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Companion Ticket | Jochen Zeitz

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30 Second Snapshot

Name:  Jochen Zeitz

Your home base:  Kenya and London

Aside from a passport, the three items you always travel with:  My family, my guitar and my laptop.

Your perfect meal on the road – what & where:  Having a bush picnic while out on a game drive at our place (Segera Retreat) in Kenya. We have a beautiful setup with rugs and cushions and great food, and we sit by the river watching the wildlife go by.

The best thing you’ve read in the last 6 months:  The most important thing I’ve read in the last 6 months is the UN Biodiversity Report – terrifying but essential reading for every person on the planet.

Your travel soundtrack:  Anything by Led Zeppelin or Nick Drake. I am an obsessive guitar player, so also listen to a lot of acoustic guitarists.

The one place you’ve been that you think everyone should visit, and why:  Kenya – one of the most beautiful and diverse countries on the planet, with mountains, waterfalls, beaches, volcanoes, lakes, rivers, and of course incredible wildlife, with the warmest people in the world.

The one place you’ll always return to, no matter how many times:  We have a stunning retreat in Santa Fe, USA, called Rancho Alegre which we rent for tourism, events and movie shoots, and we love spending time there. I love the landscape of the American West and have always been interested in Native American culture, so it is the perfect retreat. We even have a small herd of bison!

The one Never-Have-I-Ever destination that you hope to visit, and why:  I’ve been before but am hoping to return to Egypt soon – I’m a huge fan of ancient history. I’m also planning a US road trip through Yosemite with my family. Being out in nature is where we’re happiest.

The one thing that most surprised you on your last trip:  My wife and I recently went to North Island in the Seychelles and swam with a whale shark who happened to be swimming alongside our boat while we were snorkelling. It was a mind-blowing experience.

Meet Jochen Zeitz – entrepreneur, philanthropist, former CEO of Puma, co-founder alongside Sir Richard Branson of The B Team, founder of the Zeitz Foundation and, above all, a man with a deep passion for Africa. We recently hosted a wonderful evening at home with Jochen and his equally passionate film producer wife Kate, to share travel tales from Kenya to Brazil and various places between and to discuss the “4Cs”…

What did your “This is What I’m Going to Do” moment look like?   I had enjoyed a successful 20 year career as CEO of Puma, but had also witnessed first-hand the catastrophic destruction caused by business and recognised that it needed to take full responsibility and find innovative solutions for the massive negative impacts it was creating on planet Earth. First I developed the Environmental Profit and Loss (EP&L) statement, which – for the first time – put a monetary value on the natural resources business takes for free and the damage it leaves behind, such as air pollution, CO2 emissions, waste, water and land-use, and implemented it in all the businesses I was involved in. But the scale of the problem was so massive I knew I wanted to dedicate myself full-time to sustainability and conservation. So I left Puma and co-founded ‘The B Team’ in 2012 with Sir Richard Branson, which brings together business leaders across the world to make business a force for good. And I also decided I wanted to open a fully sustainable eco-luxury retreat at my wildlife conservancy in Kenya, Segera, to inspire others to connect with nature in the same way I had.

How would you describe a typical day?   I travel a lot for work and am involved with many different and diverse projects, so my days are varied, but I always wake up early as I seem to get a lot done in the early morning hours. My works covers everything from discussing tourism, wildlife or solar farms at Segera Retreat, sustainable business initiatives with our leaders from the B-Team, or up-coming exhibitions at Zeitz MOCAA. Work includes answering lots of emails and calls, taking many meetings, making speeches, attending conferences and fundraisers for conservation etc. It’s a balancing act trying to get everything done and also being a dad, which is my most important job. When I’m at home I usually take my daughter to school and do a hot yoga class. I also play guitar every day, and spend time with my kids. We have a rule to never have phones or computers at meal times, so our family time can be uninterrupted, and I try and take my family with me wherever I go.

What is your favourite part of what you do?  I think being able make a difference in sustaining our planet is the best part of my work, and sharing my passion for nature has been the underlying inspiration for everything. When the Zeitz Foundation (my non-profit in Kenya) devised the concept of the 4C’s (Conservation, Community, Culture, and Commerce) we set out a vision for the values we wanted to nurture, and this has guided almost everything I’m involved in

Tell us more about the Zeitz MOCAA (Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa) in Cape Town – where did the idea come from and how did the project come to life?   My love for Africa goes back nearly 30 years, when I took my first trip there, and I’ve always been fascinated by the diverse cultures and extraordinary art being created in Africa. As CEO of Puma I had a deep connection with the continent as I sponsored many African athletes and football teams. I also sponsored an exhibition “30 Americans” which was the first of its kind and scale showcasing African American artists. It was hugely successful and is still traveling today. I felt contemporary African art needed a greater global platform, and started building a collection of contemporary art from Africa and the diaspora, focusing on the year 2000 onwards, specifically with a museum in mind. We found our partners at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, with Thomas Heatherwick transforming a derelict grain silo into a stunning contemporary art museum. We opened at the end of 2017 and Zeitz MOCAA has welcomed over 350,000 visitors in our first year, including more than 150,000 free entries as part of the “Access For All” programming, which is fantastic.

The world we find ourselves working in is a privileged one but can luxury travel and sustainability truly support one another?  Absolutely luxury travel and sustainability can support one another, and more importantly in today’s world, it must. I also think discerning travellers want to feel like their money is being well spent, so sustainable tourism is the way forward. Tourism is a huge, booming industry worth over $7 trillion, employing 1 in 10 workers in the world, but it also responsible for 8% of all carbon emissions globally, and it contributes not just to cultural preservation, but also it’s destruction. So we have a huge obligation as part of the tourist industry to take care of the planet. With our retreat in Kenya we took 50,000 acres of degraded cattle ranch land with no tourism, no electricity, limited access to water and very little wildlife and brought it back to life – building Segera into a high-end, positive impact, eco-luxury safari and cultural retreat. The retreat is completely sustainable; powered on solar energy and using harvested and recycled rain water. I also expanded the Zeitz Foundation’s 4C philosophy into the creation of ‘The Long Run’ initiative – which is today the leading private conservation network of sustainable tourism businesses, all following the 4C philosophy, preserving over 13 million acres around the world and growing rapidly.

As an avid traveller where in the world inspires you? Anywhere where you can be humbled by the beauty of nature, whether that’s the vast isolated oceans of Antarctica, where I spent some time on an ice-breaker a couple of years ago, or the magnificent plains of Africa, where I am lucky to spend a huge amount of time at my home.  

Share with us one of your favourite snap-shots from the past 12 months.  It was actually this morning at home on Segera Retreat in Kenya. My wife and I got our kids out of bed at 6am and went out on a game drive in our pyjamas. We saw the sun rise over Mount Kenya, watching two lionesses and their cubs playing together. I don’t think life gets much better than that. 

Finally, what or where have you set your sights on next?  I hope to continue expanding the preservation of millions of acres of land through The Long Run initiative, and on a personal level, my top priority will be making sure that Segera – it’s wildlife, landscapes and communities – can be maintained for future generations. Being the caretaker of a wildlife conservancy of this size is a huge commitment – financially, mentally and emotionally – and it will be my life’s work to protect this very precious part of the world.