Richard Branson

Virgin Group

Richard Branson is the originator of Virgin, one of the world’s most recognizable brands. The success of the Virgin Group, which totals over 200 companies worldwide, has accorded Sir Richard the reputation of ultimate entrepreneur and brand builder. In recent years, Sir Richard has channeled his talents towards expanding the Virgin brand to include ventures that address global problems. In 2007 Business Week quoted him as saying that “Entrepreneurs can instigate change in the social sector in same way that they do in the business world.” His approach is not unlike that applied to the market of flights and phones: “entrepreneurs,” he explains, “turn problems into opportunities.” In 2004, Sir Richard established Virgin Unite, a charitable arm of Virgin that draws upon the resources of the Group to establish projects and campaigns that empower budding social entrepreneurs and grassroots organizations. Virgin Unite’s accomplishments include the founding of the Branson School of Entrepreneurship in Johannesburg, the creation of a rural transport system that has strengthened access to healthcare and the launch of a campaign that seeks to address issues of homelessness, poverty and violence among young people worldwide. The latest addition to Sir Richard’s social investments was announced at the Clinton Global Initiative. His concern for global warming has prompted his dedication of all future profits of Virgin transportation businesses, a sum he estimates at $3 billion over the next ten years, to investments in renewable energy initiatives, research and development. This follows the founding of Virgin Fuels, now the Virgin Green Fund, which will invest in companies in the renewable energy and resource efficiency sectors in the U.S. and Europe. Sir Richard has also instigated the Virgin Earth Challenge, a $25 million prize awarded to whoever can demonstrate a commercially viable design that will result in the removal of greenhouse gases from the Earth’s atmosphere.