Paul Polman uses the first Rewley Lecture at Oxford Saïd to issue a challenge to leaders in all sectors
Paul Polman does not mind sceptics. He has very little time for cynics, he says, because cynicism ‘is an abdication of responsibility that I find is the lowest level of leadership’. But sceptics are different: ‘They challenge you; they ask you to explain things’.
And once you are engaging with them, it is easier to bring them on board with world challenges such as climate change by talking about specific issues that are relevant to them. Anyone living in Delhi, London, or Rome can relate to the problems of air pollution, for example, and, ‘deforestation, people understand. Having more plastic in the ocean than fish is something that people understand’. This communication is vital because, ‘If we don’t tackle climate change … poor people suffer most, and women and girls. It affects water, sanitation, and health. As a result the overall sustainable development goals will be very difficult to achieve.’
The former Unilever CEO and new Chair of the Saïd Business School Board was talking to Dean Peter Tufano about the need for all parts of society to ‘answer the call’ and engage with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) during the first Rewley Lecture on 13 November 2019.