Paul Polman comments on the role of business in eradicating poverty


Paul Polman, a member of the panel, comments on the role of business in eradicating poverty

New York, May 31st 2013. The United Nations High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (HLP) today formally presented to the UN Secretary General the report entitled “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies Through Sustainable Development”.

In June 2012, Paul Polman, Unilever CEO, was invited by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to become a member of the High Level Panel. Co-chaired by UK Prime Minister Cameron, Liberian President Johnson Sirleaf and President Yudhoyono of Indonesia, the distinguished group of 27 representatives from government, civil society and business was tasked with advising the Secretary-General on the future development agenda when the current UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015. The HLP has worked over the last nine months to develop detailed recommendations included in the report.

Speaking at today’s launch of the HLP report in New York, Paul Polman said:

“It was an honour to have been invited to join the UN High Level Panel (HLP)  – and it has been a  privilege to work with my fellow panel members in developing key recommendations that taken together will  make the  goal  of eradicating poverty in our generation a  reality.

“This will only be possible by linking poverty alleviation and sustainable development goals in one simple, integrated and clear agenda.  The Post-2015 agenda must ensure that the gains made on poverty eradication will be irreversible. If we fail to act on issues like Climate Change and Food Security – then it is the poorest who will suffer the most.

“Business is a critical enabler of inclusive economic growth and job creation which are key to unlocking human potential and reducing poverty. As one of only two business representatives I have tried to ensure that the voice of business was well represented, and therefore organised an extensive business outreach – engaging with businesses of all sizes, sectors and markets, with combined revenues of US$8 trillion, and representing over 10% of global GDP.[i]

“This has shown a growing recognition of the business case for tackling major social and environmental challenges that confront us all – issues like access to clean affordable water; public health goals like hygiene and basic sanitation; food and nutrition security; social inclusion and gender equality; and climate change challenges such as halting deforestation and decarbonising our economies. The need for concerted action to address these common challenges will only get stronger in the years to come, and I am pleased to see these issues have all been included in the illustrative set of goals. This is a bold and progressive step in the right direction.

“The social and environmental challenges confronting the world are too vast and too complex for any one government or one company – however large or powerful they might be – to solve alone. To make progress we will have to find new models for global partnerships, as recommended in the report. This requires business to play its part in building truly transformational partnerships with governments and civil society.

“However, if business wants to be a trusted partner it will also need to raise its own standards in terms of corporate governance and transparency.  Companies need to account not just for their financial performance but also for their social and environmental impacts; and have to move beyond shareholder value to stakeholder value.”


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