CHRISTIAN LEITZ, Passionate Historian and Head of UBS’ Corporate Responsibility Management

Christian Leitz Profile

“In regards to my current position at UBS, I have the privilege of looking back the furthest into the past and the furthest into the future.” 

At first glance, the combination of history and Corporate Responsibility (CR) does not make sense. Yet, Christian Leitz is both Head of Historical Archives and Head of CR at UBS. To him it makes total sense. “History and sustainability can not be defined in black and white terms, they exist in a grey zone”, and accordingly this Dr. of History applies his academic tools – research skills, analytical skills and the ability to contextualise – to excel in the field of CR.

Initially, Christian was employed solely to work on historical developments at UBS (from which he later made good use in the UBS anniversary brochure  150 Years of Banking Tradition). He soon moved to the area of corporate responsibility, initially with a particular focus on non-governmental organizations, both as regards to analysing their activities and to communicating with them.

It is not just history that sets Christian apart. He confides that as a university academic he had a penchant for red pants. When he applied for the historian’s position at UBS, his “look” didn’t quite fit with his profession. “It wasn’t that the red pants were out of place amongst the suits (they were), it was because I didn’t fit the stereotype of a Historian.” Though his 20/20 vision meant that there was no need for spectacles – a typical academic’s accessory – it did allow him the privilege of keen hindsight and foresight. A historian delves into the past and discovers that “history does repeat itself, just in a different guise” and a responsible head of a corporation paves the future with this in mind.

History books had always been staple ingredients on his family’s bookshelf, and they became his preferred book of choice. He was an avid student and in time he aimed to become a teacher himself, beginning with language tuition in Spain. But as life would have it, he landed in Bristol where he and his partner lived with two professors who eventually convinced him to pursue a career in academia. With a D.Phil. from Oxford (89-93), he and his wife moved from one side of the word to the other (Bristol to New Zealand), and six years later moved back to Europe in response to a fax titled, “there are jobs for Historians in the real world.”

As a teacher he wanted to make a difference by impressing young minds with stories and cultures that could help them make sense of the world. The question is, does he believe that CR makes a difference by lessening the environmental/social footprint of big corporations? Always the pragmatist, his response was, “for CR to function, there has to be more than ‘the right thing to do’, it has to be joining business with societal considerations.” The mission of any business is to cater to the needs of their clients, which also includes taking account of their values. At the same time, CR should not be a way of simply offloading responsibility for societal issues onto companies.

The self-proclaimed “optimist with a misanthropic tinge” believes that more individuals should actively take responsibility. Slightly flippantly he describes the ultimate symbol of disconnect as a person standing on the train platform hiding behind a pair of sunglasses, an aluminium energy-drink in hand and music blasting in their ears. “It come’s down to individual responsibility, a person can’t just tune out when he or she wants to, just like a corporation cannot.” Christian personally feels that it is his responsibility to shake people up, to get them to move and react so that people (and corporations) take charge of what they can.

Additional Quotes

“You don’t have to be a dedicated “do-gooder” to achieve change. People can make changes in all professions. What is key is how you fill your time in the job you do.”

“Money can be used to achieve both financial and societal returns.”

About UBS Corporate Responsibility

For more information visit UBS’ pages on History and Responsibility.


Country: Switzerland

Type of Education: BA (Hons) in Humanities at the University of the West of England, Bristol, followed by a D.Phil. in Modern History at the University of Oxford (“Economic relations between Nazi Germany and Francoist Spain, 1936-1945″)

Awards: n/a

Foundation Affiliation: n/a

Pathway to Impact: Path of Passion

Impact Area/s: Security – Secure resource access; Health – Access to Clean Air and Water; Freedom of Choice and Action

Organisation Type: Corporation and Academia

Facts & Figures: ”Top Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Initiative of the Year” award at the Poland Outsourcing and Shared Services Awards in February 2013.


Linkedin Christian-Leitz 

Other Media

CEO Positions, Müller-Zantop Interviews Dr. Christian Leitz


About the author Helena Rosebery

After completing a Master of Communication (Food & Culture) from Slow Food’s University of Gastronomic Sciences, Italy, Helena Rosebery followed her heart to Zürich where she is inspired everyday by the resilience and greenness of her home-grown herbs. Helena employs words and coloured pencils to professionally communicate all that is – and is not – in the pursuit of a more ethical world.

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