Former Unilever CEO Paul Polman is one of the most successful consumer goods leaders of the past decade, and one of the most respected business voices on the planet, particularly when it comes to CSR. Stephen Wynne-Jones met him. This article first appeared in ESM May/June 2022.
In the opening preface to his new book, Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take (written alongside Andrew Winston), Paul Polman quotes the late Desmond Tutu. When asked whether he was of an optimistic or pessimistic mindset, the late theologian replied, “I am a prisoner of hope.”
With the world around us seemingly going to hell in a hand basket – with pandemics, social upheaval, war, and climate collapse permeating our lives – it can be difficult to be optimistic, but for businesses – not to mention wider society – sometimes the biggest changes occur out of the biggest periods of disruption, and with the right kind of mindset, these changes can be positive, rather than negative.