This article first appeared in Reuters’ new sustainability website.
Around the time of the 2008 global financial meltdown, consumer products giant Unilever decided to swap the push for short-term results — what CEO Paul Polman calls “the three-month rat-races” — for a long-range business plan tied to environmental and social sustainability.
“We don’t do three-month reporting any more,” Polman said in a telephone interview before Unilever’s latest earnings report on Thursday. “We’re not going into the three-month rat-races. We’re not working for our shareholders. We’re working for the consumer, we are focused and the shareholder gets rewarded.”
He reckons this strategy is working, with the company’s share price doubling over the four years since the Sustainable Living Plan was first envisioned.
Sustainability — the notion of using resources so that they are not depleted or permanently damaged — has become something of a buzzword this year, and was the focus of a United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June.
On Thursday, Unilever’s quarterly sales growth beat forecasts as demand for cleaning and personal care products in China helped it outshine rival Nestle.