Richard Branson’s Latest Venture

This article has many great examples of how entrepreneurs are tackling global problems and making money along the way. Think of it is “conscious capitalism”; this is a growing trend. In fact, in some companies, this corporate social innovation is truly integral to the business model and value proposition of the company as a whole. Here’s an excerpt from this article:

“Entrepreneurs can instigate change in the social sector in the same way that they do in the business world, but they must not lose the characteristics that made their businesses successful when they step into the social and environmental sectors. As I’ve mentioned, entrepreneurs turn problems into opportunities. But what does this mean when it comes to problems like poverty or climate change?

Consider Dhaka, Bangladesh. Its 6.5 million residents produce between 3,000 and 3,500 metric tons of solid waste daily, less than half of which is collected. The rest is literally left to rot in the streets, resulting in serious health risks and pollution. But entrepreneurs like Iftekhar Enayetullah and Maqsood Sinha see value where others see garbage. Their organization, Waste Concern, started community-based composting plants for local residents to turn household waste into high-quality fertilizer sold for a profit. This network has created jobs and meets the great demand by farmers for organic fertilizer.

Similarly, climate change can seem like an overwhelming problem, but there are opportunities here as well for business approaches to arrive at solutions. We’ve launched Virgin Fuels, which will invest up to $400 million in the renewable-energy and resource efficiency sectors in the U.S. and Europe to fuel expansion and growth of promising products and technologies. It’s part of our commitment to using up to $3 billion of the Virgin Group’s future proceeds from all transportation interests over the next 10 years to tackle global warming. “

IBM is on the right track here – from the formation of our “Big Green Innovations” business unit, to the recently announced Global Citizenship Portfolio, which includes The Corporate Service Corps: IBM will team with non-governmental organizations to place small groups of employees from different countries and business units together outside of the office. They will address some of the world’s toughest problems, such as enhancing global economic opportunity and access to education resources. Over the program’s first three years, about 600 IBMers from around the world are expected participate.

Here’s a quote from Sam Palmisano on this topic:

“IBM sees the potential for a powerful ‘virtuous circle’ – with mutually reinforcing benefits among empowered individuals, more agile and innovative companies, healthier and more vibrant communities and a more competitive nation,” said Mr. Palmisano. “We fully expect that the Global Citizen’s Portfolio will make IBM a more competitive and successful business. This will require investment. But as much as any company in the world, IBM depends on having the best expertise and talent. We believe that innovation – not only in our products and services, but also in how we run the company and in our relationships with employees, communities and civil society at large – will help us attract the smartest and most creative workforce.”

Back to Richard Branson – and his “latest venture”: Elders For a Global Village as told in this news article:

“In July of this year, we launched the Elders, a remarkable group of leaders to tackle the world’s problems, including: Mandela, Graca Machel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson, Kofi Annan, former President Jimmy Carter, Yunus, Ela Bhatt, Li Xhaoxing, and Gro Harlem Brundtland.

We hope this group will become the elders of our global village and play a role in alleviating human suffering. As Mandela put it, “This group can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes on whatever actions need to be taken. Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict and inspire hope where there is despair.”

Thinking big and coming up with ideas that might seem ludicrous at the start are all going to be important if we want to radically change the path the world is headed toward to make sure that we build a far healthier, more equitable and peaceful planet for our children.”

I am grateful to corporate leaders, political leaders, social entrepreneurs, and and leaders of all stripes who are taking these powerful actions – playing “bigger games” – that are creating a better future for all of us. These actions inspire me to “play bigger” everyday at IBM – to deliver on the promise of Innovation that Matters – really….