Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 23rd 2017 Contents FEBRUARY 23 • 2017 guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG13
all of us
Q: My father owns 13 su-
permarkets in Philadel-
phia. He believes in social
entrepreneurship and in
the triple bottom line. For
23 years, he's hired people
with criminal records, do-
nated food and given back
to the community in both
cash and time.
Does helping the envi-
ronment and giving back
to the community provide
a return on investment?
Should all businesses do
it? --- Scott Brown, US.
Your father sounds like my
kind of guy! As I've grown
our company over the last
five decades, I've learned
that championing people and
the planet, alongside profit,
results in businesses that are much stronger
and more successful.
At Virgin, whenever we look into making
an investment, the first thing I think about
is whether or not a potential idea will have a
positive effect on the world.
Whether it's starting a bank like Virgin Mon-
ey, an airline like Virgin Australia, or an events
company like Virgin Sport, the goal is the same:
Don't just make money---make a difference.
It appears that your father is a true leader and
sets a good example for other businesses. These
days, all business leaders should understand
that prioritising a "triple bottom line"---con-
sisting of profit, people and planet, as John
Elkington put it in the 1990s---is a requirement,
not just an option.
Through my conversations with other
business leaders, however, I'm continually
reminded that this is not the case often enough.
While a shift toward more sustainable prac-
tices exists, it's still piecemeal, lightweight
Understanding that the business world holds
the key to driving global change inspired the
creation of the B Team in 2013. Formed and
incubated by Virgin Unite, our entrepreneurial
foundation, this group of global leaders oper-
ates with a collective mission to drive better
business practices that benefit people and
our planet. I strongly believe in our work and
I believe that the private sector must redefine
its terms of success if we're going to protect
Earth and everyone on it.
The good news is that we are seeing more and
more evidence that triple bottom lines make
financial sense. Just look at Unilever, where
Paul Polman, the company's chief executive
and my fellow B Team member, is growing a
business that's leading in sustainability while
earning healthy returns.
Additionally, we know that corporations
with sustainability strategies outperform
those without them, and businesses that are
actively managing and planning for climate
change are the ones securing a higher return
on investment these days.
What's more, all types of businesses have the
ability to make a difference in their own way.
Think of this strategy in terms of circles: For
a small business, it's about concentrating on
problems locally, while medium-sized busi-
nesses should think on a national scale. Bigger
businesses should focus on global challenges.
This may sound overly simple, but by looking
after those within these circles, the world can
truly become a better place.
My dream is that through the growth of bet-
ter business practices---just like your father's---
we can create a world where the purpose of
business is to become a driving force for social,
environmental and economic benefit, and one
where it's not acceptable for companies to be
solely driven by profit.
As for the hiring of ex-offenders, I've long
felt that people should not be judged by the
worst moments in their lives. I encourage all
businesses to train and employ people who
have been released from prison.
According to data from the Prison Reform
Trust, nearly half of all people in prison in
England and Wales reoffend within a year of
being released. We know that employment is
essential to reducing that rate, and we have a
responsibility to act on this knowledge. Vir-
gin Trains has been pioneering the hiring of
ex-offenders in our company, employing 25
ex-offenders in different parts of the company.
That's 25 people who've been given a second
chance in life, with vastly better odds of never
committing a crime again.
Beyond the prioritisation of climate action
and the hiring of ex-offenders, businesses also
can offer community service opportunities to
the staff, ensure sustainable supply chains and
create inclusive workplace cultures.
We've all been taking from this planet for
far too long, and the time for us to give back
As we say at the B Team: governments and
civil society cannot solve world problems
alone. It's going to take all of us.
(Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin
Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic,
Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active.
He maintains a blog at www.virgin.com/richard-
branson/blog. You can follow him on Twitter
at twitter.com/richardbranson. To learn more
about the Virgin Group: www.virgin.com.)
(Questions from readers will be answered in
future columns. Please send them to Richard.
Branson@nytimes.com. Please include your
name, country, email address and the name of
the website or publication where you read the
Every entrepreneur can make a differ-
ence in his or her community. Here are
a few tips:
--- Make community service a priority
for your company, and encourage your
staff to take time to do good in your
town or city.
--- Make sure that your supply chains
--- Create a workplace that is inclusive.
--- Make an effort to hire ex-offenders.
We all deserve a second chance.
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