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Ice Dancing Through Canada

Ice Richard Branson Ice Dancing Through Canada

Just finished a whirlwind visit to Montreal and Vancouver. I tend to pack a lot into my days, and this trip was no exception. Entrepreneurs, MBA students, environmentally-minded mayors, Olympic skating, Olympic gold medalists ice carving, epic parties, free coffee to commuters: last week had a bit of everything.

The week kicked off with two speaking engagements, first to meet Montreal’s business leaders at Power Within and then 1,300 of Canada’s future business leaders and their teachers at McGill University. What a great group of students; it’s always a pleasure to meet the next generation of entrepreneurs. Their passion for customer focus and innovation while serving the greater good was promising.  

The greater good was a clear priority in Vancouver, which has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of any city in North America. It is up to cities to lead the way in energy efficiency efforts, unsexy as it might sound, because 20 percent of global emissions comes from the built environment. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has been a pioneer, bringing capital and market leaders together to reduce city living carbon. That success (and quite possibly the 2010 Winter Olympics!) inspired the Carbon War Room to pick Vancouver for an Olympian challenge.

The Carbon War Room convened over 100 visionary leaders representing cities, industry and the finance to discuss lasting global energy solutions. Carbon War Room president Jose Maria Figueres and I announced our Global Green Capital Challenge: mobilising cities around the world to spend the next 30 months, before the next Olympics in London, working with financial partners and industry expertise to make their cities more energy efficient.

It’s a business focused proposition: these efforts will create revenue, green jobs and tremendous energy bill savings for its citizens. I believe it is possible to use market forces to attack carbon. What’s good for the environment can be good for the economy, and these cities will deliver the proof point. Learn more about the Carbon War Room’s challenge here.

Congratulations and many thanks to Mayor Robertson for hosting the Carbon War Room whilst also hosting a memorable Olympic Games.

Thanks to the gracious hospitality of Bell, I had the opportunity to share a few pints with Bell Mobile President Wade Oosterman at the men's hockey match. Canada loves its hockey. The highlight that day was seeing Canada win gold in the Womens’ Speed Skating: well done, Christine Nesbitt!

I was also involved in a competition of my own: Wade and I went up against Olympic figure skating gold medalists Jamie Sale and David Pelletier in an ice carving competition at the Bell Ice Cube. While the ice carving helped raise money for Virgin Unite, I used this opportunity to raise Jamie above the crowd with figure skating moves of my own: how many points for that?


It was not all fun and games: there was proper Virgin Mobile business to conduct as well, and I was only happy to do it because the Virgin Mobile Canada team does a brilliant job of bringing our brand values alive. Its new HSPA + network and iPhone launch for Vancouver was feted in style at a Virgin Mobile Canada party for over 1,000 fans and customers. It was my first Olympic party of the week -- and worth the sleep deprivation.

Early the next morning, I played host to two breakfasts. Virgin Mobile Canada treated 500 Best Buy employees to breakfast with me. Best Buy is a great partner to have: they’ve sold a massive amount of phones for Virgin Mobile Canada over the last five years. Best Buy Canada CEO Mike Pratt and I had a fun chat on stage with unusual questions from the employee audience.

The second breakfast was with the enthusiastic staff and listeners of Virgin Radio Vancouver. Virgin Mobile and Virgin Radio bought free coffee for Vancouverite morning commuters, and we got an enthusiastic turn-out.

I love Virgin Radio and am so proud of how well they are doing. The enthusiasm for it was tremendous. I’m excited for Virgin Radio expansion across Canada - and globally. Must get on that and more Olympics-inspired training for the Virgin London Marathon. Be afraid, Holly and Sam, be very afraid!


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