It is a deep honor for me to introduce today a man whom I have admired for years and whom every one should take as an example.
I always say that if the world had more Paul Polmans, it would be a better place.
The first time I heard him speak – back in May 2014 when we both received an award from the Rainforest Alliance – he gave an impassioned speech about the duty our generation has to irreversibly eradicate poverty in a more sustainable and equitable way.
He might be the CEO of Unilever (the largest consumer goods company in the world), but he is also a tireless ambassador and advocate for sustainable development. He fully believes that, if you still want to have a profitable business in 10/15 years time – you need to take care both of the people in your supply chain and of the natural resources your business is completely dependent upon.
This is why – last year – the Eco Age team and I presented him with the inaugural GCC Global leader of Change Award. Under Paul Polman’s leadership, Unilever launched the market-leading Sustainable Living Plan and the first of its kind Human Rights Report, which highlights Unilever’s goal not only to respect human rights, but to actively advance them across all areas of its global business.
As he reminded us – we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a moral framework of alleviating poverty, of giving everyone the right to education, of ensuring that our institutions work.
But we must act NOW – as, as he once said quoting Benjamin Franklin (the founder of the post office in America): “You may delay – but time won’t. And lost time will never be found again”.
Unfortunately the corporate world does not have the time to wait for more Paul Polmans to drive the change that the world needs – he is a shining beacon and hopefully more will follow now.
Dear excellencies, distinguished guests and honorees – please welcome Paul Polman, this year’s recipient of the League of Gentleman award.