Since its founding in 1802, GF has provided strong corporate and financial support to social organizations, commercial foundations and humanitarian projects. In 2022, it invested around CHF 2 million in social engagement activities at the corporate level, in addition to donations of around CHF 900’000 made by its individual sites. The largest contributions in 2022 went to GF's foundations: the Clean Water Foundation, Klostergut Paradies and the Iron Library.
Celebrating 20 years of the Clean Water Foundation
Every year, the company supports the Clean Water Foundation with a substantial lump-sum contribution. The foundation’s Board of Trustees includes the company's CEO, who is also the chairperson, and two members of the Executive Committee. GF created the Clean Water Foundation in 2002 to mark the 200th anniversary of Georg Fischer AG. That year, shareholders agreed to waive an anniversary dividend to set up the foundation and invest CHF 3.5 million in charitable projects aiming to ensure clean drinking water around the world. To date, the company has invested more than CHF 13 million in projects that provided access to safe drinking water, improving the lives of more than 360’000 people.
To mark the foundation’s 20th anniversary, the Board of Trustees slightly adjusted the current strategy by approving financial support in the areas of health/hospital infrastructure and education/school buildings. As a result, the board decided to send two young engineers from GF Piping Systems to visit two projects – a health infrastructure in Somaliland and an education building in Zambia – to explore how GF, in addition to its financial support, can make a greater contribution in the future with its technical expertise and know-how. Due to the situation on the ground, one of the visits will take place in early 2023.
In Somaliland, the Swiss non-profit organization Safe Water Matters is building a drinking water treatment center in Berbera, the capital of the Sahil region. With the company's financial support, it will significantly improve access to clean drinking water at the Berbera Regional Hospital.
In Zambia, Water for Water (WfW) Switzerland, another non-profit organization, has been working since 2013 to improve vocational training in the Zambian water sector. With support from the Clean Water Foundation and in collaboration with local school authorities and water sector representatives, WfW has established a hands-on training program for prospective water supply specialists in the Luapula Province.
In addition, the foundation’s Board of Trustees approved new funds for water projects in Cambodia, Nicaragua and Uganda. In Cambodia, it financed the water supply for the country’s first home for children with intellectual disabilities, located in Neak Loeung, and built by Goutte d'eau, a Swiss-Cambodian non-profit organization. In Nicaragua, the foundation supported a water project for small farmers run by the Swissaid Foundation. In Uganda, GF provided financial support for a safe water project implemented by Water Mission for refugee settlements in northern part of the country.
Klostergut Paradies and the Iron Library Foundation
The historic Klostergut Paradies in Schlatt (Switzerland) has been part of the company since 1918 and serves as its main center for seminars and training. Since 1948, the building has also been home to the Iron Library Foundation, one of the world's largest private collections of books on material science and the history of technology.
Iron Library and GF Corporate Archives
The Iron Library and the Corporate Archives, managed by one team, preserve the company's historical and cultural heritage dating back to the 18th century. In 2022, its digital library included over 1’300 digitized volumes totaling more than 110’000 pages.
Since its establishment in 1948, the GF Iron Library Foundation has developed into one of the world’s most important knowledge centers focusing on the history of technology. Its extensive holdings (more than 47’000 titles) date back over 750 years and, together with the Corporate Archives of Georg Fischer AG, attract scientists and researchers from all over the world. In recognition, the Corporate Archives are listed as an archive of national importance in the Swiss inventory of cultural assets.
Sharing the history of technology with the world
Although the library’s profile has changed over the years, its purpose remains the same: to make the history of technology accessible to researchers and the general public. The library fulfills this mission through activities such as guided tours, the History of Technology Conference, the Scholar in Residence program and a growing suite of digital activities. While many specialist libraries have been negatively impacted by the digital revolution, the Iron Library remains popular with researchers from all over the world, a testament to its ongoing relevance.
Libraries are also creating new ways to make their analog collections electronically available to the public. They are doing this in the spirit of "OpenGLAM" (galleries, libraries, archives and museums), a global network for preserving and sharing important cultural heritage. For its digitization, the Iron Library works primarily with cooperation platforms managed by larger university libraries, such as the ETH Library in Zurich. In 2022 alone, the Iron Library’s online presence expanded by over 17’000 digitized pages.
The Iron Library also regularly organizes Wikipedia GLAM touring events in which experienced "Wikipedians" use the extensive holdings to write new articles and expand existing entries. In 2022, around 15 new Wikipedia articles were created at two Wikipedia events about "Women as multi-talents".
Scholar in Residence program
Since 2015, the Iron Library has been offering scholars the opportunity to engage intensively with the holdings as a scholar in residence. The program attracts an international mix of established researchers, younger scholars and advanced students. Previous scholars have studied a range of topics, from the types of iron bridges built in the late 19th century to the sociological implications of metallurgy and the industrial applications of machine learning. Over the past seven years, the Iron Library has welcomed 23 scholars from 11 countries in Europe, as well as North and South America.
History of Technology Conference
Every two years, around 60 international experts from the world of science, academia and industry meet at the Klostergut Paradies for a conference on the history of technology. These conferences started in 1978 and are well known for their wide variety of topics, specialist presentations and relevance with regard to current events. The papers presented are subsequently published in the journal Ferrum, which is available free of charge online. This year, the latest issue of the journal focuses on a series of articles under the heading "Raw Materials: Natural Resources in History".