see how genuine he was, and is. Right through the 1990s, I witnessed him fight to change the mentality of the industrial world: to persuade corporations to copy the withdrawal from deadly pollutants that he had long since achieved in the case of asbestos. I watched as he funded project after project to improve and save peoples’ lives. He was, for example, the first high net-worth funder of a charity of my creation, SolarAid. That charity is now changing millions of lives in Africa for the better, replacing another dire product, kerosene, with clean solar lights. This is just a tiny example of what he has done. I am just one of the many campaigning business people that he has inspired as well as funded.

None of this is to take anything away from the hellish tragedy that has been the asbestos cases, and the nightmare of the poor families bringing suit in Italy.

But I ask you, does the Stephan Schmidheiny I know and describe sound like someone who has wilfully committed murder on a mass scale, as the presiding judge said even before the court case started and the first evidence had been presented?

No. The reverse. He more than anyone worked to warn the world about the dangers of asbestos, and back his own commercial interests out of it.

Jeremy Leggett is a British green-energy entrepreneur, author and activist who is founder and chairman of Solarcentury, the UK’s largest independent solar electric company, founder and chairman of the charity SolarAid and Chairman of the Carbon Tracker Initiative.

Testimonial from Roberto Abujder

The program for the development of asbestos-free products was, without a doubt, a true professional and intelectual challenge, but we did it!

The measures for protecting the health and safety of the workers were implemented and followed to the last detail; I feel very satisfied to have worked for this Group for 26 years.

Testimonial from Julio Moura

During my time as a board member of non-governmental organizations and as General Manager of companies in the private sector, as well as regional and global business associations, I met a leader renowned for his unconditional and sincere commitment to the wellbeing of people and the sustainability of the planet: Stephan Schmidheiny.

For him, our actions and impact on the planet and its peoples must be positive, and we must give transparent account of them. The improvement in people’s quality of life and the sustainability of the planet are non-negotiable principles.

Stephan was always clear on the fact that business activity has a higher purpose: to be a positive agent for change for social and environmental transformation. And he implemented these principles in the organizations he founded, such as, among others, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Fundación Avina, and in all his enterprises. He always showed consistency between what he believed and what he did.

I am grateful to Stephan for leading by example and for inspiring so many leaders throughout the world.

Julio MouraEx-CEO of GrupoNueva

(Español) Mensaje de Mauricio Cárdenas, Ministro de Economía de Colombia, durante el 30 aniversario de FUNDES en Medellín.

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Message from Gerardo Ourracariet

Hello, Stephan:

I am Gerardo Ourracariet, ex-General Manager of Amanco Argentina (until 2007) y ally of Avina (since 1997 and with whom I still maintain contact). I hope you remember me.
Every now and then I meet with Carlos March and Pedro Tarak, and old, pleasant memories always tend to come up.

This mail is to congratulate you on the new site and to offer you encouragement with regard to the trial. I, who worked at your companies, based on my own personal day-to-day experiences, can personally attest to the fact that your actions have always taken people into consideration, even at the expense of business opportunities.

I send you a hug,

(Español) Pedro Tarak: Stephan Schmidheiny en Latinoamérica, una visión en marcha

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(Español) Stanley Motta: el legado de Stephan Schmidheiny en Latinoamérica

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(Español) Stephan Schmidheiny: icono latinoamericano

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One of Stephan’s Contributions to Paraguay

Of the many things Stephan did in Paraguay, aside from Fundación Avina, I will never forget when he came to visit me in the town of Asunción. I mentioned to him, concerning his “Eco-efficiency” book, that the Mburicaó river was being contaminated by the meat processing plants that dump blood into it.

I remembered how Ubaldo Scavone always said that blood could be turned into hemoglobin and exported. So that morning we went to the river with Stephan and Raul Gauto and we saw the environmental disaster and the idea to establish the Lican factory was born.

Later, Raul attracted Chilean technology and capital and founded Lican S.A. and today the Bertoni foundation collects 13 million liters of blood per year and makes about USD$300,000 a year that pays for the Mbaracayú reserve. As a result of Stephan’s generosity and vision, today an environmental project pays for another environmental project. Very few can refute this.

Martin Burt, Executive Director, Fundación Paraguaya; & Executive Director, Teach a Man to Fish

It is very helpful to have this truth. Thank you! And adding to what Martin said, from the moment they started that fantastic idea to this date, about 90 million liters of blood have been processed, which is the equivalent of 198,000,000,000 liters of water that have not been contaminated—according to research at the time, one liter of blood could contaminate 2,200 liters of water. A lot of that contamination would have ended up in our well-known Ypacarai Lake. We are talking about an extraordinary impact!

Yan Speranza, Chairman of Fundación Moisés Bertoni

It is not fair nor right to flippantly judge and criticize and with such misinformation

I believe it is crucial that people who criticize or judge him should at least take the time to be informed and form a serious opinion about a person who has had an impeccable career as a philanthropist and businessman committed to Latin America’s development, and has contributed a significant amount of resources, projects and endeavors that have been very important for the continent. It is not fair nor right to flippantly judge or criticize and with such misinformation.

We have received enormous and permanent support at Fundación Acción Joven (the Young Action Foundation) and Horizonte Positivo (Positive Horizon), as well as for various other social development projects I have been personally involved with, through Familia VIVA [sic] (the VIVA family) and the Centro de Intercambio de Conocimientos (Knowledge Exchange Center) and thanks to Mr. Roberto Artavia Loria, many initiative and ideas have also been carried out and grown, and these have originated from the contributions and institutions that Mr. Stephan founded.

To sum up, I believe it is important that we be informed before making judgments. This person deserves that at least the relevant details of the case and of his career be known.

José Aguilar Berrocal, Fundación Acción Joven

His commitment to Latin America has been both pioneering as well as transforming

Stephan Schmidheiny is a needed man. His commitment to Latin America has been both pioneering as well as transforming. Who can forget his quote, “There will be no successful companies in failed societies?” How can we forget it? I met him in person in 2000 when he received an award from Yale University, where I was able to study thanks to his support. He changed my life. He was always willing to support Latin Americans who were working in social and sustainability areas. I trust that the unmerited attacks he has been a victim of will not belittle his legacy in the medium or long term. For now I am happy that this site has been created.

Mónica Araya, Founder and Director of Costa Rica Limpia

Public Declaration


Due Respect and Deserved Recognition

In what has been described as a show trial rife with procedural irregularities, a lower court in Turin, Italy, sentenced Dr. Stephan Schmidheiny in February for “intentional omission of safety and health measures in Italian factories”, related to the production of asbestos there several years ago. Although we are confident that higher courts will overturn this decision, we want to make clear our moral support for Stephan Schmidheiny and to express our appreciation for his many contributions to Latin America and to the global sustainability movement.

We know Stephan Schmidheiny as an ethical and visionary business leader who in the 1970s risked his family fortune to responsibly exit the holdings he inherited in the asbestos industry, an effort he completed in 1986, well before there was consensus on the material’s adverse effects or any ban on its production in Italy or anywhere else.

His responsible and forward-looking actions as a businessman gained him the recognition of his peers, and he was invited to be the Commissioner of the industrial sector by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Co-Chair of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (known as the “Earth Summit”) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The essence of his message was that business leaders should do their part in “changing course” toward more sustainable and equitable development.

Author in the 80’s of seminal articles and books related to eco-efficiency and sustainable development, Dr. Schmidheiny decided to lead by example, becoming the founder and first president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and shortly thereafter the creator of Fundación Avina, a unique philanthropic model in Latin America that has benefitted thousands of social and environmental organizations in the region thanks to his vision, support and partnership.

Committed to sustainability in Latin America, in 2003 he went on to create Viva Trust, an organization with a social and environmental mission to which he donated all his productive assets in the region –including his shares in the companies Amanco, Plycem and Masisa. The financial returns achieved from Viva’s assets and for-profit investments provide a permanent source of funds for sustainable development in Latin America, most notably through support for Fundación Avina and other innovative actions to improve conditions in Latin America.

In addition to his work with WBCSD, Fundación Avina and Viva Trust, Dr. Schmidheiny has been an important source of resources and strategic support to a list of other global organizations such as Ashoka, Endeavor, the World Resources Institute, INCAE Business School and its Latin American Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development, FUNDES and the Alliance for Global Sustainability (a partnership of MIT, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and the University of Tokyo), among many other projects both of local importance and of global reach.

Through the support of Dr. Schmidheiny and the institutions he founded, thousands of leaders and organizations in Latin America have launched and promoted some of the most relevant environmental and social causes of our time. Examples include Corporate Social Responsibility movement, Social Entrepreneurship, inclusive business, sustainable cities, recycling cooperatives, responsible water management and the protection of the Amazon and the South American Chaco, among many other initiatives of national impact and regional importance.

In recognition of the above and in response to the disinformation surrounding the trial in Turin, we simply want to express our appreciation and respect to Dr. Stephan Schmidheiny as an ethical entrepreneur, visionary leader and humanitarian, who has demonstrated by example what it means to be social and environmentally responsible.

We sign this declaration as a sign of support for him and the causes he has championed, and as a sign of recognition for the key role he has played in the history of the global sustainability movement.


(Español) Testimonio Danilo Siekavizza

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(Español) Testimonio Xavier Argüello

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