Richard Branson: Putting the Screws on Business-As-Usual for Good

I just found this book yesterday. This is a man after my own heart. He wakes up feeling positive, this is a sign that he is in alignment with his true nature. Peace is not an ideal, it is who we are and the concept of doing good, is really being positive and expressing it. So many see work and life as hard yards, hard work and no fun. This is a sign you are not in alignment with your truth.

This book is recommended reading for those who are tired and wish for a brighter future. The new earth is here now. Richard mentions the new capitalism, as capitalism 24902. The number indicates the circumference of the earth. I love that idea. Each business decision affects the entire globe and each person is responsible. Sometimes I have felt alone spreading this message of harmony, finally an entrepreneur who takes responsibility and has vision. I find him a breath of fresh air and incredibly inspiring, as do so many others. So those of you out there, you can be he, just change your focus off the profits and onto the community of the future. We don’t have a lot of time to get started. Having fun will kick you off.

Richard Branson on Screw Business As Usual

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to Richard Branson, who is one of the most prominent entrepreneurs in the world. He is the founder and president of Virgin Group, which is one of the world’s most recognized and respected brands, with over 300 companies in 30 countries. Virgin has expanded into air and rail travel, hospitality and leisure, telecommunications, health and wellness, and clean energy. A leader in product innovation and customer service, he was knighted in 1998 for his “services to entrepreneurship.”

Branson is the author of several books including Losing My Virginity and Reach for the Skies: Ballooning, Birdmen, and Blasting into Space. His latest book, Screw Business As Usual, is available today! In this interview, he talks about why people should care about “Capitalism 24902,” why businesses can drive change in the world, how he’s leveraged his entrepreneurial spirit and personality to build his brand and more.

What is “Capitalism 24902″ and why is it important in our current economy?

Capitalism 24902 is a new approach to business where taking care of people and the planet are at the very core of all businesses everywhere in the world – all 24,902 circumferential miles of it. Capitalism has certainly lost its way a bit with the focus on short term profit, but I believe that it can and must be a positive force in the world, whether that’s creating jobs or tackling specific social or environmental issues. People all over the world are demanding that business as usual must change, and it is the greatest opportunity of our lifetimes.

New forms of businesses have emerged, from purpose driven, profit making businesses like Participant Films that are created to solve issues to social enterprises like Medicines360 whose profits all go back into scaling a response to an issue.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have spent time with incredibly inspiring people and organisations who have embraced this new type of capitalism. Screw Business as Usual celebrates their work and hopefully sheds some light on how businesses – and the people involved in them – can operate as a force for good.

How have you incorporated social responsibility into Virgin from the time you started the company till now?

Business can drive change in the world, I’ve seen this through a number of the social enterprises we’ve started over the last forty years. For example, the second organization that Virgin launched after the mail order record company was a Student Advisory Centre that supports young people with sexual health issues. In 1987 we launched an organisation called Mates Condoms to help stop the spread of AIDS.

But I’ve also always believed that people should be at the core of everything that the Virgin Group has ever done. Whether that is ensuring that the customer gets great value and service or giving all the people who work at Virgin that chance to love what they do and make a difference in the world.

We are on a journey and are still learning every day, but the Virgin businesses are truly embracing Capitalism 24902. For example, Virgin Money launched Virgin Money Giving which has generated over £65m for charities in the UK and Virgin Mobile in the US have used all their assets to help end youth homelessness, already impacting the lives of over 35,000 young people. We also launched a not-for-profit foundation, Virgin Unite, to work with our businesses to help leverage far greater change by harnessing all the entrepreneurial energy across the Virgin Group.

In your book, you tell the story of Ray Anderson when illustrating that doing good is good for business. Can you explain why some entrepreneurs overlook this?

Ray held two really strong convictions with equal passion: on the one hand, that business was doing terrible damage to the planet, and on the other that business is the only entity that’s large enough and powerful enough to create change at the scale and speed that’s needed. And then he went about applying his huge entrepreneurial talent and shrewd business brain to reinvent the business model at Interface, moving from carpet sales to carpet leasing and empowering people to strip waste out of the process, cutting waste by 40 per cent in under four years and aiming to eliminate waste completely by 2020. Ray was a great businessman who was ahead of the game.

In the past several decades, entrepreneurs and businesses in general have been driven primarily by profit – often putting people and planet at the bottom of their list. This was sadly understandable (although not acceptable), as with the old form of capitalism, their success was measured on return for shareholders – not the wider communities and natural environments that they operated in. Now as we’ve moved into this new radical age of transparency fueled by social media, people all over the world are demanding that business reinvents itself and becomes a force for good in the world. The entrepreneurs and businesses that will thrive are those who will embrace this new “age of people” and make sure that they listen, learn and deliver to all their stakeholders, including Mother Nature.

The great news is that organisations like Innocent Drinks, Method, Amy’s Kitchen, Green Mountain Energy and a whole host of others are proving that doing what is right for people is also right for the bottom line. Check out to learn about loads more businesses that have embraced Capitalism 24902 and are doing well by doing good.

Is it possible to completely change your business model to incorporate social good over capitalism? Explain.

It’s not really a case of social good over capitalism; it’s about social and environmental good becoming core driving forces of capitalism. As mentioned above, there are lots of new forms of businesses being created who embed these core values from the start, but we are also seeing lots of existing businesses transform their operations. Interface is a good example of how this new approach can work, but there are many others who are delivering what is right for people and the planet and seeing their business bottom lines benefit.

Marks and Spencer launched “Plan A” in 2007 and now recycles 94% of the waste generated by their stores, has reduced carbon emissions and saved over £70m in 2010. General Electric launched Ecomagination to create new products and services that help solve energy, efficiency and water challenges. They invested $5billion in research and development over five years and generated over $70billion in revenues.

With Virgin Unite and a group of partners we set up the not for profit Carbon War Room which works within a range of industries to deliver market-driven solutions to climate change. The Carbon War Room recently helped unlock around $650m of investment into energy efficiency retrofits in Florida and California, creating over 17,000 jobs.

So it can be done – we just need to look at these issues through a whole new entrepreneurial lens that reinvents issues into opportunities.

While many CEO’s are private and restrained, you have leveraged your strong personality in the media, including your interviews, columns for Entrepreneur Magazine and Twitter, to your company’s advantage. How do you believe your personal brand has helped you build your empire?

Open, honest and fun communications can promote one’s business and ensure you can stand out from the crowd. Too many great business ideas get nowhere because they don’t have the budget or the know-how to get themselves noticed. I started using myself to get profile for Virgin Atlantic when we had just one plane and a tiny marketing budget. Over the years we have used balloons around the world or now twitter and other social media channels to create a community, excitement and fun around our brand. Today the brand’s convening power is driving larger scale change in the world. For example, Virgin Unite brings together wonderful partners to create new approaches to global leadership, such as the Elders and the Carbon War Room.

Dan Schawbel, recognized as a “personal branding guru” by The New York Times, is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, LLC, a full-service personal branding agency. Dan is the author of Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future, the founder of the Personal Branding Blog, and publisher of Personal Branding Magazine. He has worked with companies such as Google, Time Warner, Symantec, IBM, EMC, and CitiGroup. 

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Mohandas Gandhi

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”