NBC's Matt Lauer Praises Richard Branson's 'Different Kind of Capitalism' Not Driven By Profits
Updated [12:54 ET]: More analysis and full transcript added.
Introducing an interview with CEO Richard Branson about his new book, "Screw Business As Usual," on Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer proclaimed: "...Sir Richard Branson argues the driving force behind capitalism should not be about making a profit, it's about caring for people, communities, and the planet." [Audio available here]
After questioning Branson on the practicality of such a business model, Lauer concluded: "So it's a different kind of capitalism. You're not saying that once you become successful you abandon the principles of capitalism, you just adjust those principles." Moments later, Lauer wondered if, "that form of capitalism would calm some of these emotions that we're seeing in the streets right now" in the Occupy Wall Street movement? [View video after the jump]
Branson praised the left-wing protesters: "Well, I'm actually a supporter of Occupy Wall Street....it's peaceful demonstrations by and large. They're demonstrating because they don't like business as usual. They want to see business change. And I think they're right in wanting to see business change."
Lauer replied: "So as part of the 1%, and some would argue part of the 1/10 of 1%, you identify with the 99%?" Branson continued: "I identify completely. I mean, for instance, in America you've got a lot of people who are out of work and you've got a lot of people in work. Now, a business – "Screw Business As Usual" would make sure that every single person had a job."
Here is a full transcript of the December 1 interview:
8:01AM ET TEASE:
AL ROKER: We all know Sir Richard Branson. I mean, an eccentric billionaire who does things differently than a lot of folks. Well, he's got a surprising message for anybody starting a business. It's not just about the bottom line. He's going to explain that in just a moment.
MATT LAUER: I always look to forward to having him here.
8:18AM ET SEGMENT:
LAUER: He's an entrepreneur, an adventurer, one of the most successful businessmen in the world, but in his new book, Sir Richard Branson argues the driving force behind capitalism should not be about making a profit, it's about caring for people, communities, and the planet. The book is called "Screw Business As Usual." Sir Richard Branson, great to have you back. Welcome.
RICHARD BRANSON: Thank you.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Business Unusual; Richard Branson's Surprising Approach to Success]
LAUER: I can almost hear the naysayers right now saying, "Wait a second, this guy has made his billions. He's got his money. I'm starting a brand new business, I'm trying to make ends meet. I need to turn a profit. I need to be efficient. I can't be worrying about some of the things he's preaching." How would you respond?
BRANSON: I think I would say they're right. I think when you're starting to build a business all that matters is survival, so, you know, make sure that you survive so you can do good once you've actually built your business. But whatever happens, run it in an ethical way whilst you're building it. Once you've built your business, then I think everybody in the business needs to become a force for good and get out there and try to, you know, help the communities around them.
LAUER: How do you respond to people – and I hear this a lot – who say, "You know what? Running a green business or running a socially responsible business is great for public relations but it's not how you make money, it's not good for the bottom line." How do you respond to that?
BRANSON: I would say it's rubbish basically. I mean, Marks & Spencer's in England reduced their – increased their bottom line by $180 million a year by turning their business into a green business. So there's enormous amounts of money to be saved by going out there and trying to become an efficient business. And so, you know, if you can actually turn your business around and have all of your employees realizing that you have become a force for good, you know, people will work harder.
LAUER: So it's a different kind of capitalism. You're not saying that once you become successful you abandon the principles of capitalism, you just adjust those principles.
BRANSON: Yeah. I mean, you've – obviously making profit is critical if you're going to create new jobs and you know, expand your business and you know, conquer the world in whatever you're trying to do and make a difference within your business. But then, you know, people like myself, we're entrepreneurs, and I think we are able to see problems in the world like global warming or like, you know, disease in Africa, or, you know, other major problems and get in there and tackle them.
LAUER: Do you think if more people at a later stage in business embrace these kinds of ideas we would see less of a back lash, the kind of back lash that we're seeing in the streets of cities all across the country and around the world right now, the so-called Occupy movement? Do you think that there would be – that that form of capitalism would calm some of these emotions that we're seeing in the streets right now?
BRANSON: Well, I'm actually a supporter of Occupy Wall Street, I think-
LAUER: Tell me why.
BRANSON: Well, first of all, it's peaceful demonstrations by and large. They're demonstrating because they don't like business as usual. They want to see business change. And I think they're right in wanting to see business change. I think, you know, if every single business leader and every single person working within every business could actually, you know, persuade the people who are running their companies to get out there and sort out the world's problems we would get those problems sorted. We can't just leave it to the politicians and the social workers.
LAUER: So as part of the 1%, and some would argue part of the 1/10 of 1%, you identify with the 99%?
BRANSON: I identify completely. I mean, for instance, in America you've got a lot of people who are out of work and you've got a lot of people in work. Now, a business – "Screw Business As Usual" would make sure that every single person had a job. It would mean that some – the people who are in work might work a little bit less, they might have slightly longer holidays, which I don't think a lot of them would mind, and you would ask for volunteers first of all and just share the amount of work around. Why have a situation where, you know, some people are on the dole and, you know, not making ends meet and other people are working sometimes much harder than they would like to work.
LAUER: Do you really think people would embrace that concept here?
BRANSON: I believe so. I mean, if – we are, you know, we've asked work forces how many of you who are in work, if you were given the chance to job share or go part-time during, you know, a year or two of crisis whilst other people are being laid off, how many of you would do it? And at least 20% of every work force stick their hand up and say, "You know, I'd love to have six months at home and maybe more holiday time and a bit less money for a year or two in order to help protect my fellow employees. And it's just that kind of thinking that needs to go on.
LAUER: Let me change subjects for a second. Because you were in the headlines – not that you made the headlines, it wasn't by your own making – not long ago, earlier this year because your home on Necker Island, where I have been privileged enough to be at one point, was destroyed by fire. Just take me through what it was like to be there through that. Luckily no one got hurt.
BRANSON: It was a obviously very frightening night in that my mother and my children were in the house and I was just in an out house at the time and woke up to see these 200 or 300 foot flames.
LAUER: An out building is what we call it here, an out house is a different thing.
BRANSON: Alright. I wasn't actually in the out house.
BRANSON: And, anyway, I mean, actually you're the number one suspect for that because they were looking for people who might have had a reason to do it.
LAUER: It wasn't me.
BRANSON: It was the lightning.
BRANSON: And a massive lightning strike and it was a hurricane, 90-mile-per-hour winds going through.
LAUER: But losing the place that was so dear to you, you also say, kind of triggered something in your mind that you have a different way now of looking at stuff. What do you mean by that?
BRANSON: Yes, I mean, I was, not wanting to name drop, but I was actually standing with Kate Winslet's kids, we were looking up at the house and I just said to the kids, "Look, you know, stuff is not important. I mean the fact that we're all safe and we're all well, that is what matters in life." And so, you know, it's family, friends, and this wonderful life we live in, just to throw ourselves into it is what matters. And so everything, you know, a lot of precious things went up. You know, putting life in perspective but they're really not that important.
LAUER: Sir Richard Branson, it's always nice to have you here. I'm glad you're well and the book is called "Screw Business As Usual."
BRANSON: Thank you.
LAUER: Come back and see us soon.