Turn your business into a force for good

Sir Richard Branson at C2MTL 2013

To say that Sir Richard Branson keeps busy is a major understatement. Famous for his multi-billion dollar business achievements in the fields of music, aviation, mobile technology and more, he also spearheads a dizzying array of social initiatives.

These include The Elders, a group including Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu that intervenes in global conflict zones, and the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a group of ex-politicians with whom Branson works on one of his pet projects, ending the War on Drugs.

“I suspect, as in business, we slightly take on too much,” admits Branson about his philanthropic activities. “I’m known as Dr. Yes; it’s more fun to say yes than no. And there’s a lot of problems in the world. But if we feel we can bring something unique to a particular situation, we’ll look into it.”

Another one of Branson’s projects is The B-Team, an initiative to convince other corporate chiefs to take on social projects. “If we can get every single business leader in the world to take on a problem and unite the whole company behind that problem,” he proposes, “I think most of the problems of the world could be solved.”

Branson sees little difference between his business endeavours and his work for social causes. “I don’t think they need be vastly different,” he says, “if we can get businesses to think slightly differently. You only live once, and if you’re running a successful business and you want your staff to be proud of the business you’re doing, then turn it into a force for good.”

All Branson’s activities are a function of his creative approach to problem-solving. “The word ‘business’ is very, very dry,” he says. “But what a business is, is making a positive difference to other people’s lives. You have to do it in a creative way, otherwise you’re going to fall flat on your face.”

The Earth itself isn’t even big enough for Branson’s ambition; Virgin Galactic, his space exploration program, plans to launch its first flight this December. “I suspect that most people are fascinated by space,” he says. “I suppose I’m just fortunate. I’ve dreamed a lot, and I’ve tried to make those dreams come true. As I’ve got older and learned more, I’ve been able to dream a little bit bigger.”

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Richard Branson spoke on May 23 at C2MTL 2013.

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