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Anti-Death Penalty Campaign Launched by Richard Branson & RBIJ Reaches Over 150 Pledges

Newsweek: More Than 150 Business Leaders Back Campaign To End Death Penalty

By:Khaleda Rahman

October 7, 2021

More than 150 business leaders have pledged their support for a campaign working to eradicate capital punishment around the world.

The Business Leaders Against the Death Penalty campaign was launched by Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Group, and the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) earlier this year.

Now, ahead of World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10, more than 150 signatories—including Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Arianna Huffington—are backing the campaign aiming to help drive abolition campaigns over the line.

The campaign's declaration decries the death penalty as inhumane, discriminatory, prone to error and ineffective as a deterrent. It notes that half of U.S. states and more than 170 U.N. member states have abolished the death penalty or stopped carrying out death sentences, underscoring a global trend towards abolition.

"Where the death penalty still exists, we urge government leaders to legally commute death sentences, to impose moratoria on executions and to support legislative or ballot initiatives to end capital punishment for good," it says.

"We commit to using our voices and our reach as business leaders to support ending the death penalty everywhere, beginning with signing this declaration."

It's the first time so many leaders from the business community have united in a push to end the death penalty, Celia Ouellette, the CEO of the RBIJ, told Newsweek.

It comes at a time when support for ending capital punishment in the U.S. has never been higher, she said, pointing to Virginia's recent abolition of the death penalty and President Joe Biden's moratorium on federal executions.

"I do think that businesses are increasingly going to put pressure on President Biden to go beyond a moratorium and actually create some lasting change for the death penalty at the federal level," Ouellette added.

Ouellette also said the campaign's backers will be deployed at crucial points in specific abolition campaigns to support reforms and inspire action in collaboration with activists on the ground. She said she hopes the campaign has a direct impact on states like Utah and Ohio, where efforts to abolition the death penalty are underway.

"We're trying to marshal as much energy and leverage from people who are in positions to have influence," Jason Flom, the CEO of Lava Media, told Newsweek.

"To use their voices and their platform to force recalcitrant legislators, decision makers, to do what they should by now know is the right thing, which is abolish the death penalty."

The growing support for the campaign shows that business leaders "increasingly recognize they must be a force for the greater good of society," Branson said.

"By speaking out against the death penalty, they take a stand against one of the most egregious injustices of our time. The voice of business will be critical to end the death penalty once and for all."

Ouellette added: "Lawmakers and decision makers should be paying attention—business leaders are wading into the fray and demanding an end to capital punishment. There's a new incentive for ending the death penalty: abolition is good for business."

To find out more about the campaign, visit


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