The 70-year-old British billionaire announced a new campaign to build support for abolishing the death penalty at a virtual South By Southwest event Thursday.
“I have always thought the death penalty is barbaric, inhumane and that governments should not be in the business of executing their own people,” Branson said during the pre-recorded panel. “Businesses and their leaders must go beyond their companies and be a force for good in society. This must include issues we find unacceptable, including the death penalty.”
Over the next seven months, Branson’s campaign will work to get more global business leaders to sign the declaration and support abolition efforts. An updated list of signees is set to be unveiled on World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10.
Other leaders who have signed the declaration include former Tiffany & Co. CEO Alessandro Bogliolo, Mobile Systems International founder Mo Ibrahim, 23andMe CEO Anna Wojcicki and Vista Equity Partners founder Robert Smith.
Abolishing the death penalty is “a moral imperative that all of humanity should support,” the declaration says. It describes the practice as an often racist, inhumane, irreversible and extreme form of punishment.
The United States is one of the few UN member countries that hasn’t abolished the death penalty even though recent polling suggests Americans’ support for ending the practice has reached historic highs.
“The death penalty has a long history with oppression,” the Ben & Jerry’s co-founders said in a written statement. “It needs to end. Now.”