Entrepreneur Hansjörg Wyss makes billion dollar environmental investment

When a person of wealth decides to make a difference, the effect can be substantial, and this is exactly what Swiss businessman Hansjörg Wyss has in mind.

The architect of the Wyss Campaign for Nature, his aim through this drive is to ‘help communities, indigenous peoples, and nations to conserve 30% of the planet in its natural state by 2030’.

Money talks, and this is why Wyss is directly investing one billion dollars from his own pocket.

Currently, 15% of our land and 7% of our seas are protected. Although it seems like little, this is a growing percentage over the last three decades, but it is not enough. The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation estimates that half our world should be wilderness in order to maintain biodiversity, planetary health, and ourselves. Wyss himself considers our best chance at preservation is by way of ‘public national parks, wildlife refuges, and marine reserves’, and is planning on releasing the one billion dollar investment over the course of a decade.

The first round of projects from the Wyss Campaign is aimed at thirteen countries across the globe, collectively accounting for 40,000 square kilometers of land (roughly the size of Switzerland), and 17,000 square kilometers of marine habitats. These projects are the benficiaries of the first $48 million from the Wyss investment, and are designed to work in tandem with local conservation work on a national level, involving increasing public knowledge and participation. Different organisations are applying the funding in varying ways – Nature Conservancy, for example, is helping restructure the debt of Caribbean islands in exchange for conservation guarantees, as well as oversee indigenous land protection in Australia.

Wyss’s deadline of 2030 is directly related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – a series of 17 goals that are necessary to work towards for the benefit of the planet and ourselves, with the particular goals in question being Life Below Water and Life On Land.

Hansjörg Wyss wants to put the power and responsibility over large areas of land back into the hands of local communities and indigenous groups – people who are already connected to, and have a stake in, the land that they inhabit. Additionally, he wants to develop education and public engagement through the investment.

“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.” – Hansjörg Wyss

No stranger to conservation, Wyss’s foundation is already responsible for protecting 16,000 square kilometers across the world, but this significant campaign is designed to work towards a much loftier goal. Wyss is clearly leading by example, and it is hoped that his work here will raises public concern and lead to more concrete work towards sustainable goals.

Read Wyss’s full New York Times letter. Wyss also contributed a lengthy article to The Guardian, entitled In America and beyond, the spirit behind public lands is at risk.