Chief Executive Officer, Unilever
Paul Polman has been CEO of Unilever since January 2009. Under his leadership Unilever has an ambitious vision to fully decouple its growth from overall environmental footprint and increase its positive social impact through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.
Polman actively seeks cooperation with other companies to implement sustainable, long-term business strategies and drive systemic change. He is a former Chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, a member of the B Team and sits on the Board of the UN Global Compact and the Consumer Goods Forum, where he co-chairs the Sustainability Committee.
Polman’s commitment to long-term, sustainable capitalism is reflected in his position as a member of the Global Board of Directors of Financing Capitalism for the Long-Term (FCLT), whose report Measuring the Economic Impact of Short-Termism provides evidence that a long-term approach can lead to superior performance for revenue and earnings, investment, market capitalization, and job creation.
Polman has played a significant role first in developing the Sustainable Development Goals, and now in promoting action towards their delivery as a member of the SDG Advocacy Group. His commitment to the SDGs inspired him and others to establish the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, whose flagship report, "Better Business, Better World," maps the economic prize for companies that align with the Goals. Paul is also a member of the recently launched Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism Project, and a Counsellor of One Young World. Since 2010, Paul has been a non-executive director of the Dow Chemical Company.
In recognition of his contribution to responsible business, Polman has received numerous awards and accolades including the Rainforest Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award (2014), the Oslo Business for Peace Award (2015), the UN Environment Programme’s Champion of the Earth Award (2015) and the Singapore Government Public Service Star (2016). In 2016, he received France’s Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, in recognition of his efforts in galvanising business action on sustainability and for his involvement during the historic 2015 UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris. In 2018, Paul was named an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) for services to business and received the Treaties of Nijmegen Medal, in recognition of his contribution to building a more sustainable world.
He earned a BBA/BA from the University of Groningen, Netherlands, in 1977 and an MA Economics and MBA finance/international marketing from the University of Cincinnati in 1979. He has been awarded honorary degrees from a number of Universities, including Northumbria, Liverpool, Groningen, Cincinnati, and an honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Cranfield.
Polman is married with three children. In a personal capacity, Polman is Chairman of Perkins School for the Blind International Advisory Board and serves as President of the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust.
Inductee, 2018 Advertising Hall of Fame
Last Updated: January 2018