Making a profit while protecting the planet is not only possible, it’s essential, according to Unilever CEO Paul Polman. Visiting Cornell as the 35th Robert S. Hatfield Fellow in Economic Education, Polman will discuss “The Case for Sustainable Capitalism” Oct. 12 at 5:30 p.m. in Alice Statler Auditorium.
Following the talk, Cornell President Martha E. Pollack will moderate a Q&A. The event is free and open to the public.
Polman will explain the changing role of business and the need for new forms of leadership to address the world’s most formidable challenges. He will highlight the urgency of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a landmark agreement adopted by the United Nations, which includes eliminating poverty and inequality and making significant progress against climate change by 2030. Polman will also describe opportunities for businesses that embrace the SDGs and how these businesses can develop models for meeting consumers’ needs while addressing global issues.
The CEO of Unilever since January 2009, Polman is leading the company toward a 50 percent reduction of its environmental footprint by 2030 while increasing its positive social impact.
Polman also works with other business leaders to implement sustainable, long-term strategies for systemic change. He is chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and a board member of the U.N. Global Compact and the Consumer Goods Forum, where he co-chairs the sustainability committee. In addition, he is a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, the B Team, the Global Board of Directors of Financing Capitalism for the Long-Term, and the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism Project, among other advocacy groups.
For his contributions to sustainable and responsible business, Polman has received numerous accolades, including the Rainforest Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award (2014), the Oslo Business for Peace Award (2015), the U.N. Environment Programme’s Champion of the Earth Award (2015) and the Singapore government’s Public Service Star (2016). In 2016, he received France’s Legion of Honor, in recognition of his efforts in galvanizing business action on sustainability and for his involvement during the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris.
Polman holds a B.B.A./B.A. from the University of Groningen, Netherlands, in 1977 and an M.A. in economics and an M.B.A. in finance/international marketing from the University of Cincinnati in 1979.