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  • Emily Grace Williams

Validation for Profit & Purpose - Paul Polman

Achieving long-term profit is impossible if business is run without purpose, says Paul Polman

On the second day of the IAA World Congress, Paul Polman passionately urged companies to run their businesses by heart. “Businesses can't succeed in a society that fails,” he remarked.

Polman, President of the ICC, Chairman of the B-Team and Vice-Chair of the UN Global Compact, and ex-CEO Unilever (Jan 2009 to Dec 2018), said value and trust are two important elements for a company. However, trust is presently low in the industry because of fake news, frauds, unethical employment practices, sexual harassment, etc, he said.

“As advertisers, we should look and hear from a consumer’s point of view since consumers judge us by what we do, and not by what we say,” he suggested.

One won't have long-term profit if a business is run without purpose. Citizens expect companies to address critical social issues. “Consumers won't trust a brand if businesses don’t have advocacy,” Polman said.

“In this world, we have enough to fulfill human needs but not human greed,” he added.  To face the challenges we face today, we have to look to de-carbonize, have a long-term business model, move towards a circular economy and be sure to have an inclusive economy. “We have to take stereotype out of advertising and drive social standards on social platforms,” he pointed out.

Polman further stressed that a company cannot run business with freedom without responsibility. “If we don't protect it, we won't have a future. Partnership is important to work on sustainable growth. A partnership, which is for a common good,” he reiterated.

Putting others’ interests before ours is very important because although we have the resources to help the society, all we are missing is human will power. “Tech has connected us better with people, but has also given us loneliness,” he said.

He ended his session by requesting the audience, “If you belong to the 2% of the population, think about the 98% of the population and live responsibly.”