Updated Fri., Oct. 4, 2013 6:18 p.m. EST
Mention Richard Branson and these days, you immediately think space travel. But he's got a lot more than that in his orbit right now.
We snagged a few minutes with the British industrialist and founder of Virgin Group when he was in town last week at an event during which Branson met the winner of a meet-and-greet offered through Urgency Network, a platform that rewards social good actions. The event was held in conjunction with Branson's nonprofit Carbon War Room, which aims to reduce carbon emissions.
Branson originally started the nonprofit after growing tired of government inaction when it comes to climate change. So in that same spirit, we talked to him about other disrupters in the world of nonprofit, business and tech. Oh and also, shooting Justin Bieber into space and -- other good deeds.
HuffPost: Coming off of UN Week and Clinton Global Initiative last week, who in business, tech or philanthropy is doing something really important and innovative right this minute?
Richard Branson: The first person that comes to mind is Jochen Zeitz, the former CEO of Puma, who is the co-founder of The B Team (which, like Carbon War Room, was started with Virgin Unite). He was one of the first to recognize the need for businesses to move away from solely profit-driven motives and instead concentrate on the long-term interest of people, the planet and the wider economy.
HP: So should business be doing more to tackle social problems? Bill Gates said last week that philanthropy should be doing more than business. Whose responsibility is it?
RB: In the past, businesses have been there to make profits and they've left the government and the social sector to look after the world. Business people have felt we should get together so business can be a force for good. They see things slightly differently than social workers or governments. The three of us should be able to do better.
HP: How about those millennials? They've been stamped with this insignia of little more than yuppies who like to complain, but do you think they are ready to be the next generation of leaders?
RB: Older people are often quick to criticize younger generations, but I have a huge belief in the potential of youth. I’m fortunate enough to travel around the world and everywhere I go I meet exceptional young people who are already becoming leaders in their communities. I have a lot of hope that the next generation can take on our biggest challenges, from climate change to conflict resolution.
HP: What about new tech? What innovations are going to help us solve critical problems?
RB: Well, for example, we [Carbon War Room] are using tech to help get 20 gigatons of carbon out of the atmosphere to balance the Earth's books. And tech is always innovating -- now, the same guy who designed your iPad is now trying to save a lot of energy in homes, making it more affordable.
HP: Your upcoming zero-gravity space trip will use satellites to monitor things like over-fishing and other problems that damage the Earth. We heard Paris Hilton and Justin Bieber signed up. Who else is on the guest list?
RB: My children Holly and Sam will be joining me on a Virgin Galactic flight next year. We can’t wait to get up there.