2011 Guardian Award

Richard Branson Named 2011 Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award Winner

The 2011 Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award has been given to Richard Branson in recognition of his creation of Virgin Galactic, the $25 million Virgin Earth Challenge, the Virgin Green Fund, and of Virgin Unite.
Virgin Galactic is working to provide sub-orbital spaceflights to the paying public, along with suborbital space science missions and orbital launches of small satellites. Further in the future Virgin Galactic plans to offer orbital human spaceflights as well. With luminaries such as Stephen Hawking saying “It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species”, visionary companies such as Virgin Galactic may end up making the difference between the human race enjoying a renaissance as it expands beyond its home planet or going extinct. This is related to the Lifeboat Foundation Space Habitats program.
The $25 million Virgin Earth Challenge is similar in concept to other high technology competitions, such as the Orteig Prize for flying across the Atlantic, and the Ansari X Prize for spaceflight. The prize will be awarded to the first plan that is capable of removing one billion metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere per year for 10 years. Such innovative plans could prove crucial if the Earth’s climate became unfavorable to human life. This is related to the Lifeboat Foundation ClimateShield program.
The Virgin Green Fund is a leading, independent private equity firm investing growth capital in the renewable energy and resource efficiency sectors in North America and Europe. Long-term, civilization will require both renewable energy and energy efficiency in order to be able to flourish in the future. This is related to the Lifeboat Foundation EnergyPreserver program.
Virgin Unite is the independent charitable arm of the Virgin Group. Created by Richard Branson and Virgin employees in September 2004, Virgin Unite pools volunteering efforts from across the Virgin Group and its hundreds of subsidiaries and associated companies to grow the efforts of smaller grassroots charitable organizations. Partnered with more than a dozen charities worldwide the company also provides a resource through the Internet by serving as an online donation centre for those wanting to contribute.
The primary aims of the foundation are to make sustainable change through economic development towards tough social and environmental issues. These include addressing the issue of delivering healthcare to rural parts of Africa. Richard Branson and Virgin underwrite all the operating costs of the organization, so 100% of contributions can be applied towards causes. The Lifeboat Foundation Human Trajectories Board, Social Factors Board, and Sustainability Board are concerned with such issues.

Richard was born in 1950 and educated at Stowe School. It was here that he set up Student magazine when he was 16.
In 1970 he founded Virgin as a mail order record retailer, and shortly afterwards he opened a record shop in Oxford Street, London. In 1972 Virgin built a recording studio in Oxfordshire where the first Virgin artist, Mike Oldfield, recorded “Tubular Bells”.
In 1977 Virgin signed the Sex Pistols and went on to sign many household names from Culture Club to the Rolling Stones, helping to make Virgin Music one of the top six record companies in the world.
With around 200 companies in over 30 countries, the Virgin Group has now expanded into leisure, travel, tourism, mobile, broadband, TV, radio, music festivals, finance, and health and through Virgin Green Fund they are investing in renewable energy and resource efficiency.
In February 2007, Virgin announced the Virgin Earth Challenge — a $25 million prize to encourage a viable technology which will result in the net removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In July of the same year Richard had the honor of joining his good friends Peter Gabriel, Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, and Desmond Tutu to announce the formation of The Elders, a group of leaders to contribute their wisdom, independent leadership, and integrity to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems.
Richard is also very proud of the work of Virgin Unite, his not-for-profit entrepreneurial foundation, which continues to focus on entrepreneurial approaches to social and environmental issues and enjoys supporting their work in every way he can.