January 27, 2004

Johnson '50 Gives $5 Million Gift to Biz School

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A $5 million gift from Samuel C. Johnson ’50, the chair emeritus of S.C. Johnson and Son Inc., will provide MBA students at the Johnson Graduate School of Management with increased opportunities to study environmentally sustainable enterprises and business practices, according to a Cornell News Service press release.

The gift is the latest in a series from Johnson which supports the business school’s focus on environmental issues. Last July, another gift from Johnson established the S.C. Johnson Professorship in Sustainable Global Enterprise. Johnson stipulated that the professorship’s role would be to enhance students’ understanding of global sustainability and prepare them to be leaders of ethical, equitable, economically and environmentally sustainable enterprises.

The donations reflect the importance Johnson places on these aspects of his regular business practices.

“When we set aside the obvious business benefits of being an environmentally responsible company, we are left with the simple human truth that we cannot lead lives of dignity and worth when the natural resources that sustain us are threatened or destroyed,” Johnson said. “At the Johnson companies, we strive to leave a light footprint on the environment, but with this gift we hope to have a deep and lasting impact on tomorrow’s business leaders and the health of the planet.”

The company, commonly known as S.C. Johnson Wax, produces hundreds of household products, including Ziploc plastic bags, Fantastik cleaning solution and Edge shaving products.


Johnson’s interest in the environment has long been recognized within his field. In 1993, he was named Corporate America’s Leading Environmentalist by Fortune magazine. As chair and CEO of S.C. Johnson and Son, he made the landmark decision to eliminate chlorofluorocarbon propellants from the company’s aerosol products in 1975, three years ahead of U.S. law and 12 years before the global Montreal Protocol.

He continued in that direction and became a founding member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which advised world leaders at the 1992 Earth Summit. Along with other efforts, Johnson and his company have earned such awards as the World Environment Center Gold Medal for International Corporate Environmental Achievement in 1994 and a Lifetime Atmospheric Achievement Award from the Environmental Protection Agency last April.

Johnson donated $20 million to the school in 1984 to provide the basis for the current endowment. The recent increased emphasis on environmentally sustainable business practices which Johnson has transferred to the business school will have a noticeable impact.

“When our graduates go on to positions of leadership and influence, they will carry with them a real awareness of how the challenge of global sustainability changes the competitive landscape for enterprises, as well as the critical thinking skills and long-range view they’ll need to make the best strategic decisions,” said Robert Swieringa, the Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean of the business school.

Johnson’s efforts to focus business school students’ attention on environmentally sustainable business was recognized this past fall by the Aspen Institute and the World Resources Institute, which named the business school among the top 15 programs offering students solid training in environmental-management and social-impact issues. The study praised both the establishment of the Johnson Professorship in Sustainable Global Enterprise and a symposium at the business school in September called “The Business Case for Sustainable Enterprise,” which was sponsored by two active student groups — the Community Impact Club and the Energy Club.

The Johnson professorship was filled by Prof. Stuart Hart, business, last July. Hart was named a Faculty Pioneer by the WRI in 1999 for his work in integrating environmental and social issues into management education. He is enthusiastic about extending the business school’s dedication to environmentally sustainable business practices via his new position.

“Sam Johnson’s commitment will bring energy and resources that will allow us to build significantly on what we’ve begun doing and create a program that’s world-class,” Hart said. “The next few years will be exciting times for us.”

Archived article by Tony Apuzzo