Bruce Upbin, Forbes, 22 January 2013
FORBES caught up at Davos this week with billionaire Richard Branson, who has completely shifted from profit-seeking serial startup mode to non-stop philanthropy and social change. Branson now spends some 80% of his time on social causes and planet-healing work under the umbrella of Virgin Unite.
Examples: His safari preserve in South Africa runs a nearby clinic dispensing free anti-retrovirals and medicine for TB and malaria. His Virgin Active gym club chain in South Africa created a gym in Soweto township with the community that houses a hair salon and other ventures and is now one of its most profitable gyms in the country. The next item on his calendar is a meeting in early February at his Necker Island in the Caribbean to hatch plans for a carbon-neutral Caribbean Basin with regional heads of state and to discuss a ban on shark and manta ray fishing.
“I made all the money I need in my lifetime and there are quite a lot of problems in the world,” says Branson.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Branson had gathered his advocacy group The B Team, formed in 2012, to finalize their commitments to 18 pledges toward making the world a better place–and to issue a new statement (below) challenging business leaders to make a bigger stand for human rights. Its 17 members are a supergroup of business and political leaders with an activist bent, including Unilever CEO Paul Polman, Indian industrialist Ratan Tata, former Irish prime minister Mary Robinson, Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Tom’s Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie and media entrepreneur Arianna Huffington.
Some of the pledges they committed to today include working toward ending subsidies that increase the consumption of natural resources, achieving meaningful diversity at the highest levels of organizations, end quarterly reporting where legally possible, and publish more reporting on how companies are faring on environmental goals. The B Team members are supposed to spend the next 12 months coming up with specific plans and timelines to achieve these goals, with the hope that more companies and organizations will follow.
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