Sir Richard Branson, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Group, has always been one to try out new business ideas. His start-ups include airlines, record labels, money management firms, and even bridal gown retailers. Branson founded his company in 1970 to sell records through mail order and, due to excess inventory, set up a retail shop to unload the merchandise. Shortly thereafter, the company brought out a record by Mike Oldfield titled Tubular Bells, and the rest is history.
However, his most ambitious plans may be charitable in nature. In September 2006, Branson announced that he was taking the profits from Virgin Atlantic (his airline) and Virgin Trains over the next 10 years and using them to fight global warming. Branson, once a skeptic, believes that there is no more important cause than slowing the environmental destruction happening, including that from carbon monoxide emissions.
As part of Branson's commitment to the environment and the first step in the $3 billion plan, Virgin Fuels has been set up to invest $400 million in renewable energy projects that would reduce CO2 emissions and have a positive and ongoing impact on the communities around the world where these activities are based. As of March 2007, the company had made investments in four partnerships, all in the United States.
In addition to these initiatives, Virgin Unite exists as the company's charitable arm. It strives to connect Virgin employees with people around the world to create fundraising projects that help communities in need. The charity looks to invest in businesses that can make a difference in some meaningful way. Just as important to its charitable endeavors is Project Aware, the internal mission to make Virgin a better company and a better member of the community. Employees are encouraged to give time and money to causes that are important to them.
Branson's wealth is approximately $3 billion, depending on how you estimate it. Given that he's generously pledged an equal amount over the next 10 years, it's clear that charity is not something he takes lightly. Virgin is the most creative conglomerate in the world. If anyone can take that $3 billion and turn it into $30 billion, it's Richard Branson. He's a master at building successful partnerships. This bodes well for the environment.