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26 February 2012
I've always admired Sir Richard Branson, both as an Entreprenour and for some of the challenges he has undertaken. I've already got his Autobiography Losing My Virginity. Despite this I never knew associated him as a philanthropist or as a environmentalist, which it seams is exactly what he is.
In his latest book "Screw Business as Usual" Branson gives his thoughts about the state of the world and an insight into what he's been doing to make the world a better place for future generations.
This is not an egocentric description of what he's been doing (which is pretty impressive), but instead a book to inspire other entrepreneurs to change their business towards doing good, showing that doing good can be good for business as well as for humanity and the environment.
As well as showing what the Virgin Group have been doing it also includes case studies from other companies that have made their business better through doing good.
In recent years I've gone through a change in my own attitudes towards the environment. This is due mainly to a growing appreciation of what is happening to our planet from things I've read and learned. This seams to be something we are coming to grips with as a nation and indeed as a worldwide phenomena. A few years ago few had even heard of "Fairtrade", but many are now insisting that coffee, bananas and chocolate and much more is now fairtrade certified. Likewise the documentary The end of the Line and channel 4's Fish Fight series have seen many (including myself) become more aware about the problems of overfishing. I think this is something that is going to cause a significant shift in buying habits towards brands that are associated with doing good for the environment.
Branson's book is about raising awareness of the issues and encouraging others to follow. It's about building a business model that works with the environment rather than looking at making money with no care for the damage to the environment or to communities around the world. Not only this, but he shows that far from hurting company profits this can help make a company more profitable.
In some cases it's easy to see where the companies are doing good. I already chose some products from the companies mentioned partly because of their environmental policies. I often choose Fairtrade products, I've seen the Ben and Jerry carbon neutral markings and have bought Procter and Gamble products because of their association with the Unicef vaccination programme. In other cases I wasn't aware of the environmental policies of the companies mentioned. It's a hard line between promoting the work that they are doing and forcing it down your throat. I think it's important that the environmental policy needs to be a core part of the company rather than something bolted on as a temporary promotional gimmick.
Whilst some parts of the book paint a gloomy picture, most of it is actually very upbeat about what we can do and how the right attitudes by entrepreneurs can make a change for good.
This book has helped to strengthen my attitudes towards the environment as a consumer and will hopefully have the same impact on those with the power to change company attitudes for the better. I'd certainly recommend this book whether you are a consumer or an entrepreneur.