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Business, social innovator brings ‘passionate urgency’ to role

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Heifer International — a global nonprofit leader of sustainable agricultural development for smallholder farmers — today named Pierre U. Ferrari its chief executive officer.

Ferrari, who was born in Africa in 1950 in what was then the Belgian Congo (today the Democratic Republic of the Congo and from 1971 to 1997 called Zaire), has more than 40 years of business experience, ranging from large consumer package goods organizations such as Coca-Cola USA to work with socially-oriented organizations like CARE and the Small Enterprise Assistance Fund.

He succeeds interim CEO Charles Stewart and Heifer’s longtime President and former CEO Jo Luck.

“I am excited about, joyful and inspired by this incredible opportunity and just as much so by this amazing organization,” said Ferrari. “Key for me is to honor the amazing legacy of Jo Luck and the thousands who have built Heifer to date.

“But I now come along at a time where the urgency to end poverty is even greater. Heifer has a totally relevant set of values and model for today. My task will be to serve our various communities to empower more people much more rapidly, with a sense of passionate urgency,” he said.

Doug Smith, Heifer International board chair, said, “I am truly honored to introduce Pierre as Heifer’s new chief executive. The board conducted an international search for the strongest, most innovative CEO on the planet, and there is an ethos, a passion that embodies Pierre that sets him above.

“I just hope the board can keep up with his vision to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth, because if it is going to happen, Pierre Ferrari is going to help make it so.”

Ferrari is a marketer and entrepreneur and more recently, a social venture developer. He worked for many years with Coca-Cola USA, before deciding in 1995 to focus his energies and business acumen on social issues — to use his skills and aptitude to help, invest in and partner with people living in material poverty to help them achieve self-sufficiency, independence and health, goals that directly align with Heifer’s empowerment-oriented mission.

“Heifer’s work is as fundamentally powerful and relevant today as it was 66 years ago,” said Ferrari. “People need self-security, self-employment, to be able to use their own entrepreneurial spirit and energy to take care of themselves and their family. Heifer does that through its work, and through Passing on the Gift, that fundamental human energy is multiplied many times.

“Given a chance and a hand up, these families, these communities — they create their own opportunities and successes.”

Following his decision to leave Coca-Cola, Ferrari joined CARE, where he worked as special assistant to the president, leading the first comprehensive strategic plan based upon performance measures, participating in a feasibility mission for a hospital in Zaire and reviewing a women’s co-op banking project in Niger and micro loan programs.

Ferrari is chair of the board for Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream, which seeks to meet human needs and eliminate injustices, focusing on children and families, the environment and sustainable agriculture on family farms. As part of his service with Ben & Jerry’s, Ferrari led the board to firm up its global commitment to fair trade by 2013 with its vanilla, cocoa and coffee farmers, etc., a course that matches well with Heifer’s work with smallholder farmers.

“Heifer is a proven model that works, and that I have and will continue to support,” said Ferrari. “And now I am so fortunate to be a part of this awesome organization.”

Ferrari’s initial connection to Heifer was as a donor. His children were encouraged to donate goats through Heifer and he said he recalls a wedding where guests were directed to give 100 goats through Heifer in lieu of traditional gifts. More recently, on his 60th birthday, his family asked friends to honor him with gifts of yaks for Tibet through Heifer.

A board member of the Small Enterprise Assistance Fund, which provides equity financing to small and medium enterprises in developing countries and emerging markets, Ferrari also sits on the advisory council for The Emory Ethics Center in Atlanta, and on the board of an Atlanta nonprofit that raises funds for Maji Mazuri, a Kenyan organization that helps children overcome poverty.

He is an investor and director of Guayaki Sustainable Rainforest Products, a company working to steward and restore 200,000 acres of South American Atlantic rainforest and create jobs, is president of “Hot Fudge” venture capital fund, a community development venture capital fund, teaches (Sustainable) MBA Marketing at Bainbridge Graduate Institute and is a founder of EthixVentures and QuatreCinq LLC.

Ferrari holds a master’s degree in Economics from The University of Cambridge and a MBA from Harvard Business School.


Casey Neese