What is success? I think the most important thing is to achieve what you set out to achieve. Just being a CEO in itself is not success. I would not relate success to a title or a position. My career has had a level of serendipity all along. I've never planned anything out more than a few years.
People at my level [Unilever CEO] shouldn't be motivated by salary. If you paid me double, I'm not going to work twice as much, because I'm already probably maximizing my time available. And would it change the way I do things? Not really. So, yes, I am fortunate, and I am ashamed about the amount of money I earn.
If you work at an insurance company that sells premiums you wouldn't even sell to your mother, how happy would you feel to work there? It's going to eat you up. It might last a few years, but it doesn't attract the best people, and it certainly doesn't create the energy and engagement you need to be a long-term performing company.
The last few months have seen a welcome race to the top. Consumers have sent companies a clear signal that they do not want their purchasing habits to drive deforestation and companies are responding. Better still, companies are committing to working in partnership with suppliers, governments and NGOs to strengthen forest governance and economic incentives. It can be done and this Declaration signals a real intention to accelerate action.
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Many companies are disappointing the citizens of this world by manipulating labor rates, putting horse meat instead of beef out there, or thinking it's totally acceptable to make a T-shirt from a collapsing factory. Increasingly, people don't want to work for these companies, and consumers don't want to buy from them.
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My biggest fear is that we [Unilever company] at one point in time will not be able to attract the best and brightest [workers]. I don't worry so much about the business, the strategy. If we can continue to attract the best, I know they will ultimately figure out how to run the company in a very tough environment.
I don't think our fiduciary duty is to put shareholders first. I say the opposite. What we firmly believe is that if we focus our company on improving the lives of the world's citizens and come up with genuine sustainable solutions, we are more in synch with consumers and society and ultimately this will result in good shareholder returns.
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The very essence of capitalism is under threat as business is now seen as a personal wealth accumulator. We have to bring this world back to sanity and put the greater good ahead of self-interest. We need to fight very hard to create an environment out there that is more long term focussed and move away from short termism.
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The moment you discover in life that it's not about yourself, that it is about investing in others, I think you're entering a steadier state to be a great leader. Because above all, I think the main quality of a leader is to be a human being. There's no reason you are special because you happen to have this job or these responsibilities.
I believe that the financial crisis of 2008/9 exposed more a lack of ethics and morality - especially by the financial sector - rather than a problem of regulation or criminality. There were, of course, regulatory lessons to be learned, but at heart, there was a collective loss of our moral compass.
Every few decades, we have an opportunity to make a drastic change to the way we live our lives. We get a chance to design the building blocks of our daily routines, the infrastructure that will support and accompany us for the years to come - from the trains and trams we ride, the offices we work in, to the energy that powers our homes.
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At the end of the day, people will follow you or people will be energised by you if they buy into your vision or purpose. So the most important thing is to be true to yourself. That's why I would say to be a great leader - you, first and foremost, have to be a great human being. And sharing that purpose and sharing the values.
More and more businesses are seeing the potential of a more sustainable business model, driven both by the firm belief that business can be a force for good and by the realization that the cost of inaction often exceeds the cost of action - notably when it comes to the growing threat of climate change and water scarcity.
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It's easy to be a short-term hero. It is very easy for me to get tremendous results very short term, get that translated into compensation, and be off sailing in the Bahamas. But the goal for this company - and it's very difficult to do - the goal is to follow a four- or five-year process.
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