‘Business for good’ was also about inspiring the practice of innovation at Virgin. At Virgin Megastore I set up donations for shelters for victims of domestic abuse, ensuring that returning delivery transports were filled up with toys and clothes which might then be donated to charities, and that we hired people with special needs who would be used, boldly and confidently, in a front of house capacity. We also became leaders in providing wheelchair access and offering what we termed ‘returnships’, offered to both men and women who were returning to work after, sometimes prolonged, absences owing to parenting commitments, or periods of illness.
In sum, there was an unshakable feeling at Virgin that our customers would feel what we practised inside our organisation and that this in turn would benefit the business commercially by attracting the type of customer who would readily see the value of our mission.
Passing on good practice in new opportunities
In my present role, as CEO Middle East at YOOX Net-a-Porter Group, this once again proved to be an instance in my professional life of being fortunate to arrive at the right time. The fashion industry was ready for change and it proved to be the right time to innovate in all manner of ways.
For example, the company already practiced circular business, and so with Lebanon's financial meltdown in full momentum and a staggering 78% of the Lebanese population falling into poverty over the past two years, an opportunity presented itself to do some good, while supporting our own business.
Fashion and clothing is an important business in Lebanon, with Lebanese fashion businesses ranging from the retail of affordable clothing to the in-house production of luxury clothing. Some young Lebanese fashion designers have made their way to major fashion shows in Europe, such as French fashion shows.
Inevitably, though, that industry has been hit by the country’s economic downturn and with this in mind, I encouraged the purchase of unsold stock from suppliers in Lebanon. What this did was stimulate new market opportunities for us in the USA and gave recognition to quality Lebanese products from that market, while generating valuable US dollar revenue for those suppliers.