Global Vision Awards 2007
Virgin Atlantic Airways
Winner: Corporate Initiative
Virgin Atlantic airways, London
Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson, leading the airline industry in reducing carbon emissions.
For years, the commercial airline industry avoided public scrutiny of its contribution to global warming. But thanks in large part to Virgin Atlantic Airways, its days of flying under the radar are over. Virgin founder and president Richard Branson has a reputation as a publicity-stunt man. But the maverick British mogul's recent efforts to reshape the aviation industry make it clear that he understands the magnitude of the carbon-emissions issue—and that he's willing to take the lead in solving it. In 2006, in a groundbreaking gesture, Branson committed all of his airline profits over the next decade—roughly $3 billion—to the development of nonfossil fuels. In April, Virgin bought 15 fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliners, the largest single order by a European company. Next year, Virgin plans to launch the world's first clean-fuel commercial flight. The airline has tested "starting grids," off-runway holding areas that would reduce on-the-ground carbon emissions by up to 50 percent. The fuel-efficient flying patterns that Virgin has developed are impossible to implement at the moment—but if Europe's tangle of air-traffic control systems were consolidated, as Branson has proposed, that could change. It's just an idea. But it's one of many that Branson, by putting his money where his mouth is, has forced people to consider.
Our judge says: "By marrying his commitment to energy reform with practical solutions and phenomenal public relations skills, Richard Branson has extended a challenge to the rest of the travel industry."—Lisa Lindblad
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