Rethinking philanthropy for 222 years

    Rethinking philanthropy for 222 years
    Dr Maximilian Martin - Global Head of Philanthropy

    Dr Maximilian Martin

    Global Head of Philanthropy

    On the evening of 24 June 1859, Swiss businessman Henri Dunant arrived in the town of Solferino, northern Italy, to meet with Napoleon III. The Emperor of France was headquartered there while he led his army against the Austrians in the Second Italian War of Independence, and Henri intended to appeal for assistance with difficulties he was having running his business in French-occupied Algeria.

    However, earlier that day, a battle had taken place between the Franco-Sardinian alliance and the Austrian army. By the time Henri arrived, 23,000 soldiers were wounded, dead or dying on the battlefield, with little being done to help. Upon seeing the situation, Henri quickly put aside the purpose of his trip and set about mobilising the population of Solferino to help those soldiers who were still alive, organising the acquisition of medical supplies and coordinating the establishment of improvised hospitals. Crucially, Henri persuaded both the population of Solferino to treat the soldiers without regard for which side they fought for and the French army to release the Austrian doctors they had taken as prisoners of war.

    Upon his return to Geneva, Henri’s experiences eventually led to a book—A Memory of Solferino—and the ideas of creating a neutral organisation that would care for wounded soldiers from all nations and an international treaty guaranteeing that medics and field hospitals would not be targeted in war. With the support of other influential Genevans, including Alexandre Lombard, one of our founders, Henri spearheaded a campaign that eventually led to his founding the International Committee of the Red Cross and the adoption by 12 states and kingdoms of the first Geneva Convention.

    …our founder spearheaded a campaign that eventually led to his founding the International Committee of the Red Cross and the adoption by 12 states and kingdoms of the first Geneva Convention.


    Lombard Odier has supported the Red Cross in finding innovative financing solutions for their humanitarian work ever since. Last year, we helped the Red Cross launch the Program for Humanitarian Impact Investment, a CHF 26 million initiative including governments and private investors to fund the building and running of three Red Cross physical rehabilitation centres in the Congo, Mali and Nigeria.

    While Henri Dunant’s approach was to apply grand ambition to a specific problem, philanthropy comes in many forms. But whether their ambitions are grand or modest, broad or focused, we believe that there is one competitive advantage common to all philanthropists —the combination of capital and true passion.

    This is the sustainability revolution. And, as a wealth and asset manager, we must take the lead. Not just for the good of the economy, society and the environment. But also for our clients.

    Thus, an important first step for any philanthropist is to identify the right cause for their passion. It’s also advantageous to be open to partnering, since this can amplify the positive impact of philanthropy. And in a world where technology is enabling new ways to transform capital into positive change in places that change is needed, philanthropists looking to maximise their efficacy will observe the changing landscape and are prepared to adjust their approach.

    As wealth managers, our job is to help philanthropists navigate this landscape so as to find the most effective ways to turn their wealth and passion into actions that make the world a better place. This is our commitment to our clients, and to society.

    Wichtige Hinweise.

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