Racing toward a lower carbon future

Worldwide, people are focusing on how we reverse the effects of climate change. Virgin Group CEO Josh Bayliss reflects on the role of business has to play in that...

It was brilliant to be in Paris this weekend with Envision Virgin Racing, cheering on driver Robin Frijns to his first Formula E win. I also really enjoyed joining the team at the Innovation Summit, where we discussed solutions to help reach a lower carbon future.

Businesses have an important role to play when looking to a lower carbon future – something I discussed on the panel with Christiana Figueres, Franz Jung and Eugene Kaspersky.

Customers and employees are, quite rightly, demanding more from businesses to reduce the impact they have on the planet. No longer is it enough to do the bare minimum when it comes to the environment. People have higher expectations of business to play a leading role in the fight against climate change, and technology enables customers and employees to tell you exactly what they think about you – good and bad.

At Virgin we have a purpose of changing business for good. Included in our focus is making the environment better (for example by becoming net zero by 2050), alongside improving things for our customers, our people and the communities that we operate in. Formula E is a great example of this – it literally is a race for clean, renewable energy. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy the entertainment of a sport that really could change the world.

Christiana Figueres noted during our discussion the important role technology has to play to move beyond internal combustion engines and fossil fuels. But, while technology is important, she also pointed out that attitude is equally crucial. Some people don’t want to acknowledge what is happening to the planet for fear that they will have to change their behaviours  – as Christiana put it, they might have to give up their beefburgers, their two or three cars and their travel. But she says electric vehicles are actually a step toward a more exciting world.

Formula E is a brilliant example of just how thrilling electric vehicles can be. Walking around Paris this weekend, there was an air of excitement about the race. Unlike other motorsports, the tracks for Formula E are not out of town. They take over the city centre and for one weekend only, electric racing cars take to the streets and challenge people to think more about the decisions they’re making that impact the environment.

Formula E is much more than just a sport. It’s an ideas hub, where some of the world’s best mechanics and engineers can experiment with technology that will one day bring the world away from a reliance on fossil fuels. And that, even more than watching Formula E’s electric cars reach speeds of up to 280kmh, is remarkable.

Thanks to all the Envision Virgin Racing family for all your hard work, congratulations Robin and the team on the win, and I look forward to keeping a close eye on the progress of Formula E in the months and years to come.

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