BUSINESS
01/21/2016 02:30 pm ET

Unilever's CEO Is All In On Addressing Climate Change, Global Poverty

"The world is watching what we do."

"We should not judge people by what they sign," Unilever CEO Paul Polman told HuffPost Thursday of the climate change agreement and the sustainable development goals signed last year. "The world is watching what we do."

Polman has built a reputation on managing business with an eye on the long term instead of "quarterly capitalism," wherein short-term gains in stock prices are sacrosanct. 

And when it comes to making progress on climate change, his strategy is no different.

Polman told HuffPost it's critical that the private and public sector not slow down after last year's accord in Paris, which set a cap on warming at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, specified a five-year mechanism for evaluating progress, and included language for rich countries to help finance poorer countries' transition to clean energy.

Those are probably the most audacious goals that mankind has set in any part of our history. So they need the involvement of all of us."

"What we now need to do is build on that momentum," Polman said. "Now here is the issue, and here is the challenge: These two agreements have been signed, but they are agreements of zero poverty in the next 15 years, and zero carbon emissions in the next 15 years. Those are probably the most audacious goals that mankind has set in any part of our history. So they need the involvement of all of us."

Polman is part of a commission, launched this week in Davos, Switzerland, which unites global business and government leaders in pursuit of that task.

“What this commission is about... is really to say: How can we take the sustainable development goals and make them an integral part of how every company should be operating their business?" he said, explaining the main questions it must answer.

"How can we make it relevant for all of the CEOs, so that we create this mass movement to address these issues?" he continued. "How can we find the financing mechanisms to make this possible? How can we come up with new business models that we can learn from that create this better economy for all of us?” 

More stories from the World Economic Forum 2016:

CONVERSATIONS