Richard Branson – business magnate, billionaire entrepreneur, and founder of the Virgin Group, is also known for his profound lifelong philanthropy.
Branson is committed to aiding various pressing crises on a global scale. He has pledged ten years of profits from his travel companies ($3 billion), to global warming research. He founded Virgin Unite, an entrepreneurial foundation dedicated to four basic tenets of world change. He is also on the advisory board for Nelson Mandela founded group, The Elders.
There are countless other charities and foundations he has contributed to in some way; the causes range from cancer research to disaster relief, and everywhere in between.
His involvement in charity and philanthropy is exhaustive, and the causes he contributes to are diverse; which is solidified in his being awarded knighthood for services to entrepreneurship in 2000.
As early as seventeen, he established Student magazine, which spun out into seven different companies, one being the Student Advisory Centre; the Centre assisted young people in issues ranging from sexuality to accessing abortion. Branson goes on to say that these were precursors to his multifaceted company, Virgin.
Virgin’s entrepreneurial foundation, Virgin Unite is a call for positive world change. The overhead for VU is completely covered by Virgin and Branson, meaning that all donations go directly to their causes. There are four basic tenets that VU aims to work toward solving. The first is changing business for good; this simply states that business can influence social, environmental, and economic factors for the better.
The second area of their work is to create market solutions to address climate change and conserve natural resources. VU takes on the belief that businesses have a responsibility to create opportunities in sustainability.
Thirdly, the foundation aims to shape the power of early entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs who are just getting their start learn to build a business credibly and with a positive impact in mind.
Lastly, the fourth area of work VU handles is human dignity. This tenet states that there are basic human rights that may not be infringed upon; it is the role of the foundation to identify these human rights violations and assist in any way they can.
An example of this may be the Branson-organized effort to fly 40,000 blankets to refugees fleeing from Kuwait into Jordan. The foundation looks to spur the collaboration of philanthropists, leaders, and entrepreneurs in order to better the world.
Virgin Unite also does create and fund specialized projects such as Enterprise Zimbabwe, which aimed to help alleviate poverty in Africa through job creation and access to capital.
Individual projects, such as The Virgin Earth Challenge are also launched in order to target a particularly pressing cause or one in need of fundraising. In this challenge, $25 million was offered to anyone who could demonstrate a plausible way to enact wide-scale carbon removal in our atmosphere.
Branson as a Patron
In addition to his personally founded organizations, Branson also serves as a patron and executive for many other groups. He is on the advisory council for The Elders— a group founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007. The mission statement of The Elders is as follows:
“Working both publicly and through private diplomacy, our mission is to engage with global leaders and civil society at all levels to resolve conflict and address its root causes, to challenge injustice, and to promote ethical leadership and good governance.”
Branson, as well as many other contributors, make donations so that The Elders may operate independently.
Branson is a supporter of the International Rescue Corps, a UK based charity that aids in disaster relief specifically in front-line search and rescue. IRC prides itself on being an independent organization as well, which is only possible through donations and fundraising.
In an indirect way, Branson assisted in raising $40 million dollars for charity by convincing Elton John to play ‘Candle in the Wind’ at Princess Diana’s funeral.
There are, from one source, thirty-seven charities and foundations listed that Branson has contributed to including Cancer Research UK, Save the Elephants, and Girls Not Brides.
A Lifetime of Philanthropy
Since seventeen, Branson has been utilizing his businesses for the wellbeing of others. From social issues to disaster aid, he believes firmly that a network of like-minded philanthropic individuals can change the world; and they certainly do.