Sir Richard Branson is a successful international entrepreneur; Founder and Chairman of the Virgin Group. Virgin is one of the world’s most recognized and respected brands, and has expanded into everything from air and ground travel to telecommunications, health, space travel, and renewable energy through more than 200 companies worldwide, employing approximately 50,000 people in 29 countries.
Richard works to tackle tough social and environmental challenges in the same way as he approaches the founding of a new business – with talented people, innovative approaches, and partners on the frontlines. In 2007, along with Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, and Peter Gabriel, Richard and a group of wonderful partners announced the formation of the Elders, a group of global leaders working collectively to bring their wisdom, independent leadership, and integrity to bear against some of the world’s toughest problems.
Richard also puts significant effort into Virgin Unite, the not-for-profit foundation of the Virgin Group, which unites people to tackle social and environmental issues in an entrepreneurial way. Virgin Unite supports a number of efforts, from the creation of sustainable healthcare models in Africa, to the fostering of young entrepreneurs through the Branson School of Entrepreneurship in South Africa.
Boudewijn Poelmann is Co-Founder and CEO of United Postcode Lotteries, which raises funds for charities in The Netherlands, Sweden, England and Scotland. Boudewijn is also Co-Founder and CEO of Novamedia, which owns the Postcode Lottery format. Before establishing Novamedia in 1983, he worked with DAF and Oxfam Novib, a Dutch organization for international development aid.
The first of the Postcode Lotteries, the Dutch Postcode Lottery has been raising funds since 1989, and fifty percent of its income goes to charity. From the beginning the Postcode Lottery has supported charitable organizations both international and in the Netherlands, by both raising money and informing the public about the work of the charities concerned.
With 2.5 million participants the Dutch Postcode Lottery has grown to become the Netherlands' biggest charity lottery, supporting 75 nongovernmental organizations working for a fairer, greener world. Since its founding, the Dutch Postcode Lottery has allocated almost 3 billion euros to its beneficiaries for the purposes of environmental protection, the conservation of nature, human rights, and sustainable development.
The Postcode Lottery was also introduced internationally and is now established and successful in Sweden, England, and Scotland. The mission of the Postcode Lotteries is to achieve a better world for people and nature; a world in which all people, animals and plants can live healthily, and are treated justly and with respect.
Roy Bedlow is Chief Executive and Co-Founder of Low Carbon. Founded in 2012, Low Carbon deploys capital into renewable energy development companies and renewable energy projects, with the aim of creating as many megawatts of clean green electricity as possible. Investments to date have included projects generating electricity from solar PV, concentrated solar power, onshore wind, and anaerobic digestion.
Prior to focusing on climate change, Roy was Vice President and General Manager of Palm for Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Before joining Palm, Roy founded the European entity of Handspring in Geneva, Switzerland. Earlier roles included European Director of Iomega International in Geneva and a variety of sales and marketing positions at Apple Computer, which culminated in European Marketing Director, based in London and Munich.
Today, Roy is a director of Andromeda Capital, a private equity firm investing in climate change, education and communities. Roy sits on the Board of enModus, an energy efficiency technology company, and of Sparx, which is developing new technology to revolutionize learning.
Michael Haas is the Founder and CEO of Orion Renewable Energy Group LLC (Orion), the Co-Founder of RDC Developments Ltd. (RDC), and the Founder of Alliance for Climate Education (ACE).
Orion, headquartered in Oakland, California, was formed in 1998 and became an early pioneer in the development of low cost, utility-scale renewable energy. The company specializes in the development, finance, and construction of wind energy projects in the United States. RDC, headquartered in the United Kingdom, was formed in 1997 to help achieve commitments set by the UK for new alternative energy generation. Wind energy projects developed by Orion and RDC generate enough zero-carbon electricity to meet the annual electricity needs of approximately 1,500,000 homes.
Prior to forming Orion and RDC, Michael held executive positions with KENETECH Corporation, and served as an aerodynamicist with the McDonnell Douglas Corporation.
ACE was formed in 2008 to educate and inspire young people to break through the challenge of climate change. ACE believes that achieving a safe and stable climate in our lifetime requires the ideas, action, and influence of young people. In its first four years, ACE educators have reached nearly 1,600,000 high school students in the United States.
Michael received his Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, and his Master’s degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Stanford University. He is active in numerous community organizations and has served on several Boards of Directors.
Niels Due Jensen is Chairman of the Poul Due Jensen Foundation, which is the principal shareholder of the Grundfos Group, a world leader in sustainable pump solutions. Niels is also on the Board of Directors at Grundfos Holding A/S.
Niels joined the Grundfos Group in 1960 and became Group President in 1978. During the following decades, Niels guided the remarkable growth of the Grundfos business, including its overseas expansion. Under his leadership and guidance, Grundfos became a front-runner in sustainability and energy efficiency, and Niels is recognized worldwide for his contributions proven record of combining innovation, sustainability, and good business.
Today, as the chairman of the foundation, Niels ensures that the business's values of sustainability and corporate social responsibility are continuously guiding the growth of the Grundfos Group, which was founded by his father in 1945. Niels and the foundation also donate funds to environmental projects, social and sustainable development, research and innovation, and humanitarian projects, among others.
Aside from his responsibilities at Grundfos, Niels is Chairman of the Danish Council for Sustainable Business Development. He is a member of the Academy for Technical Sciences and sits on the judging committee for Danish Export Associations. He was conferred the title of Knight Commander by her Majesty, The Royal Queen Margaret of Denmark, and has been honored with the Officer Cross of the Polish Republic’s Order of Merit by the Polish President. As a highly respected business leader, Niels engages actively in the public debate in Denmark.
He holds a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering.
Dr. Vladas Lašas is Co-Founder and/or Co-Owner of several companies in Lithuania, including: UPS Authorized Service Contractor in Lithuania - Skubios siuntos UAB, Elinta UAB - Industrial and Power Plant Automation, Elinvision UAB - Computer Vision R&D, and Globaltus UAB - Global e-Commerce.
He holds a doctorate in Computer Science and has researched and lectured on Computer Vision at Kaunas University of Technology, and also presented the results of his research at conferences in Japan, the USA, Germany, Russia, and other countries.
Vladas is a TED Conference member and one of the 32 TED Patrons worldwide. He is an investor in sustainable and renewable energy projects in Europe through GRE Holding. His interests include innovations in technology, education, and society. He actively takes part in projects run by AmCham, The British Council, Save the Children, Rotary Club, universities, and other organizations. He enjoys jogging, trekking, bicycling, and adventure.
Strive Masiyiwa is Founder and Executive Chairman of the South Africa-based, diversified, global telecommunications group EcoNet Wireless.
Under his leadership and guidance since its formation in 1993, EcoNet Wireless has developed into a global telecommunications enterprise with operations and investments in more than 14 countries in Africa, Europe, and the East Asia-Pacific region. The company operates in the core areas of mobile cellular telephony, fixed public networks, internet, and satellite services. Outside of telecommunications Strive has developed a diversified pan-African portfolio of investments in areas such as insurance, financial services, bottling, infrastructure developments, hotels, and safaris.
Strive is a well-known international business leader who has won numerous awards for business excellence. In 1999 he was named by the Junior Chamber International (Jaycees) as one of the “Ten Most Outstanding Young Persons of the World.” In 2003 he was chosen as one of the “15 Global Influentials of the Year” in a CNN/Time Magazine poll. In 2011, Strive was profiled by The Times (UK) in its supplement of the “25 people who are leading Africa’s Renaissance.”
Over the years Strive has served on many international boards and foundations, and has been involved in numerous initiatives to promote entrepreneurship and social development in Africa. In 2003 he joined the Rockefeller Foundation Board of Trustees. He also serves on the board of AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Agriculture), an initiative chaired by former Secretary General of the UN Mr. Kofi Annan.
Outside his business interests, Strive is active in promoting awareness on the impact of AIDS in Africa, and he and his wife founded and funded a foundation which currently provides scholarships to more than 26,000 orphans.
As one of the most respected African business leaders today, Strive frequently speaks at major international business gatherings, and has been regularly featured in leading international publications and television programs, among them The Economist, Newsweek, CNN, Barron’s of New York, Forbes, The Guardian, and The Financial Times.
Jean Oelwang is the CEO of Virgin Unite, the entrepreneurial foundation of the Virgin Group. Prior to this role, Jean lived and worked on five continents, helping to lead successful mobile phone start-ups in South Africa, Colombia, Bulgaria, Singapore, Hong Kong, the U.S., and Australia.
Jean has long been involved in both the business and the social sectors, and exploring the overlap between them. She worked for the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife in Australia, and in numerous volunteer roles, including a stint as a VISTA volunteer where she worked with – and learned from – homeless teens in Chicago.
In 2003 she was joint CEO of Virgin Mobile in Australia when she went to work with Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin staff around the world to create Virgin Unite. The Unite team works with Virgin’s two hundred businesses worldwide, and other entrepreneurs, to help put the idea of driving positive change at the core of their operations. Virgin Unite also works with partners to create new approaches to social and environmental issues, such as a school of entrepreneurship for young people in Johannesburg, or an entrepreneurial approach to rural health transport in Kenya.
Jean and Virgin Unite have also helped to incubate a number of global leadership initiatives such as the Elders, the Disease Control Hub in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Carbon War Room. Jean sits on the Advisory Board of the Elders, the Board of the Carbon War Room, and the Board of the Bushbuckridge Health and Wellness Trust.
Idan Ofer is an international business leader and entrepreneur with a track record of results spanning more than 30 years. He has achieved success globally in a diverse set of industries including energy, natural resources, oilfield services, automotive, shipping, and technology.
Idan brings new technologies and innovative solutions to traditional industries, and is driving expansion into new ventures in many of the most important sectors of the new global economy, focusing heavily on emerging markets.
Idan is the principal of Quantum Pacific Group, an international group of businesses that includes vast interests in international shipping, NYSE-listed ultra-deepwater drilling contractor Pacific Drilling, and Israel Corporation, Israel’s largest public holding company listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Idan served as Chairman of Israel Corporation from 1999 to 2010.
Idan was also the key figure behind Qoros, Israel Corporation’s joint venture with Chinese auto manufacturer Chery Automobile, to develop the first car made to Western specifications aimed at a domestic Chinese audience.
Idan’s success as a global entrepreneur is built on his vision and passion to build companies that address some of our most pressing challenges. Better Place, the electric vehicle infrastructure company he also founded, is testimony to Idan's belief in the importance of developing viable technological solutions to global environmental problems.
For the majority of her career Marieke van Schaik has worked for a company – a social enterprise – that combines passion and professionalism in pursuit of a better world. Holding a continuous position at the Dutch Charity Lotteries since 2000, Marieke has contributed significantly to the Lottery’s growth by developing and implementing a strategic vision on how to best spend the charity’s ever-growing funds while simultaneously dealing with the demands of an expanding and increasinly influential company.
The Dutch Charity Lotteries (Dutch Postcode Lottery, BankGiro Lottery, Friends Lottery) give 50% of every ticket sold to good causes in the fields of nature conservation, poverty eradication, human rights and social cohesion (Dutch Postcode Lottery), cultural heritage in the Netherlands (BankGiro Lottery), and health and welfare in the Netherlands (Friends Lottery). Every year 9 million prizes are given out and a large number of advertising campaigns, television programs and events for lottery participants are produced. Thanks to the lotteries’ 3.5 million players in 2011 alone nearly €400 million were given away to more than 200 NGOs and cultural institutions in the Netherlands and abroad.
Since 2009 Marieke has served as one of the three managing directors of the Dutch Charity Lotteries, responsible for charities, communications, finance, and human resources. Holding a degree in International Relations from the University of Amsterdam, she worked as a project manager in DOEN Foundation before joining the newly set-up charity department of the Dutch Charity Lotteries in 2000. After various positions in the department she became head of the team in 2006 and led it to where it is today: managing relations with hundreds of organizations receiving or wishing to receive lottery funding, implementing the application, monitoring and evaluation process and organizing communications and events on charity issues.
Marieke co-initiated, conceptualized, and organized the first Postcode Lottery Green Challenge competition in 2007. The Green Challenge is an annual worldwide competition for the best green business plan, with an award of €500,000. To this day, the Green Challenge remains successful, and has a high impact not only directly for the green businesses which win the funds, but also in terms of raising awareness on the potential of green businesses overall.
In 2009 Marieke was closely involved in introducing the ‘Dream Fund.’ All beneficiary organizations that receive an annual contribution from the Dutch Postcode Lottery of €1 million or more now give 10% of that award to this fund. With this money (approximately €20 million a year) the lottery challenges these same organizations to apply for their dream project, which should be a high risk project with a potentially high impact that they might not otherwise be able to launch. An example of such a project is “A Breakthrough in the Fight Against AIDS,” which entailed deploying HIV/AIDS treatment through a prevention project in Swaziland.