Paul Polman

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Paul Polman
Paul Polman 2014.jpg
Paul Polman at the One Young World Conference in 2014
Born Paulus Gerardus Josephus Maria Polman
(1956-07-11) 11 July 1956 (age 61)
Enschede, Netherlands
Nationality Dutch
Alma mater University of Groningen
University of Cincinnati
Occupation Businessman
Years active 1979–present
Salary £6.9 million (total compensation, 2014)[1]
Title CEO of Unilever
Term 2009-present
Predecessor Patrick Cescau
Successor Incumbent
Spouse(s) Kim
Children 3

Paulus Gerardus Josephus Maria Polman (born 11 July 1956) is a Dutch businessman. After a long-term tenure with Procter & Gamble, he joined the board of Nestlé in 2006. Since 2009, he has been the chief executive officer (CEO) of the British-Dutch consumer goods company Unilever. Polman has received several awards for business leadership related to sustainable development.

Early life and education[edit]

Polman was born and grew up in the Dutch city of Enschede, in a Catholic family with three brothers and two sisters, the son of a tyre company executive father and a former schoolteacher mother.[2]

Polman had hoped to become a doctor, but medical school places were allocated by lottery and he was not chosen.[2] Instead, he studied at the University of Groningen, graduating with a BBA/BA in 1977. From the University of Cincinnati, he gained an MA in Economics and an MBA in Finance and International Marketing in 1979.


Procter & Gamble[edit]

Polman worked for Procter & Gamble for 27 years (from 1979), initially 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 Europe in 2001.


Polman then joined Nestlé in 2006 as chief financial officer and head of the Americas.[3]


On 1 January 2009, Polman succeeded Patrick Cescau as chief executive officer of Unilever. Under Polman's leadership, Unilever has set a target to double its size while reducing its overall environmental footprint and improving its social impact through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.[4] Polman has argued that, in a volatile world of finite resources, running a business sustainably is vital for long-term growth in emerging markets[5] and it also mitigates risk and reduces costs.[6] Some shareholders, however, have worried that Polman's approach to corporate social responsibility 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. He has set a target of increasing the company's sales in emerging markets from the current 57% (47% in 2008) to 80% of turnover. Procter & Gamble, by contrast, make only 37% of sales in emerging markets and Nestlé 43%.[7] In 2009, Polman decided to make many significant management changes in order to improve Unilever's revenue in each of its business pillars. In North America, he appointed Eugenio Minvielle Lagos as executive vice president.[8] After sales rose 2.8% in the first quarter of 2015, Polman commented positively on the effect of past actions on future growth.[9]

In 2015, Unilever exceeded its sales targets for the first three quarters, with growth in emerging markets and ice cream.[10][11][12]

In 2014, Polman's total compensation was £6.9 million including a basic salary of £865,000 and other benefits (2013, £5.6 million).[1]

Other responsibilities[edit]

Polman is chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and sits on the board of directors of the Consumer Goods Forum,[13] leading its sustainability efforts. He is also on the board of the UN Global Compact.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16]

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,[17] the Global Taskforce for Scaling up Nutrition (SUN)[18] and was part of the European Resource Efficiency Platform Working Group,[19] chaired by European Commissioner Janez Potočnik. He was co-chairman of the World Economic Forum 2012. He is a counsellor of One Young World[20] and trustee of the Leverhulme Trust. Polman was co-chair of the B-20 Food Security Taskforce.[21]

Polman serves on the board of Unilever since January 2009 and was elected to the Dow board of directors in February 2010 where he serves on the Environment, Health, Safety and Technology Committee.[22] He formerly served on the Board of 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. [23]

He is president of the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust, a foundation he created to benefit blind children in Africa, and chairman of the Perkins International Advisory Board.

Polman has been selected by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to be an SDG Advocate, tasked with helping build widespread support for the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.[24]

Polman is co-chair of the Global Commission for the Economy and Climate, with Nicholas Stern and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.[25]

Personal life[edit]

Polman is married to Kim; the couple have three sons.[26]

Polman once considered joining the priesthood.[27]

Sample of awards[edit]

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)[28]
  • INSEAD Business Leader for the World Award (2012)
  • WWF's Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal (2013)]
  • Rainforest Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award (2014)[29]
  • David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership award - Synergos (2014)[30]
  • Enactus Entrepreneurial Spirit Award (2017)


  1. ^ a b "Unilever boss Paul Polman receives 24% pay hike". This is Money. 7 March 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Saunders, Andrew (1 March 2011). "The MT Interview: Paul Polman of Unilever". Management Today. Retrieved 4 April 2015. 
  3. ^ [1] Archived 18 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "Sustainable Living | Unilever Global". 16 February 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  5. ^ "KPMG - Unilever CEO Paul Polman talks strategy". 
  6. ^ "Guardian - Unilever's Sustainable Living Plan helps cut costs and drive growth". 
  7. ^ "Paul Polman's socially responsible Unilever falls short on growth." Scheherazade Daneshkhu and David Oakley, Financial Times, 9 February 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  8. ^ Fergueson, Isabel (April 16, 2010). "Unilever cambia directorio corporativo". CNN Expansión (in Spanish). 
  9. ^ Khan, Mehreen (16 April 2015). "Daily Telegraph - Unilever sales beat expectations as prices rise in emerging markets". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  10. ^ Matthew Boyle (16 April 2015). "Unilever Soars to Record as Revenue Growth Beats Estimates - Bloomberg Business"Paid subscription required. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  11. ^ Matthew Boyle (23 July 2015). "Unilever Sales Beat Estimates as Latin America, China Gain - Bloomberg Business"Paid subscription required. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  12. ^ Thomas Buckley (15 October 2015). "Unilever Sales Beat Analyst Estimates From Ice-Cream Boost - Bloomberg Business"Paid subscription required. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  13. ^ "History of The Consumer Goods Forum". Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  14. ^ "United Nations Global Compact". Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  15. ^ "Commission on the Economy and Climate". New Climate Economy. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  16. ^ 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).
  17. ^ "The World Economic Forum". 5 April 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  18. ^ "Scaling Up Nutrition". Scaling Up Nutrition. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  19. ^ "European Resource Efficiency Platform - European Commission". 31 March 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  20. ^ "Where Young Leaders Start Leading.". One Young World. 7 April 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  21. ^ "Cinépolis". Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  22. ^ "Paul Polman". The Dow Chemical Company. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  23. ^ Paul Polman: 'We need to leverage the young to drive change'
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Members of the Global Commission". Retrieved April 17, 2017. 
  26. ^ Cave, Andrew (8 August 2009). "Paul Polman is taking a stand and delivering at Unilever". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 4 April 2015. 
  27. ^ "The parable of St Paul". The Economist. 31 Aug 2017. 
  28. ^ "2012 Award". Responsible Capitalism. 13 May 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  29. ^ "2014 Rainforest Alliance Gala: Paul Polman Accepts Lifetime Achievement Award". Rainforest Alliance. 7 May 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  30. ^ "University for a Night 2014 : April 8 in New York City" (PDF). Retrieved 23 April 2015.