Spanish philanthropist Esther Koplowitz was born in 1953 to a Cuban artistocratic mother, Esther Romero de Juseu y Armenteros and a pioneering entrepreneur, Ernest Koplowitz Sternberg. She acquired the titles, Marquise of Cubas and Marquise of Casa Peñalver from her mother and inherited the company, Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas FCC, from her father, who died in 1962. She has three daughters, one of whom became chair of the family firm in January this year.
Koplowitz combines her role as Vice President of FCC, the environmental services company with chairing the foundation she set up in her name. She is Spain’s fifth richest woman and is ranked 1,342 on Forbes list of billionaires.
The company is a leading light in green technologies. In the US it was involved in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon/BP Mexican oil spill clean-up operation, and in Europe, it runs some of the biggest waste to energy plants. It is also behind the European Union’s efforts to convert algae to biofuel and built America’s first motor oil recycling facility. The company employs around 90,000 people and works in over 50 countries. It generated over $17bn in 2011.
Throughout her business life, Koplowitz has been praised for her corporate social responsibility, leadership and altruism. She has been recognised with numerous awards for her philanthropic work, most recently, Spain’s Grand Cross of the Civil Order of Environmental Merit. As chair of the Esther Koplowitz Foundation, she is one of Europe’s most generous philanthropists in social healthcare and biomedical sciences. Koplowitz began her philanthropic work in the 1970s and set up the Foundation in 1995. To date the Foundation has donated more than $100m to social and charitable causes.
The money has been spent building several care homes for the elderly and people with disabilities. It also recently donated €15 million to open a biomedical research centre in Barcelona and funds research programmes into diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, drug-addiction and sclerosis. The Foundation also donated a Da Vinci robot to assist surgery to the San Carlos Clinical Hospital in Madrid.
Koplowitz has also financed over 1,400 scholarships for students with financial difficulties. Her foundation also collaborates on a number of projects with UNICEF and the Spanish Red Cross.