Image courtesy of Victoria Dawe

Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group: Screw Business as Usual

A Message from Richard Branson to Members of Business Fights Poverty

Screw Business as Usual

Through my experiences in my life and more recently with Virgin Unite, the nonprofit foundation for Virgin Group, I’ve learnt about the power that business has to drive change, whether that is simply creating thousands of jobs and a company where people love to come to work every day, or building a company to tackle a specific issue in the world.

I happen to believe in business because I believe that business can be a force for good. Let me elaborate on that. In a nutshell, I mean that by doing good – doing the right thing – business will prosper. Doing the right thing can be profitable.

The idea that good business can be a powerful force in the fight against world poverty is one that I know is dear to the heart of members of the Business Fights Poverty community. Each of you is a pioneer in our collective efforts to forge a new path to improve the lives of millions across the planet.

I truly believe that capitalism was created to help people live better lives, but sadly over the years, it has lost its way a bit. The short-term focus on profit has driven most businesses to forget about the important long-term role they have in taking care of people and the planet. Rightly so people all over the world are no longer accepting this short term approach and are demanding that business as usual changes – as we’ve seen in the rapidly spreading, and importantly peaceful, “occupy” movements that are now in many, many cities in the world.

We believe the time is ripe for a different approach to business.

This week, I launch my new book, ‘Screw Business As Usual’ – a book that has been seven years in the making. It all started in 2005 when I decided to start committing the majority of my time to work with my foundation, Virgin Unite, to look at how we could use our entrepreneurial skills across and beyond the Virgin Group to help create lasting, entrepreneurial approaches to some of these devastating issues.

Virgin Unite unites the people who work at Virgin, and we try to put quite a lot of our time and resources into looking at problems in the globe that can be resolved, in the same kind of entrepreneurial way that we would resolve a business problem. We’ve set up an organisation called The Elders, founded by Nelson Mandela, with twelve wonderful men and women, to go into conflict regions and try to resolve conflicts. We run The Elders just like we’d run a new business, with a great chief executive and a really good team of people. And we’ve done the same with the Carbon War Room, which is trying to get 25 gigatons of carbon out of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Over the last seven years I’ve met many inspiring people who are changing the world through good business. ‘Screw Business As Usual’ is all about celebrating those incredible people all over the world – all 24,902 miles of it – who have embraced a new approach to capitalism that we are simply calling Capitalism 24902!

The concept of screwing business as usual is not just about the CEOs of these businesses – it’s actually about every single person in a business who can turn their work into something that can make a difference. It’s about inspiring people to embrace a whole new way of working, one that has a purpose and one that they enjoy. It’s also about giving people the chance to create a working environment that allows them to have a more fulfilling life – which can often be through simple things like job sharing, longer holidays and flexible working times.

This book is an attempt to kick start a journey of discovery. We all have a lot to learn. At my advanced years (!) I have learnt that listening to others, asking as many questions as possible, debating issues with friends, colleagues, even strangers I’ve met on trains and planes is the best way to truly gain knowledge and a better understanding of the world we live in. So we want to hear from people all over the world about how they think we should all “screw business as usual” – so they can help write the next book. Today we are kicking off a promotion to encourage people to send us their stories and in return they will get the chance to win a place on a Virgin Unite Connection trip to South Africa – I’m going to tag along to help keep everyone out of trouble!

I know that as members of Business Fights Poverty, you must have a wealth of inspirational stories you can share, whether it be about a small, community store that is really making a difference on your corner or a large company that has changed, even in a small way, the way it is doing business. Please log on to our website and share these stories:

At Virgin, we are on a journey to turn ourselves into a business which is a true force for good in the world. We have a long way to go, but we are doing whatever we can to ensure that people and planet are at the core of all we do. As you’ll find out if you read the book, it’s a journey that we have shared with many inspiring people and organisations. I look forward to hearing your inspirational stories too.

Let’s get screwing (business as usual, that is!).

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16 Responses

  1. Well said..profitable businesses must have multiple dimensions, well beyond just economic returns for a select few…and Capitalism 101 is begging to be redefined…Capitalism 29402 it is..

  2. It’s inspiring to have the support, encouragement and commitment of someone who has so dramatically changed business for the better. With the right partners, and with the creativity and ethic of champions like Richard Branson and the Virgin Unite team, we can transform development.

  3. Can’t wait to read the book!  In my work with companies I’ve found a few great examples of firms with organizational structures, business processes, KPIs, etc. in place to enable their people to think and act long term.  But unfortunately not hundreds of these examples – they seem to be a rather small leadership group and some of the largest companies in the world.  Is it realistic to think smaller companies could emulate these practices if they only had more info and examples, or do we need to change the short term pressures in their operating/financing environments? Again – look forward to reading the book!

  4. Good to see the intent. Remember that business for the 21st Century needs to be measured as much for what good it does as for what harm it doesn’t do. Minimising harm should be standard; businesses that create social and environmental benefits need to become the new business as usual.

  5. I can’t help think that this is all a little bit tame and tepid.  From the comments made, there’s no great vision from our wider public as to how business should be different and not even a scrap of a mention for the passion of social enterprise, only, once again the passion to acquire profits in a self-seeking way, but this time where it is not so blatant.  Frankly, I think almost every business needs to challenge almost everything they do and weigh it up against social goals.  Transparency is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t change years of culture and we need something more radical than this, like, for instance halving the tax rate for businesses which provide social audits and meet specific triple bottom line targets.

  6. Looking forward to seeing what is synthesized after all of the submissions.  There is tremendous momentum now building in this arena and only through efforts like this can we reach the scale and sustainability required of the current demand.  Cheers!

  7. I really enjoyed interviewing Pedro Eikelenboom from IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative for Member of the Week.  It feels to me that they have hit on a crucial insight – how do you “screw business as usual” without worrying that your competitors are going to take advantage of you being busy implementing new strategies or incurring higher costs in your supply chain.  IDH’s answer: bring the biggest competitors to the negotiating table agree how you should all work on changing the game at the same time and therefore re-balance the playing field for everyone!

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