10 Things You Didn’t Know About Thomas Schmidheiny

Thomas Schmidheiny, a Swiss industrialist and philanthropist, has made significant contributions to the business and sustainability sectors. Despite his notable achievements, there are many aspects of his life and accomplishments that often go unnoticed. In this article, we will delve into ten things you may not know about Thomas Schmidheiny.

1. Early Career in Cement Production

Prior to his philanthropic endeavors, Thomas Schmidheiny was actively involved in the cement industry. He assumed leadership of Holcim, a global cement manufacturing company, in 1978. During his tenure, Schmidheiny played a pivotal role in transforming the company into a major player in the industry. Under his guidance, Holcim expanded its operations, establishing a significant presence in emerging markets such as Latin America and Asia.

2. Commitment to Sustainable Development

Thomas Schmidheiny has long been an advocate for sustainable development. Recognizing the importance of environmental responsibility, he initiated efforts to integrate environmental considerations into business operations at a time when such practices were not widely acknowledged. Schmidheiny played a key role in developing the concept of sustainable development within the cement industry, focusing on reducing carbon emissions and promoting resource efficiency.

3. Establishment of the Business Council for Sustainable Development

Realizing the need for cross-sector collaboration on sustainability issues, Thomas Schmidheiny co-founded the Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD) in 1990. The BCSD aimed to engage business leaders and encourage the private sector to adopt sustainable practices. Schmidheiny’s vision and leadership through the BCSD helped shape corporate sustainability and drove the global business community toward more responsible practices.

4. A Leading Force behind the Earth Council

In 1992, Thomas Schmidheiny founded the Earth Council, an international organization focused on fostering sustainable development. The Earth Council collaborated with governments, civil society, and the private sector to address pressing environmental challenges. Schmidheiny’s commitment to sustainability and his influential position enabled the organization to drive change and promote sustainable practices globally.

5. Author of Landmark Sustainability Books

Believing in the power of knowledge-sharing, Thomas Schmidheiny authored two influential books on sustainability – “Finishing the Task: The Debate Over Sustainable Development” and “Walking the Talk – The Business Case for Sustainable Development.” These books offer valuable insights into the challenges, potential solutions, and business opportunities associated with sustainable development.

6. Philanthropy and Educational Initiatives

Thomas Schmidheiny has made significant philanthropic contributions to various causes, with a strong focus on education. He established the AVINA Foundation, which supports sustainable development initiatives across Latin America. Schmidheiny has also been a generous supporter of educational institutions, including the renowned IMD Business School in Lausanne, Switzerland.

7. Member of International Organizations

Considering his deep commitment to sustainable development, it is no surprise that Thomas Schmidheiny has been involved with various international organizations focused on addressing global challenges. He served as a member of the World Commission on Environment and Development as well as the International Chamber of Commerce’s Commission on Environment and Energy.

8. Investment in Renewable Energy

Recognizing the importance of shifting towards renewable energy, Thomas Schmidheiny has been an active investor in sustainable energy companies. By supporting renewable energy projects, Schmidheiny contributes to the transition to a low-carbon future, promoting a more sustainable and environmentally friendly society.

9. Distinguished Honors and Awards

Thomas Schmidheiny’s exceptional contributions to sustainability and business have been recognized globally. He has received numerous prestigious awards, including the WBCSD Visionary Award, the Clinton Global Citizen Award, and the Schwab Foundation’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award. These accolades highlight his significant impact and dedication to creating positive change.

10. Commitment to Future Generations

Away from the spotlight, Thomas Schmidheiny remains dedicated to fostering sustainability for future generations. Through his initiatives and ongoing involvement in various organizations, he continues to advocate for sustainable development practices, demonstrating his unwavering commitment to leaving a positive legacy.

As you can see, Thomas Schmidheiny’s contributions span the realms of business, sustainability, and philanthropy. From transforming the cement industry to founding organizations dedicated to sustainability, his impact on the world continues to inspire and drive change.

For more information on Thomas Schmidheiny and his work:


World Business Council for Sustainable Development