In fact Polman famously stopped quarterly reporting and drew a line in the sand by making it clear he wanted investors who were interested only in supporting the long-term health of the company.
He believes government has a role to play here and argues for a progressive taxation system for share ownership, pointing out that equities in FTSE companies are held for on average just eight months. There could be different share structures where dividends attract a higher tax rate depending on how long you hold shares. There are options if you really want to address that issue. This is the right time to do that. Polman says CEOs on their own cannot significantly influence the financial markets, and given that Unilever is a consumer goods company, it makes more sense to focus the company's attention on changing the behaviour of its two billion customers, who account for the majority of the company's environmental footprint.
One aspect is to encourage customers to use resources more efficiently, such as taking shorter showers and washing clothes in lower temperatures.
CMO Interview: Unilever
The other is encouraging them to switch to more sustainable products. Polman says some clear lessons have already been learnt, such as consumers will not buy 'green' products unless their performance is as good and they do not have to pay a premium: "If our sustainable Lipton tea does not taste good or is too expensive, they will not buy," says Polman.
But he believes we are now entering a new era when consumers will stop buying products from companies they see are not behaving responsibly. Consumers recognise they can drop a company instantly.
This is not utopia, it is enlightened self interest. Polman, like other business leaders, is frustrated by the lack of clear incentives to support the transition to a sustainable society, and is a firm believer in progressive regulation that is based on incentives. I am a free enterprise person but that is not the only solution. A system where you can have positive reinforcement for the long term is more effective than rules and regulations. If I had to run my company with bibles of guidelines I would not be in business long term.
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Polman acknowledges there is a new generation of CEOs, brought up in the s, who have a more rounded view of the role of business in society. But he believes previous generations would also have responded to the challenges facing the world "because the clarity of the issues we are facing now are so transparent. When we went into the Second World War, the business leaders combined took a decision for the greater good of the UK to fight for freedom and when they came out, to get the economy back on track. When the challenges are big enough people respond in a responsible way.
It's one thing a CEO putting his weight behind a leading-edge sustainability strategy, but how is Unilever embedding this across a company with nearly , employees operating in countries, owning hundreds of brands and directly touching the lives of million people across its supply chain. Polman points to the importance of preparing the groundwork before going public, Cancelling quarterly reporting and changing the way employees are incentivised were two key ways of moving the company away from concentrating on the short-term.
Measurement of impacts has also been critical in understanding where the company's key impacts are and being able to set intelligent targets for improvement. Making more money or being bigger means less and less," he says. Our buying people have KPIs on the percentage of sustainable sourcing, we measure how many small-holder farmers we employ, we measure the full impact of water, carbon, packaging, waste, of all of our products and reward our people for moving in the right direction. Polman is delighted by the way staff have responded, although more work needs to be done to push change down into the middle management layers.
The engagement score in the regular staff survey leaped by 10 percentage points after the Sustainable Living Plan was launched. Polman says this shocked the survey company because they had never seen this level of change before. Every country I visit I go to consumers and retailers to look at the impact of our products, the contribution our products make to society. While some people worry that the pace of change is far too slow to address the scale of problems the world is facing, Polman cautions against pessimism and suggests that the foundations for transformation are being put in place.
In the corporate world, he points to the growing number of companies reporting on their impacts and disclosing their carbon emissions and he points to the rapid growth of socially responsible investment funds in the financial markets. Beyond that he says investment banks are coming together to help halt illegal deforestation and that they are starting to think about their business models, although he recognises they are doing this under pressure from critics rather than voluntarily.
Within the field of corporate responsibility, Polman is considered to be the most influential advocate for challenging the status quo and showing that business as usual is not an option. But he brushes aside this reputation and points out he could not have taken the position he does if the values of responsibility were not already embedded in the company's culture. We are seeking to stay close to society to guarantee our future.
We'll be live streaming the debate on Guardian Sustainable Business, if you'd like us to send you a reminder when the event is about start then register your interest below. You can also pose questions to Paul in advance and we'll endeavour to get them answered on the day. This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional.
Become a GSB member to get more stories like this direct to your inbox. The role of government He believes government has a role to play here and argues for a progressive taxation system for share ownership, pointing out that equities in FTSE companies are held for on average just eight months. You can also pose questions to Paul in advance and we'll endeavour to get them answered on the day This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional.
Topics Unilever sustainable living sustainable living.
Behaviour Engaging employees Communication Strategy interviews. Reuse this content. This is the final stage of the Unilever assessment process. The assessment day is otherwise known as a Selection Event. Assessment days are held in Leatherhead Surrey between January and April. During the assessment day you will attend a competency based interview where you will be asked to give situational examples from your past, about times when you have shown evidence of characteristics such as leadership , communication , teamwork and other key competencies.
The case study focuses on business issues, although candidates do not need to have any in-depth business knowledge to tackle this. Instead candidates need to think logically and laterally, using their life experience and interpersonal skills. It is essential that candidates know the key competencies Unilever are looking for in candidates, for the assessment day. You will be marked on them throughout the day, during each exercise and interview.
You will have a group discussion during the assessment day. It is essential that you treat the other candidates with respect, although you must also aim to shine during this session. Be polite, and do not interrupt anyone else. If you disagree with someone then be constructive, and ask others for their opinion too.
Try to offer intelligent input throughout the discussion, and try to conclude ideas and summarise smaller discussion points. If you can, try to lead the conversation and assume the role of chairman. During the assessment day you are quizzed on decisions you have made earlier. Make sure that you stick to your ideas and don't necessarily change your opinions if assessors point out a flaw.
Feel confident enough in your decisions to argue for and back up your opinions, unless you realise a decision was completely flawed. In this case, explain that after further thought you have changed your mind - but don't apologise for being wrong. This is a sign of weakness. Unilever let candidates know the outcome of the assessment day within 24 hours and will give you feedback regarding your performance during the day. Unilever try to take personal preferences into account when selecting a position for each candidate, but you should be prepared work in any of the company's UK operations during your first two years.
Unilever Interview Questions The application and interview process for Unilever is as follows: Online application form Online tests aptitude test Telephone interview Assessment day Online Application The Uniliver application form is relatively long. Competencies Unilever will analyse your application for evidence that you possess the key competencies they are looking for in graduate employees. Unilever's competencies are: Growth Mindset You have a positive attitude about the company's future and a passion for growth and winning.
Consumer and Customer Focus You have a passion to improve the lives of our consumers and customers and bring their voice into everything we do and the decisions we make. Bias for Action You bring a sense of urgency to getting things done and making tough decisions, avoiding over-debating or over-analyzing issues. Accountability and Responsibility You make commitments and hold yourself accountable for delivery. Building Talent and Teams You inspire through action and lead by example.
Application Form Once you submit your application form it will be evaluated by a trained assessor, and not by a computer. Online Test Candidates who are successful at the application form stage, will be required to complete an online numerical and logical reasoning test.
Telephone Interview This is the first stage of the Unilever assessment process, should your initial application be successful. Why do you want to work for Unilever? What is your favourite Unilever product?
Assessment Day This is the final stage of the Unilever assessment process. Competency Based Interview During the assessment day you will attend a competency based interview where you will be asked to give situational examples from your past, about times when you have shown evidence of characteristics such as leadership , communication , teamwork and other key competencies. Case Study The case study focuses on business issues, although candidates do not need to have any in-depth business knowledge to tackle this. Group Discussion Exercise You will have a group discussion during the assessment day.
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