Book Review: Screw Business as Usual by Richard Branson


Rating: 3.5 / 5

‘Screw business as usual’ is one of Richard Branson’s mantras when it comes to corporate social responsibility and sustainability.  For generations, corporations have placed profitability above all else, to the detriment of the environment and society.  In order to overcome the social and environmental issues the world faces today, the way businesses operate and its goals must change; hence, screw business as usual.   Branson highlights many entrepreneurs who are out to ‘do good’ as well as many successful politicians and businessmen/women who are focused on using their wealth and fame to drive new change.

I enjoyed reading about Virgin’s partnerships with philanthropic initiatives, entrepreneurs, governments, and other business ventures to work on challenging issues such as the poor economic outlook and medical crisis in Africa, youth homelessness in England, and the war on drugs.  But I felt that the stories were too pat and dry; he saw a problem and simply found a solution.  It was a tad bit overindulgent, but when you’re as successful as he is, that is to be expected.  What I had hoped for was fewer stories, but more analysis on a few social measures he championed, specifically what has worked and what has not.  Presenting both sides, and the continuing struggle is as important as the fact that he can easily find people to help execute his vision.  For example, he mentions KIPP charter schools, and the wonderful work it is doing in providing at-risk students a chance at a great education.  For someone who has never heard of KIPP, reading about it in Screw Business As Usual, it sounds like a panacea for the education system.  I personally think it is a great program, but there has been criticism about attrition rates and college preparedness.  While KIPP is only an example, Branson’s stories seem overly successful and a little unrealistic.

What Branson has set out to do is definitely a noble effort, and I wholeheartedly applaud everything he has accomplished and will accomplish in terms of sustainability, championing social enterprises, and putting forth the notion that monetary profits is not the only measure of success.  Screw Business as Usual is inspiring, and I am a huge fan of Richard Branson.  I think this book would be great for college students trying to figure out what to do when they are thrust into the real world, as well as social/environmental activists, since Branson clearly demonstrates that big corporations and businesses do not necessarily have to be the enemy.  While it is a serious read, Screw Business as Usual is also an easy read, and on the whole I did enjoy it.

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