July 10, 2018
Sir Richard Branson Literally Stands Up During Blockchain Summit To End Single-Use Plastics
News Source: Forbes
Author(s): Michael del Castillo
Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson literally stood up today at his resort in Marrakesh, Morocco, and committed his Virgin companies to ending the use of single-use plastic. Like a set of dominoes in reverse, the audience, comprising about 30 blockchain entrepreneurs, a senior-level government official, retired regulators and more, stood up beside him and in front of him.
“We’re trying at Virgin to do that,” said Branson, who is an investor in multiple blockchain startups. “I’ll stand up.”
Branson was speaking on a panel called “Saving the Planet (A Bit at a Time),” moderated by investor Bill Tai, who is a backer of ethereum startup CryptoKitties, the most widely used distributed crypto application, or dapp. CryptoKitties co-founder Jody Rebak, Ocean Elders founder Gigi Brisson and the executive director for the Milken Institute’s center for financial markets, Staci Warden, were also on the panel, and all were among the group that stood up to commit their organizations to stop using single-use plastics.
In the audience, event co-hosts Valery Vavilov and George Kikvadze, of Bitfury Group, Kenyan Cabinet Secretary Joseph Mucheru, former senior advisor to the U.S. secretary of state and chair of the Global Blockchain Business Council Tomicah Tillemann and Time 100 winner and founder of the Digital Citizen Fund Roya Mahboob also stood up.
Thirty-two percent of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced every year flows into oceans at a rate equivalent to “pouring one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute,” according to a 2016 study by the World Economic Forum, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey & Co.
While the spontaneous group pledge to help end that pollution over an unspecified time frame certainly appeared unplanned, it was not without a series of inciting incidents. During the panel, Tai and Brisson formally kicked off bidding on a digital asset called a CryptoKitty that was designed to raise money for ocean conservation. At the time of publication, 18 bids had set the next bidding price at $25,100.
Brisson then shared the results of a recent study that found an island of trash floating in the Pacific Ocean that has grown to twice the size of France and consists of trillions of pieces of microplastics. In response, audience member Jack Brockway, a founder of Nightingale Partners and stealth blockchain startup Proof of Art, proposed that the audience members should all commit to ending the use of single-use plastics by their organizations and the customers of those organizations.
Branson was the first to respond, reaching for the microphone and adding: “I’ll stand up and say we’ll do our absolute best.” Branson is also a member of the Ocean Elders, and his Virgin Group has a long tradition of working to minimize plastics use. But this public statement seems to have begun a ripple effect on the third day of this year’s Blockchain Summit.
Previously, the event focused largely on blockchain activities on the African continent, with talk about ocean conservation now taking center stage, even if in an unexpected way.
“It’s the first time that a CryptoKitty has merged with a turtle to make Honu, the Hawaiian green turtle that we’re auctioning off,” said CryptoKitty co-creator Jody Rebak, following the spontaneous group commitment. She concluded by describing the ethereum-based asset that can be traded on an open market once it is purchased as an example of a new way to make an “impact around ocean conservation, and leveraging the blockchain as a new mechanism for philanthropic activities.”