This article written by Emily Chertoff was first published in Ventures Africa magazine.
Can business leaders solve some of the world’s most pressing issues? Richard Branson thinks so. He has assembled a global team of A-list entrepreneurs and executives to make businesses behave better.
Richard Branson might be one of the world’s wealthiest men, but he presents as considerably more laid-back than most of the well-heeled patrons at the exclusive Soho House New York, where we meet. Relaxing on a brown leather couch in the private club’s lounge and restaurant, he holds back-to-back meetings as other guests try to look like they’re not straining for a glimpse of the billionaire entrepreneur, adventurer and philanthropist. After our meeting, as I walk up Manhattan’s Ninth Avenue, I hear a man who had been dining nearby speaking excitedly into his cell phone about Branson’s presence. Such is the Virgin Group founder’s unusual crossover status. There are few businessmen who can get people as excited to be in their vicinity as they would get for rock stars.
Branson, whose long and well-documented career began in media, first in publishing and then in music, has always understood the importance and impact of image. He has used his star power to great effect both as an entrepreneur and as a philanthropist, teaming up with celebrities and statesmen to push for action on AIDS and climate change. The “Elders” – a group of world leaders he co founded with the late Nelson Mandela – tried to find solutions for some of the world’s most destabilising international conflicts.
The B Team, Branson’s latest venture – co-founded with Jochen Zeitz, Director of Kering and Chairman of the board’s sustainable development committee– is his latest attempt to corral star power and influence to change the way the world works. In assembling the B Team, a group of business leaders, politicians and civil servants who have committed to addressing global human rights and environmental challenges, Branson and Zeitz hope to change the way business owners and operators interact with the wider world.
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