Father To Son:
Lessons For Business, Lessons For Life
CEOs might be viewed as strictly business or profit-centered people, but Unilever CEO Paul Polman paints a different picture for his son Sebastian as he passes on a father’s life lessons by discussing failures, equality and even his first job delivering milk.
Father’s Day is all about taking a moment to acknowledge dads everywhere for all of the lessons they’ve taught us. Those lessons hopefully come from life experiences, and those fathers live and embrace the values they want to pass on to their children.
As a part of our partnership with Huffington Post’s video series “Talk to Me,” our CEO Paul Polman had a candid discussion with his “favorite youngest” son Sebastian and shared advice and the various ways his convictions have helped shaped Unilever and his goals for the future:
Discussing his professional life, which kicked off as a milkman in the Netherlands, Polman tells his son, “It’s not important to be a CEO… it’s important to be in a job [where] you can make a positive contribution.”
“If you can live your passion in your professional environment, then you have a higher chance of being successful,” he continues.
During the father-son discussion, Polman makes it clear that he is living his passion at Unilever, and believes that the role of business is not only to profit, but to help others, as our goals in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan push Unilever to accomplish.
Remembering Your Roots
In a series of rapid-fire questions, Polman had another important lesson for his son, which surprisingly came out of his favorite number: 13.
Why 13? It was his house number growing up, and his father had often told him the Dutch expression for knowing your roots, “Never forget your house number” which Polman uses to remind his own son to be grateful for where they ended up.
A Blueprint For Better Business
In their conversation, Polman also gets into a variety of different topics around his Unilever leadership role, which we’re proud to say has helped us see incredible progress. Here are just a few of his business beliefs:
“I think the best thing about the internet nowadays is the transparency that it gives, everybody can find out how everybody behaves.”
Transparency remains an important part of our business and we understand that this accountability helps business do better for the world.
We’re proud to be ranked first among major corporations by Oxfam’s Behind The Brands scorecard, which ranks companies policies on sustainability, workers’ rights, and more -- with the highest score this nonprofit has ever given -- but we’re still staying committed to improving our business even further.
“We cannot get the human development agenda going if we do not tackle the issue of climate change.”
We’ve taken action like sending zero-waste-to-landfill in hundreds of factories and set the even more ambitious goal of becoming carbon positive by 2030, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions even further.
Thanks to Polman’s leadership, we are doing our part to help the world reach the goals set in Paris last year, where he took the stage to advocate for climate action:
Speaking about his involvement in helping outline the United Nation’s Global Goals, Polman focused on a very specific goal,
“One of the biggest possibilities that we have globally is to give equal rights to men and women, if we would just invest the same in women and girls as we invest in men, the global economy could be bigger by about 28 trillion in the next 15-20 years.”
This is why we strive to empower 5 million women by 2020 and Polman has continued his leadership for gender equality elsewhere through his work with HeForShe.
We can look to fathers everywhere this time of year to thank them for the life lessons and principles they provide, as we’ve seen in our own business, a guiding set of values can lead to progress, while keeping a focus on purpose.