Business
British billionaire Richard Branson (L) serves drinks to AirAsia group chief Tony Fernandes (R) while working as a flight attendant onboard an AirAsia flight bound for Kualu Lumpur, at Perth Airport on May 12, 2013. Branson honoured a losing bet with Fernandes over whose Formula One racing team would finish ahead of each other at the Abu Dhabi race during their debut 2010 season. AFP PHOTO / Tony ASHBY        (Photo credit should read TONY ASHBY/AFP/Getty Images) British billionaire Richard Branson (L) serves drinks to AirAsia group chief Tony Fernandes (R) while working as a flight attendant onboard an AirAsia flight bound for Kualu Lumpur, at Perth Airport on May 12, 2013. Branson honoured a losing bet with Fernandes over whose Formula One racing team would finish ahead of each other at the Abu Dhabi race during their debut 2010 season. AFP PHOTO / Tony ASHBY (Photo credit should read TONY ASHBY/AFP/Getty Images)  

Richard Branson’s airlines have emitted 7.1 million metric tons of CO2

Virgin CEO Richard Branson may be championing green business investments, but his airline empire has emitted more than 7.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the years.

Branson recently took to his blog to decry global warming denialism, saying that those who are skeptical of mankind’s effect on the planet should “get out of our way.” But Branson’s own airline companies have emitted millions of metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

Branson’s flagship airline company Virgin Atlantic emitted about 4.8 million metric tons of carbon in 2006 and 2007 from aircraft operations and other operations “including staff travel to and from work, business travel by car and plane, plus energy consumed at [their] UK offices and hangars.”

Virgin America has also thrown up its fair share of carbon emissions — about 2.3 million between 2008 and 2010, according to the company. The company started shuttling passengers across the U.S. in 2007 and had a carbon footprint of 573,296 metric ton in 2008, making it the lowest emitting U.S. carrier.

But as Virgin America’s operations and airplane fleet grew so did their carbon footprint. In 2010, the company’s carbon footprint was 971,180 metric tons, making them the third lowest emitting U.S. carrier.

Branson, however, has made an effort to make his airlines less carbon-intensive. Virgin Atlantic, for example, aims to improve the fuel efficiency of its airline fleet by 30 percent by 2020 and reduce energy consumption from its ground operations by 20 percent during that time.

Virgin Australia allows its customers to purchase carbon offsets for their flights. According to the company, they sold carbon offsets equivalent to 65,491 metric tons in 2010 and 2011. The company also keeps a relatively young and fuel efficient aircraft fleet.

Branson became the latest major CEO to lash out against skeptics of man-made global warming after Apple CEO Tim Cook lambasted a free-market activist for caring more about profitable investments than fighting global warming.

“Tim [Cook] took a crucial stand: he told shareholders who oppose Apple’s commitment to sustainability to ‘get out of the stock’,” Branson wrote on his blog. “He also commented on how doing business sustainably can actually improve the bottom line. This is something we strongly believe in at The B Team, which is working hard to encourage better ways of doing business for the wellbeing of people and the planet. We wholeheartedly support him.”

“More businesses should be following Apple’s stance in encouraging more investment in sustainability,” Branson said. “While Tim told sustainability sceptics to ‘get out of our stock’, I would urge climate change deniers to get out of our way.”

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