Sir Richard, the dreamer
Virgin Atlantic founder tells of plans to better lives
He could be considered a big dreamer who turns his dreams into reality, given that he has already brought to life more than 400 companies under the Virgin Group, including Virgin Atlantic airlines, which flies to Barbados on a regular basis.
Earlier this week, the British-born billionaire businessman and investor Sir Richard Branson sat down in London with Barbados TODAY’s Emmanuel Joseph for an interview, in which he expressed his love for this country and discussed some of his present dreams that could impact this country and the rest of the Caribbean.
The occasion was the launch of a new fashionable airline cabinet crew uniform designed by British fashion iconVivienne Westwood.
Q: In terms of going forward. You’ve had the airline, you do a lot charity work, what other dreams are you dreaming of?
A: Wow! There are so many . . . so many challenges in the world that need to be overcome; and I try to dream about those challenges and try to make those dreams become a reality. So, we set up a wonderful organisation called The Elders; try to go into conflict regions, try to resolve conflict, because in this day and age, conflict should be a thing of the past. And it’s unbelievable, they still go on and they often still go on with people using religion as the reason for fighting their neighbours. Obviously, that’s wrong.
We spend a lot of time dreaming to protect the oceans and the species in the oceans and try to make the oceans more sustainable. We have something called The Oceanic Elders that are trying to create more nature reserves for the ocean, that are trying to protect species that are being decimated in the ocean, like rays and the sharks, the turtles — and that’s something we’re working hard on.
I have a dream to try to get people who have problems to be treated with dignity . . . . If somebody has a drug problem, you don’t criminalise them, you treat them as a human being, like you treat your brother or your sister, you children and you treat them as a health problem. You don’t lock them up. That’s something we are working hard on.
We have a dream to try to make sure that the world doesn’t suffer from global warming and from climate change; we are working hard to try to get the . . . 21 companies, including the airline industry, to work hard to try to reduce their carbon emissions and try to make sure the world doesn’t heat up and therefore affect Barbados or the Virgin Islands [his residence] and end up losing their beaches, and water levels rising and having more hurricanes. I know Barbados don’t suffer a lot by hurricanes, but it could do it, if climate change gets worse. So, it’s important to dream and if you are in a position to do something about those dreams, it’s important to do something; and hopefully, in a small way, we can all make a difference.
Q: I know Barbados and the Caribbean are special to you. Do you have any particular dreams for there?
A:Ah, I love Barbados. I love the Barbadian accent. I wish I could replicate it.
Our airline, Virgin Atlantic has flown to and from Barbados for many, many years. We’ve always had happy memories of visits to Barbados. I live very close by, I live in the Virgin Islands, so we are neighbours. I think we’re all very blessed, we are fortunate to live in the Caribbean. I think there is no where on earth more beautiful than the Caribbean, and we’ve got to do everything we can to protect it and treasure it and to enjoy it and have a lot of fun there too.
Q: And since you are an environmentalist, we have a campaign going now in Barbados, in protection of the dolphins. There’s a dolphinarium they want to set up, capturing dolphins for exhibition. Is this campaign something you would support?
A: I think there should be a blanket ban worldwide for the capturing of any whales, any dolphins. Having said that, I think where whales, dolphins have already been captured, they should be treated in places that are big enough to look after them well, and they can serve a purpose; but I mean, you can’t release them back into the wild again. So the important thing is to . . . . use captive dolphins to educate people and to try to get an army of people to protect dolphins in the wild, and to get an army of people to make sure that the only dolphins in captivity are those arleady in captivity.
“It is a difficult balancing act, but I think that if you close dolphinariums down, you have to decide what’s going to happen to the dolphins. And so I think, there are young people who see dolphins in captivity, who play with dolphins, who then go out and try to protect them in the wild. And personally, I think that’s a good thing.
Q: Finally. Any consideration being given to any investments in Barbados?
A: No, I’ve got no plans to build anything more in Barbados, or fly anymore planes from Barbados, [other than] plans to come and enjoy a drink or two with a few Barbajans occasionally . . . and ah, yep, that’s it for the moment!