When people are free to succeed, business succeeds

Wednesday, 16 May 2018 11:48 GMT

A woman is reflected in glass at a new viewing platform during the unveiling of the New Tate Modern in London, Britain, June 14, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

At Virgin, we have adopted an Anti-Slavery Policy which sets out our zero-tolerance stance on slavery and trafficking

Modern slavery and gender-based violence (GBV) are deplorable human rights violations that endure around the world. Slavery and GBV, although distinct issues deserving individual attention, are intimately connected. One way is through their disproportionate and horrific impacts on women and girls. 

Today, more than 40 million people are victims of modern slavery, with 25 million people living in some form of forced labour (including domestic work, factories, farms, fishing boats, and brothels). Women and girls account for a staggering 71 percent of modern slavery victims, 99 percent of those forced into sexual exploitation, and 84 percent of those forced into marriage. Worldwide, one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. These appalling statistics apply to every region of the world; no part of our planet is without blame.

Slavery and GBV are also connected by economics. Just as violence begets violence, economic exploitation and extreme inequalities beget slavery. For example, a woman forced into domestic labour is likely to experience violence at the hands of her employer and is likely to endure these deplorable conditions out of economic necessity.

Businesses around the world have to play a key role in ending GBV and slavery. It is time for business leaders to demand that slavery, forced labour and violence play no part in their companies or their sphere of influence.

At Virgin, we have adopted an Anti-Slavery Policy, which sets out our zero-tolerance stance on slavery and human trafficking. You can find out more about how we manage our Virgin companies and supply chains here.

The B Team are also working to build momentum and action around this important responsibility in the private sector.

Modern slavery and GBV continue to exist because systems of domination, violence and abuse are acceptable to many of those in positions of power. We must prioritise the responsibility of business leaders to condemn exploitative and violent behaviours in order to put an end to these despicable realities.

When people are free to succeed, business succeeds. Let us come together to create the kind of world we want to live in – the only one that we will accept.

This blog originally appeared on Virgin.com

Richard Branson is an English business magnate, investor and philanthropist. He founded the Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies.