Richard Branson launches Business Against Death Penalty campaign

Sir Richard Branson

Global business leaders led by Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson have joined forces to launch a campaign declaring their opposition (in their personal capacity) to the death penalty, urging governments everywhere to end the practice and asking their peers to join them.

Today’s announcement was accompanied by a public declaration (text below), which outlines the urgent need for universal abolition and the drivers for business support. Initial signatories include Mo Ibrahim (founder, Celtel), Mike Novogratz (founder and CEO, Galaxy Investment Partners) and Arianna Huffington (founder and CEO, Thrive Global).

Sir Richard Branson said: “The death penalty is broken beyond repair and plainly fails to deliver justice by every reasonable measure. It is marred by cruelty, waste, ineffectiveness, discrimination and an unacceptable risk of error.  By speaking out at this crucial moment, business leaders have an opportunity to help end this inhumane and flawed practice.”

Global support for the death penalty is at an all-time low, and more than 170 UN member states have now abolished it in law or declared a moratorium. The recent spate of federal executions in the US, and spikes in executions in countries like Egypt have sparked further human rights concerns, generated widespread media coverage and galvanized global opposition to the practice.

Never before have global leaders from the business community united against capital punishment, and the signatories represent a myriad of sectors, countries and cultures – from Guilherme Leal, Brazilian chairman of Natura & Co, to Jared Smith, the Utahn co-founder of powerhouse Qualtrics, to Strive Masiyiwa, Zimbabwean founder and executive chairman of telecommunications and technology giant Econet Group.

Signatories highlight the need for businesses to speak up on issues of inequality, the danger of executing innocent people and the need for fiscal responsibility.

As Merck Mercuriadis, founder and CEO of Hipgnosis Songs Fund states: “Business leaders are major contributors to the global economy and we need to step up and use our voices to create systemic change. The death penalty needs to end, and we need to be part of making that happen.”

The campaign demonstrates the increasing responsibility for business leaders to go beyond statements of support and demonstrate real allyship through meaningful action.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (co-founders, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream) said: “Business leaders need to do more than just say Black Lives Matter. They need to walk the talk and be instrumental in tearing down all the symbols of structural racism in our society. The death penalty has a long history with oppression, and it needs to end. Now.”