A message from the Chairman:
In 1928 Herbert Fisk Johnson, Jr. was 27 when he took over the family business, S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. Two generations came before him establishing a family legacy of business success, valuing employees and philanthropy. His grandfather built a small Midwestern parquet flooring business into a global wax giant, and left all his wealth to charitable and community causes. His father pioneered profit sharing, forty-hour work weeks, paid vacations and health and life insurance for employees, and created the community service organization known today as United Way of Racine County.
H.F. proved to be worthy of the legacy he inherited. During the Great Depression, he refused to lay off employees, expanded employee benefits and grew the business with innovative new products.
A man ahead of his time, H.F. pondered the sustainability of Brazil’s carnauba palm, the source of his products’ main ingredient. He explored the issue in a 1936 expedition to Brazil and published a book upon his return reflecting a sense of corporate environmental responsibility unheard of in those days. Around that same time, he established a philanthropic nonprofit trust, The Johnson Foundation, and commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design his new family home. In 1959, a new nonprofit enterprise emerged to inherit The Johnson Foundation name and the family’s former home, the iconic Wingspread.
The new foundation benefited from the Johnson family’s support and constituted a distinct philanthropic corporation with its own singular purpose: to operate Wingspread as an educational center devoted to the free exchange of constructive and purposeful ideas.
Over the years, The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread has hosted a wide range of conferences and many notable organizations and initiatives have roots here, such as:
Sam Johnson (1928 – 2004) served as Chairman of The Johnson Foundation for more than forty years. Like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, Sam was dedicated to helping make the world a better place through his personal and professional endeavors.
In 1975, he made environmental history by removing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from his company’s products three years prior to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency CFC ban, and twelve years before the historic Montreal Protocol curbed CFC usage worldwide. A founding member of both the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and President Clinton’s landmark Council on Sustainable Development, Sam was a tireless champion of green business practices, dubbed “corporate America’s leading environmentalist” by Fortune magazine. Sam’s philanthropy reflected his deep and active commitment to his Southeastern Wisconsin community, with donations topping more than $200 million during his lifetime.
Today, The Johnson Foundation is supported through the generous contributions of SC Johnson and Diversey, Inc., and led by Helen Johnson-Leipold, chairman of the family’s financial services, outdoor products and personal investment enterprises.