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CEO Breakfast Forum ‘Sustainability of Unilever and Efforts for Achieving SDGs’

2018-12-20 13:57

On September 7, the Global Compact Network Korea (GCNK) jointly hosted CEO Breakfast Forum, "Sustainability of Unilever and Efforts for Achieving SDGs” with Korea Business Council for Sustainable Development (KBCSD) at Westin Chosun Hotel. Mr. Paul Polman, Unilever CEO and Vice Chairman of the United Nations Global Compact Board, was invited to speak at the breakfast forum. He was appointed as the new Vice President of the United Nations Global Compact Board last April.

Mr. Polman, who is well known for his extraordinary insights on corporate sustainability, was the only entrepreneur out of the 26 High Level Panels that provided advice to former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012 regarding the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and played a pivotal role in developing the SDGs. He has previously served as Chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), member of the World Economic Forum (WEP) Business Sector and Vice Chairperson of the International Consumer Products Forum.

During the welcoming speech, Lee Dong-kurn, President of the Global Compact Network Korea (GCNK), said that “the GCNK has held CEO Breakfast Forums with important figures at just about the right time. Today's breakfast forum with Chairman Paul Polman is a rare opportunity to have, so I expect it will be a good venue to obtain valuable insights." Furthermore, President Lee mentioned that “there are companies responding to SDGs in Korea, but I think it's time for us to 'pioneer' rather than 'respond'. The 17 goals of SDGs reflect the needs of the market as the top priorities facing global society. By actively participating in SDGs, companies will gain new market opportunities, reputation, and internal trust from employees and stakeholders.

KBCSD Chairman Huh Myung-soo stated that, "It is not easy to make good decisions during business management. It's important to have managerial mind to create future-oriented business, and Mr. Polman has a firm outlook on long term capitalism.” He continued, “Amidst the spread of capitalism, Mr. Polman has bravely directed mid- to long-term goals on the basis of SDGs and as a result, society has been positively influenced as well as investors are now beginning to change their perceptions.”

Mr. Polman then started his speech. He mentioned, “I can still remember the time I participated as a high level panel to develop the SDGs. While proceeding with the Rio +20 Conference, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon selected 27 figures as the high level panels and I was in charge of the private sector. Since then, for 3 years, I thought about what the world really needs, and proceeded to create the SDGs.”

"Now is the spring of hope and the winter of despair," said Polman. “This is a phrase from Dickens's 1895-year-old two-city story. Nowadays both average life expectancy and access to health services have increased, there are many women working and 217,000 people are escaping from poverty every day. But at the same time, it is also the worst time. The year 2018 has been the hottest year in human history, and forests have declined by 51 percent compared to last year. The inequality is so severe that the six richest people have as much assets as the bottom 50% combined. If the South Korean government does not respond accordingly, it will be very difficult to implement the SDGs. Citizens who are involved in democracy are also stakeholders, and in particular, businesses should actively respond."

"Growth should be more inclusive," continued Polman. “Einstein said that it is abnormal when you work in the same method and want the outcome to change. Companies should form long-term, multilateral partnerships with a clear joint goal rather than just contractual partnerships." He emphasized that "companies must exist not just for their shareholders, but also for the people."

"We can outsource our supply chain, but we cannot outsource our corporate responsibilities," he said. "Unilever always cooperates with responsible companies and procures resources in a way that food is not wasted," stated Polman.

Finally, Polman insisted that “we need more leaders. If you look at the big changes that occurred, someone proceeded with courage. We need to invest on these leaders, those who are able to put others first."

The CEO Breakfast Forum with Paul Polman was a meaningful time to listen to the opinions of the global CSR leaders and learn how our businesses should move forward. The Global Compact Network Korea will continue to provide such opportunities to support companies in their implementation of SDGs and sustainable development. We hope you will also be interested in the following events.

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