Paul Polman

CEO, Unilever


Paul Polman is a Dutch businessman, who has been CEO of Unilever since 2009.

Born in 1956 in the Dutch city of Enschede, Polman hoped to be a doctor when he grew up, but was unable to attend medical school. He did his BBA at the University of Gronigen, and completed an MA in Economics and an MBA in Finance and International Marketing at the University of Cincinnati in 1979.  

Polman worked for the Cincinnati-based Procter and Gamble for 27 years, initially as a cost analyst, then rising to become group president of its Europe division in 2001, and five years later, he joined Nestlé as chief financial officer.

But Polman is best known for his work with Unilever, for which he was appointed CEO in 2009. Under his leadership, Unilever has implemented the Sustainable Living Plan, which seeks to double its size while reducing its overall environmental footprint and improving its social impact. Polman is a longtime advocate of sustainable business, arguing that in a world of finite resources, sustainability is crucial to responsible business practices, and ensuring long-term growth in emerging markets.

Polman has spearheaded cooperation with other companies to implement sustainable business strategies. He is Chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a member of the B Team, and a board member of the UN Global Compact and the Consumer Goods Forum, where he co-chairs the committee on sustainability.

Polman continues to stay involved in global discussions to tackle climate change. He was part of the International Council of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, which released a flagship report in 2014. The reported demonstrated how lasting economic growth can be achieved while reducing risk of climate change. Additionally, Polman also served on the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda at the request of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Paul is married with three children. He also serves as the chairman for the international advisory board of the Perkins School for the Blind, and is president of the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust.  He has attended One Young World: 2015 Bangkok, 2014 Dublin, 2013 Johannesburg, 2012 Pittsburgh and 2011 Zurich.