Live & Learn: Robert Schad

The philanthropist and former CEO of Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. is seeing more green than ever before.

I arrived in Halifax by boat. Somebody from the Rotary Club picked me up and took me to their home for the night. They bought me a train ticket to Toronto and arranged for me to stay at the Royal York hotel for the night. I had $25. The next morning, I got a job right away in an engine transmissions factory. I was lucky, because all the other immigrants were rerouted to lumber camps.

When you've gone through a war, you just want to get away. Canada was the fastest country where you could get a visa. My mother was a medical doctor and she practiced homeopathy. She planned to make me a doctor. I couldn't stand to see blood; it just turned me off.

At one point, I wanted to study physics and mathematics. I wanted to be a scientist. The day before the entry exam to university, we had an all-night party and I flunked the exam. Then I took the next-best career path, which was engineering.

In 1953, I got involved with some people in Winnipeg who wanted to build a snowmobile. It only worked on asphalt. When the snowmobile didn't work, I did a lot of work for IBM on special plastic devices they couldn't get anywhere else. Eventually, I got more and more business, and that's how the plastic injection mould machines came about.

Things were a bit chaotic. I ran the company by the seat of my pants. My strength was not in running an operation. In 1973, the oil crisis hit. That was a very difficult time for us. Our net worth was minus $2 million, so we were in trouble. The bank was going to put us in receivership. I somehow got out of it.

I made the decision 20 years back that I didn't want to build a family company. I don't think today is necessarily the time for family companies. Some create a lot of animosity in the family. They destroy the people who really want to do the job. I have a daughter who's a naturopathic doctor. She loves this kind of work. I have a son who's technically very clever, but he likes to do it on a much smaller scale. And I have another daughter who's in the film business. They should pick what they love and not be pushed into their father's company.

I didn't really enjoy running the company day-to-day, so I decided to retire in 2005. I'm going in at least one day a week, working on a new product line. I'm still in love with what I'm doing.

I always liked the outdoors. As a kid, I went to boarding school in the mountains and we were out hiking all the time. At some point, about 30 years ago, I decided I needed to do something more for the environment.

By getting into the schools and getting kids involved in how important the environment is, I think I can accomplish more. From an energy point of view, my house is built like very few houses in the world. We collect all the rainwater in a big cistern, we have triple insulation in the walls and we have five-layer windows. You put a candle on and you heat the house.

I don't like golf. Golf uses a lot of land and they still use a lot of pesticides.

When Stephen Harper is gone, maybe something in Canada will happen. He couldn't care less about the environment. The Canadian condition is very, very sad. We are putting all our effort in the oil business. We still have the old exploitation mentality. Globally, we go into a country and take out what we can, whether it's lumber, or mining or others.

We have a very easy life in Canada, in general. We are very much sheltered. Instead of going out and becoming a global player, we're too small now — we've missed the boat.

Robert Schad
Toronto: Born Nov. 3, 1928, in Karlsruhe, Germany
Environmentalist, plastics industry mogul


Emigrates to Canada and lands his first job in a Toronto transmissions factory. Signs on with Volkswagen a year later.


Builds a snowmobile in a Willowdale, Ont., garage. Opens Husky's award-winning Bolton, Ont., campus in 1969.


Establishes the Earth Rangers centre in Woodbridge, Ont., to help teach children about the environment.


Hands over his CEO and president titles to former son-in-law John Galt, and focuses on his various philanthropic causes.


Announces plans in March to sell his 44% stake in Husky Injection Molding Systems, which is looking into a potential sale.