Sir Richard Branson is the founder and chairman of Virgin Group. Virgin is one of the world's most recognized and respected brands and has expanded into air and ground travel, telecommunications, financial services, health, space travel and clean energy through more than 200 companies’ worldwide, employing approximately 50,000 people in 29 countries. Revenues around the world in 2006 exceeded £5 billion (US$10 billion). In December 1999, Richard was awarded a knighthood by the Queen for “services to entrepreneurship.”
Richard founded Virgin Unite, the not-for-profit foundation of Virgin Group, which aims to bring together the best of the business and social sectors to develop new approaches to social and environmental issues. Over the coming year, Virgin Unite will launch a new suite of projects that both benefit the environment and alleviate poverty. In September 2006, Richard committed that future proceeds to the Virgin Group’s transportation interests will be invested into renewable energy initiatives, representing an estimated investment of $3 billion over the next ten years. Richard also announced a $25 million prize for a viable technology that will result in the net removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases. In July, Richard joined Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, and Desmond Tutu to form The Elders, a group of independent leaders that will seek sustainable solutions to global humanitarian issues. In December, Richard was recognized by UNCA as the 2007 Citizen of the Year.