Unilever’s Paul Polman launches Global Commission to accelerate sustainable business methods

Unilever CEO Paul Polman and former United Nations deputy secretary-general Mark Malloch-Brown are working to articulate and quantify the massive economic rewards that could be available to businesses who become leaders in poverty reduction and sustainable development.

Polman and Malloch-Brown have formed the Global Commission on Business and Sustainable Development, which will spend the next two years creating an economic blueprint for businesses to engage with in order to comply with the newly established Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Unilever CEO Paul Polman said: “There is no business case for enduring poverty. We have an opportunity to unlock trillions of dollars through new markets, investments and innovation – but to do so, we must challenge our current practices and address poverty, inequality and environmental challenges.

“Every business will benefit from operating in a more equitable, resilient world if we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The commission will look to capitalise on the significant economic rewards that can be gained through emerging markets and innovations as way to peak business interest. It will also highlight the business risks of performance and stability, through current resource scarcity and competition as a way to appeal to the business sector.

Launched at the forum in Davos, Switzerland, the commission will bring together international leaders across business, finance and civil society sectors to create a report in 12 months’ time outlining the new business model that will need to be introduced for companies interested in a sustainable business model.

The commission realises the need to collaborate with governments and international organisations. With these on board it aims to decode the SDGs in a manner that businesses can understand and lobby for.

“A massive prize awaits business if it successfully ushers in an era of shared prosperity and increased sustainability,” said Commission co-chair Mark Malloch-Brown. “Governments and international organizations alone cannot build the future we need. Business is the key to accelerating the transition.”

Global goals

It is hoped that using the SDGs as a focal point will create new business models that couples profits with social purpose and maps out how financial tools can draw in private capital to help the growth of the commission.

A host of organisations including the UN Foundation, the B Team and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development will support the commission’s effort – which will receive funding from the Gates Foundation and the governments of Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Paul-ing power

Polman has a prestigious track-record in promoting sustainable business, recently named as one of the winners of the United Nations’ Champion of the Earth Award for his work as a ‘tireless advocate’ for sustainable business models.

He is one of many business leaders who realised that the aftermath of the Paris deal will lead to a zero-emissions economy being viewed as a realistic future.

Matt Mace

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