“If we achieve our sustainability targets and no one else follows, we will have failed.” – Paul Polman – CEO, Unilever
Another year has passed and the results of the latest GlobeScan / SustainAbility opinion survey on leadership look startlingly similar: Unilever on top. That’s not the whole story of course – Patagonia continues its impressive rise in the eyes of our sustainability experts, Puma has entered the “top ten” for the first time ever, and our global expert pool proves that leadership is often best recognized when it’s familiar, with respondents most likely to cite leaders headquartered in the regions they are based in. Even Unilever as #1 rises above the status quo, bucking the trend of leadership companies “coming back to Earth” as time passes between the launch of ambitious commitments or initiatives. In fact, Unilever has only continued to rocket past its peers since it first launched the Sustainable Living Plan in 2010.
And therein lies the rub of “leadership as usual,” broadly exemplified in The 2013 Sustainability Leaders survey: it’s not nearly enough. Only national governments – whose paltry leadership on sustainability was recognized by all stakeholder respondents, including experts in government – rank lower than corporate leaders in advancing the sustainability agenda. This is an all too familiar theme in the global workshops and research GlobeScan and SustainAbility have conducted for The Regeneration Roadmap.
So in celebrating Unilever and other business leaders’ ambition, achievement and engagement (alongside its fellow changemakers in social enterprise, science and the NGO space), let’s remember the quote (above) from UnileverCEO Paul Polman: leaders are only as successful as those who are inspired to follow in their path.
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