Event Recap: “Banks too Big to Fail. People too Small to Save” | Fireside Chat with Paul Polman, Co-Founder and Chair of IMAGINE, and former CEO of Unilever

Mr. Polman
In October 2020, NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business hosted a virtual event with Paul Polman, Co-Founder and Chair of IMAGINE, and former CEO of Unilever to discuss how companies can take action beyond simple statements of support to real systems change, as being envisioned by IMAGINE. To watch the recording of the event, click here.

In this conversation, Mr. Polman spoke with Tensie Whelan, Clinical Professor of Business and Society and Director of the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, on several topics including the role that businesses play in addressing pressing challenges, stakeholder engagement strategies for advancing sustainability efforts, and CEOs’ responsibilities in leading their companies through this transition. Under the backdrop of COVID-19, these topics have become all the more relevant. After the discussion, participants had an opportunity to ask questions and ultimately took away the following wisdom from Mr. Polman: 
  • Moving beyond shareholder primacy is important for ensuring that businesses can effectively rise to global challenges illustrated by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Diverse alliances and partnerships can aid in tackling issues that are inter-related across our economic system.
  • Collective efforts that bring together private sector actors and citizens can move the needle on the governance necessary for inclusive economic systems and growth. 
  • Large companies can play a significant role in supporting and incentivizing small and medium enterprises in their supply chains to adopt sustainable practices.
  • Small and medium enterprises are in a unique position to innovate industries and adopt sustainable practices, which contributes to much of intra-sector growth. 
  • Executive leadership of companies should make long-term decisions for the company, leverage data to measure and track environmental, social, and governance criteria, develop regenerative business models, and create frameworks for change.
  • Investing in greener cities and transportation, restoring biodiversity, and transforming our energy systems can create much-needed jobs as our economy rebuilds from COVID-19.