Paulus Gerardus Josephus Maria Polman KBE (born 11 July 1956) is a Dutch businessman. He is a former Procter & Gamble president for Western Europe. In 2006 Polman joined Nestlé as chief financial officer and became vice president for the Americas in February 2008. From 2009 to 2019, he was the chief executive officer (CEO) of the British-Dutch consumer goods company Unilever. In 2019, he created a new organization called Imagine, along with co-founders Valerie Keller and Jeff Seabright, to help businesses "eradicate poverty and inequality and stem runaway climate change."
Paul Polman at the One Young World Conference in 2014
Paulus Gerardus Josephus Maria Polman
11 July 1956
|Education||University of Groningen|
University of Cincinnati
|Successor||Alan Jope (from 1 January 2019)|
Early life and education
Polman had hoped to become a doctor, but medical school places were allocated by lottery and he was not chosen. Instead, he studied at the University of Groningen, graduating with a BBA/BA in 1977. He completed his MA in Economics and MBA in Finance and International Marketing in 1979 at University of Cincinnati.
On May 18, 2018, Polman received his Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from George Mason University. As the day's Commencement speaker, Dr. Polman declared, "Any system where too many feel they are not participating or are left behind will ultimately rebel against itself." Capturing the spirit of his own sense of purpose, he continued, "The world we want will only be achieved when we choose action over indifference, courage over comfort, and solidarity over division."
Procter & Gamble
Polman worked for Procter & Gamble for 27 years, starting in 1979 as a cost analyst, becoming managing director of P&G U.K. from 1995 to 1998, president of global fabric care from 1998 to 2001, and group president for Europe in 2001.
On 1 January 2009, Polman succeeded Patrick Cescau as chief executive officer of Unilever. Under Polman's leadership, Unilever has set a target to decouple its growth from its overall environmental footprint and improve its social impact through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. Polman has argued that, in a volatile world of finite resources, running a business sustainably is vital for its long-term growth and also mitigates risk and reduces costs. Unilever has now seen eight years of top line growth, averaging twice the rate of overall market growth, whilst improving the bottom line and delivering a total shareholder return of 290%. Bernstein's 2017 Blackbook entitled 'European Food and HPC: 10-Year Global Market Share Analysis' rated Unilever top-of-class for absolute market share gains (ex-M&A) and a proportion of its categories with gains. It also compared medium-term operating expectations to current valuations, leading to an Outperform rating on Unilever. Some shareholders, however, have worried that Polman's focus on sustainability has become more important to him than the financial performance of Unilever after the company missed sales targets for six out of eight quarters in 2013 and 2014. Polman, who scrapped short-term targets at the company, has argued that the failure to meet targets is a result of erratic currency fluctuations and the slow-down in emerging markets since 2013. Paul Polman has said that he has ambitions to increase the company's sales in emerging markets from the current 57% (47% in 2008) to 70% of turnover. Procter & Gamble, by contrast, make only 37% of sales in emerging markets and Nestlé 43%. In 2009, Polman decided to make many significant management changes in order to improve Unilever's revenue in each of its business pillars.
In 2018, Unilever supported the abolition of Dutch dividend-tax, even though over 80% of Dutch citizens were against the tax-cut as it meant a loss of about 2 billion euros of tax-revenue a year for the Dutch state. In October 2018, it was announced Unilever has cancelled plans to move headquarters from London to Rotterdam. In November 2018, Polman announced he was stepping down as chief executive officer of Unilever at the end of 2018 with Alan Jope succeeding him.
In July 2019, Polman announced the formation of a new group - Imagine - to help combat poverty and climate change. The foundation and corporation aims to help companies meet UN global goals for sustainable development.
Polman is a former chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and sits on the board of directors of the Consumer Goods Forum, leading its sustainability efforts. He is also a member of board of the UN Global Compact. At the invitation of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Polman served as one of the 27 members of the UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. At the invitation of former Mexican President, Felipe Calderon, Polman served on the International Council of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.
He has co-authored a report published be the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) that criticizes the efforts of the SDGs as not ambitious enough. Instead of aiming for an end to poverty by 2030, the report "An Ambitious Development Goal: Ending Hunger and Undernutrition by 2025" calls for a greater emphasis on eliminating hunger and undernutrition and achieving that in 5 years less, by 2025.
Polman co-founded the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition, led by former Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende. He is a member of the World Economic Forum International Business Council, the Global Taskforce for Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) and was part of the European Resource Efficiency Platform Working Group, chaired by European Commissioner Janez Potočnik. He was co-chair of the World Economic Forum 2012. He is a counsellor of One Young World and trustee of the Leverhulme Trust. Polman was co-chair of the B-20 Food Security Taskforce.
Polman served on the board of Unilever from 2009 to 2019. He formerly served on the boards of Dow and Alcon. Polman is also part of the Leadership Vanguard, an initiative that seeks to identify, support and mobilise the next generation of leaders, focuses on redefining value. He has been a member of IESE's International Advisory Board (IAB) since 2015.
He is president of the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust, a foundation he created to benefit blind children in Africa, and chair of the Perkins International Advisory Board.
Sample of awards
Polman has received awards for his leadership and efforts in sustainable development that include:
- European Business Leader of the year by Wall Street Journal/CNBC (2003)
- Investor Magazine CEO of the year (2010,2011,2012)
- Award for Responsible Capitalism (2012)
- INSEAD Business Leader for the World Award (2012)
- WWF's Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal (2013)]
- Rainforest Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award (2014)
- David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership award - Synergos (2014)
- Doctor Honoris Causa of Business School Lausanne (2014)
- Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur (2016)
- Singapore Government Public Service Star - Distinguished Friends of Singapore (2016)
- Enactus Entrepreneurial Spirit Award (2017)
- Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (2018)
- Treaties of Nijmegen Medal (2018)
- Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from George Mason University (2018)
- Laurent, Lionel. "From P&G To Nestle CEO In 2 Years?". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
- Mason, Rowena (2008-09-04). "Unilever shares jump as it poaches Paul Polman as CEO from Nestle". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
- "Paul Polman". Unilever global company website. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
- "Unilever's Former Chief Moves On With Plan to Fix the World". Bloomberg. 4 July 2019. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
- Saunders, Andrew (1 March 2011). "The MT Interview: Paul Polman of Unilever". Management Today. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
- "Can Unilever's Paul Polman change the way we do business?". Financial Times. Retrieved 2018-05-15.
- Hill, Andrew (2018-03-19). "Business school: Theranos, leadership at McAfee, Unilever's HQ". Financial Times. Retrieved 2018-05-15.
- "Paul Polman | Profile | Organisation / FEB | FEB | About us | University of Groningen". www.rug.nl. Retrieved 2018-05-15.
- "Unilever CEO Paul Polman on finding career success and encouraging corporate responsibility". www2.gmu.edu. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
- "Commencement May 18, 2018 at 10 o'clock". gmutv.gmu.edu. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
- Archived 18 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- "Sustainable Living | Unilever Global". Unilever.com. 16 February 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- "KPMG - Unilever CEO Paul Polman talks strategy".
- "Guardian - Unilever's Sustainable Living Plan helps cut costs and drive growth".
- "Paul Polman's socially responsible Unilever falls short on growth." Scheherazade Daneshkhu and David Oakley, Financial Times, 9 February 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
- Editorial, Reuters. "Unilever seeks changes to pay to give managers owner's mindset". U.K. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
- "Unilever CEO Polman defends Dutch gov't's cut to dividend tax". NASDAQ.com. 2018-08-30. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
- "Topman Unilever: 'Goed dat Nederland dividendtaks afschaft'" (in Dutch). Retrieved 2018-08-31.
- Wood, Zoe (2018-10-05). "Unilever scraps plan to move HQ from London to Rotterdam". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
- Key, Alys (2018-11-29). "Unilever boss Paul Polman steps down after 10 years". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
- "Sunny Verghese appointed as new chair of World Business Council for Sustainable Development". Retrieved 7 April 2018.
- "History of The Consumer Goods Forum". Theconsumergoodsforum.com. Archived from the original on 31 August 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- "United Nations Global Compact". Unglobalcompact.org. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- "Commission on the Economy and Climate". New Climate Economy. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- Fan, Shenggen and Polman, Paul. 2014. An ambitious development goal: Ending hunger and undernutrition by 2025. In 2013 Global food policy report. Eds. Marble, Andrew, and Fritschel, Heidi. Chapter 2. Pp 15-28. Washington, D.C.: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
- "The World Economic Forum". Weforum.org. 5 April 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- "Scaling Up Nutrition". Scaling Up Nutrition. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- "European Resource Efficiency Platform - European Commission". Ec.europa.eu. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- "Where Young Leaders Start Leading". One Young World. 7 April 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- "Cinépolis". B20.org. Archived from the original on 24 December 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- "This page has been removed". Retrieved 10 January 2018 – via www.theguardian.com.
- Members of IESE's International Advisory Board, iese.edu
- "Secretary-General appoints advocates to build widespread support for the Sustainable Development Goals". 19 January 2016. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
- "Members of the Global Commission". NewClimateEconomy.net. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
- Cave, Andrew (8 August 2009). "Paul Polman is taking a stand and delivering at Unilever". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
- "The parable of St Paul". The Economist. 31 Aug 2017.
- "2012 Award". Responsible Capitalism. 13 May 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- "2014 Rainforest Alliance Gala: Paul Polman Accepts Lifetime Achievement Award". Rainforest Alliance. 7 May 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- "University for a Night 2014 : April 8 in New York City" (PDF). Synergos.org. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- "2014 Annual Graduation Ceremony of Business School Lausanne". Business School Lausanne. 21 September 2014. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
- "Ad Council's 64th Annual Public Service Award Dinner To Honor Unilever CEO Paul Polman". Retrieved 29 March 2018.
- "Two business leaders receive Singapore's Public Service Star award". Retrieved 29 March 2018.
- "Honorary Awards" (PDF). Retrieved 10 January 2018.
- "Treaties of Nijmegen Medal awarded to Paul Polman". Retrieved 30 April 2018.