Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever—on the notion that sustainability doesn’t have to cost more

“Sustainable sourcing can be done in a way that is fair to society and has a competitive price. This is what we are trying to say. People think that for something to be sustainable it must cost more money. The reason for this is that the initial sustainable products that came on the market were advertising things and charging more for it.

“We are saying a totally different thing—we are advocating integrating sustainability into innovation programmes and products as a way of doing business. It doesn’t necessarily cost more money—we have to get out that mindset. We just need to get sustainability into our design and business model from the beginning.”

“In life, many people accept trade-offs. They think that in order to improve their product they need to pay for it. This is not true at all. Going from vinyl discs to digital didn’t increase the cost of music. If you don’t accept those trade-offs,—that something needs to be more expensive to be better or environmentally friendly—you will find solutions.”

“It is now time for the world to get out of these pre-conceived notions on many of these cases and solve these trade-offs. If you get into an ‘and’ mentality—versus an ‘or’ mentality— where you have better products and lower costs, where you have environmentally-friendly products and offer better performing products to consumers: that is the model that will win and is the model the world needs.”

The Full Interview:

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