Jochen Zeitz - philanthropist

Community co-ordinator and founder MWCT

Jochen Zeitz - philanthropist

Jochen Zeitz, chief sustainability officer of the French luxury company PPR, is bringing environmental responsibility to the luxury business and the travel industry and convincing companies to pay for their impact on nature.

Jochen Zeitz founded the Zeitz Foundation in 2008 inspired by the efforts of conservationists, scientists, and artists, and recognizing the need for furthering collaboration and alliances around the world, Zeitz founded the Zeitz Foundation with the intention of achieving the highest standards in sustainability through the balance of conservation, community, culture and commerce in privately managed areas.

Zeitz made his first trip to Africa, a visit to Kenya, in 1989, and instantly fell in love with the country. Frequent return trips brought about an environmental awakening. He was confronted more and more with “the negative sides of business from an ecological point of view,” Zeitz says. “I realized it was time to change the way I conducted business.” Puma soon began turning heads not just for its financial performance but for its environmental initiatives as well. In 2010, Zeitz started a five-year plan to lessen the company’s environmental impact by 25 percent. The following year, Puma became the world’s first major corporation to release environmental profit-and-loss statements. Despite some successes, Zeitz notes that corporations have a long way to go, not least those in the tourism sector: “It’s shocking to think about how little the travel industry cares about sustainability — and it’s the basis of their business!”

Zeitz made his name and his fortune at Puma. The youngest C.E.O. of Puma when he rose to the position in 1993, at 30, he quickly turned the struggling sportswear label around, coordinating its $7 billion acquisition by Kering (formerly PPR). He stepped down as C.E.O. in 2011, and today he’s devoting his considerable management and marketing talents to conservation. “I’m trying to go beyond the traditional clichés of an African safari,” Zeitz explained earlier in the day, following a flying session that saw him circling the ranch in a bright yellow two-seater Super Cub. “We need to engage rather than educate people,” he said, adding that a stay at Segera is “an opportunity to change thinking, to change behavior, because we’re touching guests at an emotional point in their journey.”

In late March 2013, the German-born Zeitz opened a new eight-villa retreat called Segera, on his 50,000-acre ranch in the middle of central Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau - an intimate cactus-ringed oasis of lush gardens, saltwater swimming pools and rustic-chic dwellings in the shadow of Mount Kenya. His partner in the operation is the Wilderness Collection, a subsidary of a high-end eco-tourism company, in which he and the French retail and luxury conglomerate Kering are investors. While Wilderness markets the luxe lodge, it’s very much Zeitz’s project.

In Segera, Zeitz, has found a tract of land uniquely worthy of his conservation efforts. The region boasts Kenya’s second highest concentration of animals, and the ranch itself hosts 150 varieties of birds and 30 species of large mammals. Any short walk or game drive around the property can reveal lions, giraffes, endangered grey's zebras and patas monkeys, gazelles and elephants.

The revenue generated by guest stays at Segera keeps the more high-minded projects chugging along. “You simply cannot sustain a place like this ecologically if you ultimately don’t have the money to do it,” Zeitz says, noting that employment plays a key role as well. “We also need to think about sustainability in terms of making it possible for people to earn a living while they’re participating in a sustainable lifestyle.” Or, as he put it in a speech to a gathering of travel-industry power players last year, “Sustainability is no longer about doing less harm. It’s about doing more good.” Therein lies the future of Segera.

Courtesey: NYTimes T-magazine

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The Zeitz Foundation was founded with the mission to create and support sustainable, ecologically and socially responsible projects and destinations around the world to achieve long-lasting impact and sustainability through the holistic balance of Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce (the 4Cs) in privately managed areas. The Zeitz Foundation delivers on its vision and mission through two inter-linked programmes, the global Long Run Initiative and the Laikipia Programme in Kenya.

The Long Run Initiative (LRI) pursues the Zeitz Foundation’s mission internationally. By enhancing ecosystems management and building recognition and support for the 4Cs approach to sustainability, the LRI is creating a driving force to promote and encourage sustainable thinking globally. LRI aims to reach out into every aspect of daily life by putting into practice the Long Run philosophy of acting today for a better tomorrow.

The Laikipia Programme aims to fulfill the mission of the Zeitz Foundation in Kenya, where we are headquartered. Centred in the Greater Segera area of Laikipia County and operating throughout the County, the Laikipia Programme is the ‘nursery’ for the Zeitz Foundation. A nursery in which innovative initiatives that encompass and represent the 4Cs approach are nurtured. When they approach maturity and show real signs of promise, the lessons and experiences are shared throughout the LRI network.

The 4Cs Approach: The Zeitz Foundation aims to demonstrate that sustainable ecosystem management – and ultimately steps towards a healthy planet - can be achieved by balancing conservation, community, culture and commerce: what we call the 4Cs. To demonstrate this idea, we are initially focusing on developing and strengthening Long Run Alliance Members (LRAMs) and Long Run Destinations (LRDs) - those members which have been GER® certified. This enables the creation and strengthening of centres of excellence for sustainable tourism which provide practical demonstration that sustainable ecosystem management can be achieved in privately managed areas. Through the Long Run Initiative, the Zeitz Foundation is also putting The Long Run philosophy into practice. The Long Run philosophy is a mentality, an approach to life geared at acting today for a better tomorrow.

A Word from the Founder:

Over the years, as the CEO of an international company, I have witnessed both individuals and companies achieve their creative and earnings potentials as much as I have seen that potential neglected.

I believe that we are at a crossroads and the outcome of tomorrow depends on our finding new ways to translate our passions into meaningful connections with the world around us today—and not just with people, but with all living forms. The future of our ecosphere begins with that.

I have been fortunate enough to travel to many parts of the world, and to be inspired by a vast number of places, cultures, and people; through it all my experience has been that we have a lot in common, despite our differences. For one, we all depend on this planet for our existence and our continued survival. And in one-way or another, we are all part of—and sometimes victims of—a global economy.

Therefore, I have established the Zeitz Foundation to support creative and innovative enterprises that take into account those connections, embracing differences and diversity.

Sustainability does not need to come at the sacrifice of economic prosperity. Through projects that balance conservation, community, culture, and commerce, I hope to encourage a new model for sustainable development—one that shows how working toward ecosphere safety can be commercially viable. I am convinced that if revenues generated by the success of these inclusive, holistic approaches are poured back into the Whole—the holistic system involving the entire sum of its parts—they can help to safeguard natural resources, enhance the livelihoods of communities, and promote sustainable economic development.

Some of the greatest challenges in my professional life have resulted in the most exciting opportunities. Along the way, I have been driven by my passion to find meaning and to create value, and I’ve been inspired by the beliefs of others.

In the past I often struggled with the thought that any contribution I could make as an individual outside of my business life would simply be insignificant when it came to making the world a better place. At the very least, I wanted to find sustainable ways to reduce harm and maximize good.

But today I truly believe that if each of us were to do our own share of good—whether small or large—to improve the way we live, think and act, to push the envelope and recognize the interconnectedness of all, then the world would undoubtedly change for the better. For this reason I have established this Foundation to serve as a platform for positive change, contributing its own fair share.

Nobody’s perfect. We make mistakes and we’ve got a long way to go and a lot more to do before we can start patting ourselves on the back, but it’s a start.

With many thanks for your support and best wishes, Jochen Zeitz

Source: Zeitz Foundation


Head to Laikipia, Kenya for a High-Luxury Conservation Experiment by SOPHY ROBERTS at CNTraveler March 2017.

Jochen Zeitz: The businessman who uses his millions to change opinions on climate change by James Ashton April 2015 of The Independent.


Go back to: Local community NGOs