Creating a sustainable business

In the quest to create a better future, business must act as a force for good. With this in mind, sustainability is at the heart of the Virgin Group’s purpose. By creating sustainable practices within our businesses we are working to help the planet and everyone on it thrive.

I’ve previously blogged about a number of initiatives that we have in place across the Group; however when Virgin Pure sent me a #ChallengeRichard to “make the Battleship (Virgin HQ) free of single-use plastic bottles, and use Virgin Pure bottles instead” I thought it was a great opportunity to shine a light on the wonderful work our headquarters are doing to promote sustainability.

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Virgin Management Battleship building

Unless you’re a fan of Brutalist architecture, you might simply dismiss the Virgin Group’s headquarters (Virgin Management Limited) as an eyesore. But the curved concrete building, located smack-bang in the middle of London’s busy A40, is full of red hot character and delightful surprises. 

VML took on the lease and moved into the iconic building in 2013, with the bold aim to slim down operations in order to reduce the company’s environmental footprint. Those ambitions have been achieved and continue to be built upon.


The Battleship – with its smart heating, lighting controls and triple window glazing – has reduced the business’s electricity spend by 61 per cent. Owing to ‘thin client’ technology, staff computers consume around 80 per cent less energy. The toilets have been fitted with taps that have reduced water use by 75 per cent, and Dyson Airblade dryers that save 225,000 paper towels a year.

Everyone onsite has a personalised Virgin mug, cutting back on 80,000 paper cups a year, and as Virgin Pure suggested the office is a single-use plastic bottles free zone, with staff refilling their red water bottles. These modifications have been so successful that VML received a SKA Gold rating in recognition of the building’s sustainable refurbishment.

Richard Branson Virgin Pure water bottle

Virgin mugs

On top of all this, the Battleship is also encouraging staff to behave differently. With just seven parking spaces and Paddington Station a few minutes walk away, more people are catching public transport. Nobody has a bin under their desk – using centralised recycling stations instead – making people more careful about their wastage. And the canteen is stocked with consciously-chosen, local and sustainably-sourced menu items.

Of course, we also encourage flexible working, so many of our staff reduce their own footprints by working from home regularly. But I always find a vibrant, lively atmosphere in the Battleship when I visit. If you are comfortable in your surroundings and proud to be a part of your team and your company, it follows on that your work will be even better.

Richard Branson and staff in a meeting at the Battleship

As the world looks for ways to create a better future for the planet and all its people, business should be leading the charge to promote sustainability. I’m incredibly proud of the work being carried out within the Virgin Group, and am looking forward to exploring further innovations that help us reduce our environmental footprint.


That ticks off challenge number three of my #ChallengeRichard quest. Don’t forgot to keep sending in your challenges.

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