More than 130 business leaders speak out against the death penalty

Company heads have signed the Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.

NEW YORK: Unilever CEO Alan Jope, Bayer CEO Werner Baumann and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg are among the over 130 executives who’ve signed the Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty. 

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) CEO Celia Ouellette with Sabrina Butler-Smith, a wrongfully convicted, exonerated death-row inmate, originally launched the campaign during a South by Southwest festival panel in March.

Thursday’s announcing of the signatories draws attention to the upcoming World Day Against the Death Penalty, scheduled for Sunday, October 10.  

“Business leaders have an absolutely crucial role in normalizing and driving these narratives in policy debates and they can do the same in the fight to abolish capital punishment,” said Ben Cumming, RBIJ’s communications director. “When investors and employers speak up, policymakers pay attention.”

He added the anti-death penalty movement is growing with diverse supporters from a wide range of sectors, countries and cultures. In a press statement, Branson pointed to cruelty, racial inequality, fiscal waste and unacceptable errors risks, calling on business leaders “to help end this inhumane and flawed practice.”

Cumming explained that preeminent voices could provide invaluable support to specific actions such as ongoing efforts to abolish the death penalty at the state-level in Ohio and Utah, and urging President Joe Biden to commute federal death row sentences. 

The anti-death penalty statement says in part: “We stand united in our belief in a fairer and more equitable world, the rule of law, and universal human rights. As an irreversible and extreme form of punishment, the death penalty is inhumane, and it is irreconcilable with human dignity. Its worldwide abolition is a moral imperative that all of humanity should support.”

It notes the racial and socio-economic biases in the justice system, and statistical evidence showing the ineffectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent.

The statement highlights that in the U.S. one innocent person has been exonerated for every eight people executed. It proposes that diverting millions of public dollars to the capital punishment system misallocates resources from critical public health, safety, infrastructure and education—necessary building blocks to strengthen communities.

The statement with the list of signatories can be read in full here.

Some of the other well-known business leaders who signed onto the statement include Alessandro Bogliolo, former CEO, Tiffany & Co.; Andrew N. Liveris, former chairman and CEO, Dow Chemical; Arianna Huffington, cofounder, The Huffington Post; Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, cofounders, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream; David Bronner, CEO, Dr. Bronner’s; Hubert Joly, former chairman and CEO, Best Buy; Martha Lane Fox, chair, WeTransfer; Nicolas Debray, president, Americas, The Body Shop; and Tony Fernandes, group CEO, AirAsia Group.

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