Virgin's Branson says business as usual needs change

Fri Dec 9, 2011 3:21pm EST
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By Bernard Vaughan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Richard Branson -- swashbuckling billionaire entrepreneur, sportsman and activist -- is accustomed to speaking his mind. Ask the employees and customers of his Virgin group of more than 400 companies around the world.

From records to airlines, mobile phones to fuels, stem cells to "space tourism," Branson has been known for taking risks, following his vision, and following through.

So it's no surprise that his new book of advice for budding billionaire entrepreneurs is aptly titled: "Screw Business As Usual."

Branson writes that reckless pursuit of short-term gain is blinding executives to the greater long-term profits that await them if they would focus on treating their workers well, nurturing the environment and encouraging poor people.

"My message is a simple one: business as usual isn't working," Branson writes in the book, which calls for a fundamental change in the motives driving business. "In fact, it's 'business as usual' that's wrecking our planet."

Though divided up into chapters, the book is basically a string of anecdotes about entrepreneurs making money while doing good and large companies that transformed themselves by cutting down on waste and, in turn, becoming more profitable.

There's GroFin, an enterprise started by the Shell Foundation that lends to small businesses in Africa, where many people don't have collateral or a track record of paying debt.

Or Marks & Spencer, the large U.K. retailer, which now recycles 94 percent of the waste its stores generate and has reduced its carbon emissions by 13 percent since launching a major initiative in 2007, according to Branson.   Continued...

<p>Richard Branson poses for a portrait in support of his new book, "Screw Business As Usual" at the Virgin Offices in New York, December 1, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Burton</p>