University of Bath School of Management University of Bath School of Management

Celebrating the vision of sustainability in business: Paul Polman, CEO Unilever

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Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, is heralded worldwide for making business more sustainable. His visionary achievements inspired the University to award Mr Polman an honorary degree at its winter award ceremonies and invite him to give a keynote speech as part of the University's 50th Anniversary celebrations.

Unilever is a global business originating from the UK and Netherlands and producing over 400 consumer brands. On any day two billion people use Unilever products.

Under Mr Polman's stewardship its success is founded on a very different business model and philosophy from that of most mainstream businesses. He launched the company's Sustainable Living Plan, setting out how the company will grow whilst halving its environmental footprint and increasing its positive social impact.

In an inspiring keynote speech brimming with arguments for why our world needs business to embrace sustainability as a driver of business growth, Mr Polman spoke of the urgent need for business to work in partnership with government and organisations outside of the private sector to help solve some of the world's most burning issues.

He identified public trust in business as a barrier to progress, and urged businesses to adopt a new model, saying:

We need a new kind of leader, more purpose driven and focussed on the long-term. They must have a level of engagement with the world and the humanity and humility to do something about it. Businesses must be based not on shareholder value alone, but also purpose driven, shared values that can make a huge difference to humanity.

Mr Polman outlined the opportunities that the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals provide for business growth, versus the colossal financial costs of inaction.

The event was chaired by Professor Veronica Hope Hailey, Dean of the School of Management, joined by panellists David Bent (Forum for the Future), Patrick Drake (Co-Founder and Head Chef of HelloFresh), and Professor Andrew Crane, Director of the School of Management's Centre for Business, Organisations and Society.

Mr Polman received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws at Bath's Assembly Rooms, and said:

It is a great honour to receive this recognition from such a world-class university - one with which we enjoy a number of links at Unilever. I've seen first-hand the role Bath's School of Management is playing in developing our future leaders. It gives me every confidence that this generation will become change agents, restoring trust in business by putting it to the service of society's greatest challenges.

The School of Management has been active in social corporate responsibility for the past 25 years. Operations and supply chain academics and postgraduates have researched and supported Unilever in its strategy to achieve environmentally sustainable supply chains, notably Dr Baris Yalabik in partnership with Tony Dunnage, Unilever's Group Director Manufacturing Sustainability.

Professor Veronica Hope Hailey said:

Our distinguishing feature as a business school is our ability to see business in the wider society, and so naturally Paul Polman stands out to us as a chief executive who embodies that philosophy. He calls on company leaders and indeed all of us to act for the greater good, a message that is highly refreshing in business and inspirational for the young people who study with us and those that graduated alongside him.

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General Notes For Editors:

The School of Management is one of the UK's leading business schools. Currently ranked 1st for Student Experience (Times Higher Education 2015) and 1st for Business Studies (The Times & Sunday Times University Guide 2016), we are a leading centre for management research - placed 8th in the UK in the latest REF2014.

We are one of a select number of international business schools accredited by EQUIS, the European Foundation for Management Development's quality inspectorate and the Bath MBA has been accredited by the Association of MBAs (AMBA) since 1976.

The centrality of research to teaching is an essential feature of all our programmes. The School offers a full range of programmes from undergraduate to postgraduate up to PhD level and post-experience programmes including the world-ranked Bath MBA. The School also provides tailored executive development programmes for middle and senior management.

The School of Management has a faculty of over 100 teaching and research staff, including visiting academics, with a professional support team of around 90 managerial and administrative staff. Research income averages £2 million per annum. There are approximately 2,400 students in total comprising some 150 MBA students, over 500 Master’s students, 250 full- and part-time research students, and over 1500 undergraduates following BSc degrees.