Paul Polman

Unilever CEO Paul Polman

Unilever CEO Paul Polman
Image: World Economic Forum / Flickr CC

The 2013 Sustainable Leaders survey by Globescan and SustainAbility has been released, with Unilever receiving top mentions for the third year in a row.  Globescan asked about 1,200 professionals working in sustainability in business, academia, science, media and non-profit sectors about their thoughts on who is leading the charge in reaching sustainability targets.  Unilever and its visionary CEO Paul Polman were mentioned in 25 percent of surveys, vastly exceeding that of number two ranked company Patagonia with 14 percent.

The reasoning for mentioning Unilever consistently pointed back to Polman’s leadership and vision.  The Sustainable Living Plan set forth by the company in 2010 is so audacious that no other major organization has been able to match it.  By 2020, Unliever wants to reduce the carbon imprint of all products from by 50%, source materials from sustainable farms, and improve the health and wellbeing of more than a billion people.  Further, the plan is the most comprehensive sustainable initiative in the business world, setting more than 50 separate goals that cover everything from human rights to waste management.

Paul Polman was born in the Netherlands and has an MA in Economics and and MBA from the University of Cincinnati.  He became the chief executive officer of Unilever in 2009. His previous experience included executive roles at Proctor and Gamble and Nestle. He currently also serves as president of the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust.  He believes that being a leader in sustainability means that other organizations will follow his lead and take the same bold action.  He has given talks on responsible capitalism and saw the 2008 economic crises as a way to get the company back on a track that supports the greater good.