Carl Zeiss Foundation
Promoting research and innovation
The Carl Zeiss Foundation is the sole stockholder of Carl Zeiss AG and Schott AG. This single-foundation model has ensured both organizations’ long-term success, their independence, and their commitment to social responsibility.
Carl Zeiss AG and Schott AG are leaders in developing, producing, and selling highquality products in the field of optics, precision engineering, electronics, and precision glass technology. In 2016 the companies employed over 40,000 people in 35 countries, and reported €7 billion in revenue. Since its foundation in 1889 by Ernst Abbe, one of Carl Zeiss’ fellow researchers, the Carl Zeiss Foundation has changed the way we see the world through its innovations in microscopes and camera lens, optical glass, optoelectronics, and glass ceramics.
Ernst Abbe developed the mathematical foundation behind Zeiss’ successes while teaching physics at the University of Jena. It was most likely there – at a public university, where he benefited from the support and research of other academics – that Abbe concluded that his successes did not belong to him alone. He felt that his achievements were shared by a broader community of scientists, researchers, and visionaries, both past and present, and instilled this value of shared ownership in the structure of Zeiss and Schott.
After Carl Zeiss, the founder of Carl Zeiss AG, died in 1888, Abbe created the Carl Zeiss Foundation, which has owned the company ever since, later acquiring Schott AG as well. The foundation’s constitution prohibits the sale of shares, whether to the general public or to another firm. The shares will therefore never be listed on any stock exchange.
The Zeiss single-foundation structure ensures that the two firms’ profits are either reinvested or donated to science and mathematics education and research. It has enabled both firms to stay true to their original purposes and their mission of technological innovation, corporate responsibility, and the importance of fair treatment of their employees. The foundation is responsible for the economic security of both firms and their social responsibility to their employees, and works to advance the interests of precision industries, support research and instruction in the natural and mathematical sciences, and provide community facilities for the working people of Jena.