Richard Branson on his 'Plan B' sustainability initiative

Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, co-founder of The B Team - a catalyst for a better way of doing business - talks to The Wealth Report about why the organisation’s role is so important.

Words: Andrew Shirley, Editor, The Wealth Report

What inspired you to form The B Team with Jochen Zeitz?

The B Team was founded in the belief that the private sector can, and must, redefine both its responsibilities and its own terms of success. This was inspired by the growing trust gap between citizens and governments. Between individuals and institutions. And between profits and values.

We recognised that businesses have often been a major part of the problem. With the launch of The B Team, we wanted to show that we, as business leaders, can also drive sustainable solutions.

Since then, we have worked together with civil society and others to find ways of transforming business into a force for good. The bold example of B Team leaders like Paul Polman, Marc Benioff and Bob Collymore shows us every day what it means to place purpose and conviction at the core of your business and your personal mission. Together we learn, share, collaborate and push each other forward on the most pressing issues of our time.

The B Team’s aims are hugely ambitious, from improved social justice to treating the environment better. What would you say is its most important role?

As B Team Leaders, I think the most important contributions we can make are leading by example, using our voice and scaling solutions. It is through these actions that we can help create an environment for change.

At the same time, we must also remember to listen. That’s how we learn to build the new practices that meet those goals, whether they involve respecting and strengthening human rights and the rule of law, advocating for climate action or eradicating modern slavery. And where we see progress stall, we will push for a higher level of ambition.

From a personal perspective how satisfied have you been with progress so far and what would you say are the Team’s biggest successes to date?

I’m very proud of the B Team’s accomplishments. Perhaps most importantly, behind all of these achievements lie the strong collective and individual commitments of our Leaders. Together, we’ve played a pivotal role in advancing global policy in line with our agenda and shifting business norms and practices.

In 2015, The B Team was instrumental in ensuring that a commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050 was included in the text of the Paris Agreement. At the time, many felt that this was far too ambitious. However, we knew that it was not only possible, but necessary. Today we see more business and political leaders recognising the urgency and opportunity to adopt this goal and act on it.

In the current fractious global geo-political environment, is The B Team’s role now more important than when it was formed?

In an ideal world, The B Team wouldn’t be needed. And with enough ambition and action we might no longer be needed in the future.But the last few years have seen many countries move backwards.

Public discourse on climate change, migration, or digital transformation, to name just a few issues, has become divisive, polarising our communities and undermining any form of meaningful collaboration to fight injustice, inequality and environmental threats.

In this environment, businesses have to shoulder an even greater burden. And as trust in government continues to erode, The B Team, in concert with business and civil society, must ask governments to step up to the plate. If we can achieve a critical mass, we have a chance of creating a fairer, greener and more human economy.

Working together, we can build a principled and purpose-driven private sector and demonstrate that business can be a force for good.

 

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