Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, illustrates that a soulful economy, one of the key topics of the HEALING SUMMIT, is not a futuristic dream, as doing well by doing good is already happening!
“We are seeing more companies step up their conversion to a more responsible business model”, said Polman in an interview with huffingtonpost.com. The reasons differ though. While some company leaders simply believe in the role of economy as a force for good, others are driven by the financial motives, realizing that the cost of inaction in many areas starts to exceed the cost of action. But there is also an increasing social factor that puts pressure on today’s businesses: “We now live in the age of transparency, where there are few places to hide”, stated the 59-year-old manager. “Irresponsible behavior will be detected much more quickly and can significantly affect reputation and market value, as we have seen in the many cases exposed.”
The paradigm shift towards a soulful economy is in full progress, proving that doing good does not lower or hinder profits at all: “Increasingly we are showing that a more purpose-driven model makes a lot of business sense.” Serving society first and foremost is an economic benefit over the long-term, according to the Dutchman. “We see brands with a strong purpose and social mission now growing twice as fast as our other brands, and more profitably.” But in order to create a “critical mass” it would be of upmost importance for business leaders to understand that the time to focus on occasional Corporate Social Responsibility is over – once and for all. CSR has to naturally become part of business models rather today than tomorrow: “Take climate change; if no action is taken, the food industry will see its profits being wiped out in 30 years or less.”
But Polman also emphasized the vital role of each and every one of us, the consumer, when it comes to supporting the transformational economic change. The growing urge to meet one’s ecological responsibility already results in a more critical view on businesses: “People are equally asking for a more sustainable and equitable future for all and increasingly are making their spending choices on that basis.” After all, Polman’s inspiring advice on how to become a successful manager after more than 30 years in the business is hopefully trendsetting: “The moment you realize that it’s not about yourself but about working for the common good, or helping others, that’s the moment you unlock the true leader inside yourself.”