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20 November 2012 | Adam Leach
Companies that fail to conduct their business responsibly and make positive contributions to society will suffer a backlash from consumers, according to the CEO of Unilever.
Speaking at the CBI Annual Conference, Paul Polman cited the growing power of consumer campaigns on social networking sites as highlighting the need for more ethics from business. Unilever has set a target of halving its impact on the environment by 2020 and Polman argued companies that strive to have a positive impact will attract consumers.
He said: “I predict that over time, citizens will gravitate towards these companies and organisations that are making positive contributions, not least because their faith in governance is at an all time low. But frankly, because they see this as their only hope to address these challenges.”
He highlighted the importance of working with the supply chain and engineering more responsible performance. “First requirement is without any doubt to get our own house in order, but our own house is actually fairly small in terms of the impact you can have. The other one is to really raise the standards of the supply chain and go upstream, from the palm oil suppliers in Indonesia to the small farmers in Africa,” he said.
He told the audience taking such an approach is not limited to large multi-nationals such as Unilever. He said that through the supply chain, companies of all types and sizes are interlinked and play a key role in achieving sustainability goals.