Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Empowering Women may be the Key to Paul Polman's Success

Paul Polman is a sustainability titan who has been at the helm of Unilever for almost a decade. Polman has made the economic argument and the business case for ecological responsibility and social justice.  He believes that businesses must contribute to the betterment of society. Polman has been an advocate of gender equality and his achievements at Unilever are at least in part due to the fact that he has surrounded himself with capable women.

Polman is widely regarded as a leading figure in sustainability. He has earned a number of accolades including the Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal for outstanding service to the environment and the UN's Champion for Global Change Award.

Polman knows that capitalism must evolve and he leads by example. Polman has repeatedly stated that responsible business practices are compatible with economic growth. He believes business leaders can be a critical part of efforts to solve some of the world's most difficult problems. This includes both environmental degradation and climate change.

In a Fortune magazine feature titled "Unilever CEO Paul Polman’s Plan to Save the World," the Fortune 500 CEO said: "The real purpose of business has always been to come up with solutions that are relevant to society, to make society better." Polman is a longtime advocate of carbon pricing schemes to reduce corporate emissions. He has championed sustainable development and he has stressed the importance of investments from both the public and the private sector. He has also sounded the alarm about issues like over-consumption of resources and wealth inequality.

On June 25th 2015, Polman was one of the people who contributed to a publication called NEXT Sustainable Business. In addition to Polman this collaborative venture by the United Nations Global Compact and DNV GL included several sustainability leaders. It calls on companies to integrate 10 Principles into corporate values, strategies, policies and procedures.

Polman is not afraid to stand up for important values.  He applauded Kenneth Frazier, chairman and CEO of Merck Pharmaceutical when the latter quit the president's American Manufacturing Council. After the Merck CEO blasted Trump for his equivocation on the Neo-Nazi's that marched in Charlottesville, Polman praised Frazier's, "strong leadership to stand up for the moral values that made this country what it is".

Polman also criticized Trump for withdrawing from the Paris agreement and he suggested the move may have accelerated climate action. As reported by Energy Manager Today, Polman said that Trump has, "done us a favor." He went on to explain that, "we're moving faster now than we otherwise might have been."

Part of Polman's tremendous success at Unilever can be ascribed to the team of women that he works with.

"Women’s leadership cannot be a 'nice-to-have' for business. Companies that continue to have male-dominated leadership will miss out on business opportunities unlocked by gender-balanced teams," Polman said. He lamented the fact that women are not better represented in senior corporate leadership and he boasted about the team of highly capable women he works with. "We at Unilever understand the importance of gender-balanced leadership and investments across our value chains. Women’s leadership makes good business sense,"  he said.

Women hold senior leadership positions at Unilever. This includes Vice President of Sustainability Karen Hamilton and CSO Gail Klintworth, both have been an integral part of Unilever's success.

Related
Women are the Key to a More Sustainable Future
10 Women at the Forefront of Environmentalism and Sustainability
100 Inspirational Female Environmentalists
Christiana Figueres: Climate Leader and Champion of Mulitilateralism
20 Inspiring Posts to Celebrate Women's Day

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