Polman detailed his plans for the business at a recent speech he gave at the Economist’s Sustainability Summit, which was held in London at the end of February.
The event included 30 executive leaders from blue chip global companies, and also included a presentation by Stefano Pessina, executive chairman of personal care provider Alliance Boots.
Key to objectives is pursuading consumers to switch brands
In his speech, Polman said that the key to Unilever achieving its objectives would be persuading consumers to switch to a more sustainabile lifestyle through the product purchases they make.
Polman warned of the possible repercussions for companies not adapting to more sustainable patterns of business: “those companies that wait to be forced into action or who see it solely in terms of reputation management or CSR, will do too little too late and may not even survive.”
Unilever’s vision for the future comes as a marked difference to that of L’Oreal, which recently announced a three-pronged strategy to increase its consumer base by one billion, but gave no real mention to environmental concerns or sustainability.
Following on from the Copenhagen Summit
The Sustainability Summit was designed to discuss the impact of the Copenhagen Summit and the implications to businesses worldwide on the UK Carbon Reduction Commitment, which is due to come in to force in April.
Polman also made a reference to the lack of resolutions or concrete changes made by the Copenhagen Summit, but suggested that changes could be implemented by the corporate world instead.
Logistics and product design
“There is a huge amount that business can do without help from the politicians – whether it is in their supply chains, their factories, the design of their product or in using their brands to educate people about sustainable forms of consumption”, Polman said.
As part of its move towards sustainable sourcing of ingredients, Unilever has played a significant part in the sourcing of sustainable palm oil for both the food and personal care industries.
Polman co-founded the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) backin 2004, in association with the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), aimed at persuading industries to switch to the sustainable sourcing of palm oil..