Klaus M. Leisinger is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Novartis Fundation for Sustainable Development (NFSD) and Special Advisor to the Chairman and CEO of Novartis. Over the past 30 years, the foundation has pursued a coherent poverty-reduction strategy and served millions of people in low-income countries, by helping to cure leprosy, malaria, and tuberculosis, by health education, agricultural development, and  protection of vulnerable children. The foundation has consultative status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC). In addition to his position at Novartis, Klaus Leisinger is also Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Basel, where he pursued research and taught a wide range of topics related to international development and health policy, as well as business ethics, corporate responsibility, business and human rights.


Leisinger was born in Lörrach in 1947. He studied economics and social sciences at the University of Basel, Switzerland. He did his doctoral thesis in development studies and wrote his habilitation treatise on “Health Policy for Least Developed Countries.” His professional career took him for several years to East Africa as CEO of the former Ciba Pharmaceuticals regional office. After his return to the headquarters in Switzerland, he was responsible for the company’s international relations. He profoundly engaged in corporate responsibility issues and actively promoted a corporate culture of dialogue with stakeholders in international policy, development cooperation, and business ethics. From 1996 toFebruary 2012, Leisinger was President and Managing Director of the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development.


Leisinger has held numerous advisory positions in organizations such as the UN Global Compact, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum (Global Agenda on Human Rights). In addition, he is president of the Board of Trustees of the German Network of Business Ethics, a member of the advisory council of Mary Robinson’s Ethical Globalization Initiative (EGI), and a member of the Board of the United Nations Association of Germany (DGNV). Kofi Annan appointed Klaus Leisinger Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary General for the UN Global Compact. This mandate ended with Kofi Annan’s tenure on December 31, 2006. Klaus Leisinger was a member of the high-level Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health. He continues to serve as the Co-Chairman of the Digital Health Initiative – a unique multi-stakeholder collaboration between the ICT and healthcare sectors to implement the Millennium Development Goals. He is also a member of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, the steering committee of the UN Global Compact’s LEAD Initiative, the UN ECOSOC Development Cooperation Forum, and the Executive Committee of the German Society for the United Nations.


Since November 2012, Leisinger is the Global Compact’s Special Advisor on the Post-2015 Development and Business Ethics and was appointed member of the Leadership Council by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (led by Prof. Jeffery Sachs, Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York). For his “outstanding contribution” in the fight against leprosy, Leisinger received the 2012 Republic of Korea Hansen Grand Award on the 4th of December 2012.