Virgin's Socially Good Businesses

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by: Jennifer Rice

Virgin offers a great case study of a company that’s seeking ways to align inputs and outputs with social good to create both competitive and societal advantage. They’re making an active effort to not only run more sustainable businesses, but also to integrate social good into the customer experience and raise awareness and social engagement among their customers.

Inputs (behind-the-scenes business operations)

Outputs (customer-facing products, services and touchpoints):

  • Virgin HealthMiles is a first-of-a-kind health incentives program that empowers Americans to take greater control of their health and fitness. In a pilot deployment in 2006, 40% of members who had previously been categorized as inactive moved up to the active category. Additionally, 21% of members saw a reduction in hypertension over a period of six months.

Inputs as Outputs (turning sustainability into competitive advantage)

  • Virgin Trains is actively marketed as the more sustainable travel option compared to cars and planes. They also launched Europe’s first 20% biodiesel train.

They’re also leveraging the power of community, actively engaging customers in socially good actions like:

  • VirginUnite, Virgin’s non-for-profit entrepreneurial foundation. In addition to being a social entrepreneur incubator and a consultancy to Virgin businesses to be a force for social good, it’s also a facilitator to help everyday people start their own fundraisers.
  • Virgin Mobile’s RE*Generation, a pro-social initiative to build awareness about the issues surrounding at-risk youth and teen homelessness. Musicians donate ringtone royalties on selected tracks, and Virgin Mobile donates 100% of net profits from the same selected tracks. Virgin Mobile customers can also contribute to The RE*Generation by sending a text message to deduct $1 from their balance as a contribution or making a cash donation via credit card at VirginUnite. Their blank2clothe initiative, in partnership with American Eagle Outfitters, donates clothing to homeless youth for every 5 videos that customers upload. 

I’m compiling a list of companies who have baked social good into their brands, and will be writing about them on this blog. If you have other examples (Whole Foods, Ethos water, Timberland, Zipcar come to mind) I’d love to hear about them.

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