Unilever chief Paul Polman is “retiring” from the consumer giant, the firm said on Thursday, a month after it was forced to ditch a controversial post-Brexit plan to move its headquarters from London to the Netherlands.
The Anglo-Dutch group, the maker of iconic brands like Marmite and Dove soap, will be headed from January by Alan Jope, the current chief of its huge beauty and personal care department.
“Unilever today announced that CEO Paul Polman has decided to retire from the company,” the company said in a statement, adding that he had been in the post for 10 years.
Polman, 62, tweeted that he had decided to “step down from my role as CEO”, adding: “It’s been a great honor to lead this team for the past 10 years and together build a sustainable business that has made a difference to millions of lives.”
“I have no doubts that I will be leaving the company in excellent hands. Under Alan’s leadership, Unilever is well-placed to prosper long into the future.”
Neither Unilever nor Polman made any mention of the headquarters plan, but his position had been in doubt since it fell through on October 5.
Unilever had faced mounting opposition from key shareholders, including Aviva Investors, Royal London, Columbia Threadneedle, Legal & General Investment Management, Lindsell Train, M&G Investments and Brewin Dolphin.
Many were angry that the plan would have ended Unilever’s dual listing on the London and Amsterdam stock exchanges, meaning that many would have had to sell shares in Britain.
The group had originally unveiled the planned switch in March in a symbolic decision that was largely interpreted by analysts as a blow to post-Brexit Britain.
It also followed a failed hostile bid by US rival Kraft Heinz last year, which analysts said played a key role in Unilever’s decision as the Netherlands has stronger rules to protect companies against takeovers.
Jope, who currently leads the firm’s largest division, said it would be a “huge privilege to lead Unilever”.
Polman is due to retire as CEO on December 31 but will stay at the company for six months working on the transition with Jope, the firm said.
Having cemented its status as the foremost business personalities meeting dedicated to the development of the African private sector, the Africa CEO Forum is set to kick off its 5th edition, themed: “re-thinking Africa’s business model”.
The 2017 edition, set to take place in Geneva, would focus on how to succeed in this new economic cycle on the continent.
Slated to hold between March 20 and 21, the programme would bring together more than 1000 personalities, key decision makers in industry, finance and politics from the African continent and around the globe.
The Africa CEO forum 2017 would open the debate with the economic boom of the 2000s, the context of economic growth in Africa and the critical decisions that must be taken to reach rapid and sustainable growth.
Other themes to be discussed include: Unleashing innovation and the entrepreneurial potential of youth and women, making Africa more attractive for international investors, turning African stock exchanges into competitive powerhouses and creating the next generation of African exporters.
The forum would also offer 20 sessions for debate and reflection, allowing participants to hit strategic topics for driving African corporate growth including: digital transformation, fintech, agri-business, private equity, emerging African champions, electricity and innovation.
Some of the African and international personalities slated to take part in the discussion and debate include:
President, African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, CEO Unilever, Paul Polman, President, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Mo Ibrahim, CEO, OTMT Investments, Naguib Sawiris, Chairperson, MTN, Phuthuma Nhleko, Co-Founder and Group Executive Director, Sahara Group, Tonye Cole, CEO, United Capital, Oluwatoyin Sanni, Chairperson, Firstbank, Ibukun Awosika, CEO, Mohammed Enterprises, Mohammed Dewji, CEO, Africa and Middle East, Orange, Bruno Mettling, CEO, MSC, Diego Aponte, CEO, Afreximbank, Benedict Oramah, CEO, Rougier, Marie-Yvonne Charlemagne, CEO, Stanbic IBTC Holdings, Sola David-Borha, CEO, Uchumi Supermarkets, Julius Kipng’etich, CEO, Cevital, Issad Rebrab, CEO, Casablanca Finance City Authority, Saïd Ibrahimi, CEO, NSIA, Jean Kacou Diagou.
World leaders at the World Economic Forum holding in Davos, Switzerland have stressed the need for the whole world to tackle Climate Change and set new goals for ending extreme poverty globally.
At Friday’s debate on ‘Changing the Climate For Growth and Development’, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said that Climate Change was putting the whole world at risk, emphasising a greater need for more efforts to be made towards reducing the effects.
“Our communities, small or large and even our national security, political instability have been caused by the impact of climate change,” he said.
The UN leader dismissed some perceptions that tackling climate change would affect or reduce the world’s capacity to address global growth, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and future developments, saying that “it is a wrong belief”.
Sustainable Development Growth
“We have to tackle this climate change. Tackling climate change will put all of us onto a sustainable development growth.
“Addressing all of our lives’ activities in a sustainable way will help us in tackling climate change. Therefore, these two issues are mutually re-enforcing and mutually supporting, Mr Ban Ki-moon said.
He pointed out that tackling the challenges posed by climate change would enable the entire world have a universal access to energy.
“It will help to strengthen our capacity to resilient infrastructure, global health, sustainable urban transportation and bio-diversities,” Mr ban Ki-moon said.
He also said that short-lived pollutants would be addressed.
The UN leader called for a very strong and tight partnership among government, communities and civil societies.
Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, who was one of the discussants, stressed the need for the whole world to start greening the way things were done.
“If we fail to get a grip now on solutions to deal with climate change and start greening the way we look at everything we do, I think this will cause a problem. The financing and the enabling is key.
“We need to move to solutions.
“In 2012 we experienced unexpected flood in Nigeria. A million house holds were affected. Road infrastructure and investments made in the housing and health sectors were wiped out.
In Africa, we have moved a step further towards tackling these challenges and I think that what we need now is solution.
“We have the African Risk Capacity, which is a weather based insurance mechanism.
“The insurance payment kicks in within three weeks of any disaster,” she explained.
On the need to tackle extreme poverty globally, Dr Okonjo-Iweala suggested that the world should “look at the path of investment; that is the path of the private sector and what we can do with private sector solutions.”
She stressed the need for funding, saying “there is very little investment really in trying to support the systems”.
Reducing Carbon Intensity
The president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, also pointed out that there were many things needed to be done.
He called for a target to be set for September at the UN General Assembly.
“There are so many things we know we can do right now.
“Why wouldn’t we be able to increase, for example, green burn from the 10 billion dollars current level to 20 billion? Why don’t we set a target of how much carbon that we can take out of the world in a year? That is a practically reasonable goal to set. Something that is very positive and very good,” he said.
In its contribution in tackling climate change, the World Bank would look at all projects to identify ways of reorganising how things are done to ensure that they are environment friendly with little or no impact on the climate.
“We have to make sure that we do not pull defeat out of the jaws of victory by losing sight of things like the MDGs. They are good goals and they will continue to remain good goals.
“We have to step back and look at the good things that we can do right now to reduce the carbon intensity,” the World Bank boss suggested.
Sustaining Developments In Africa
A former vice president of the United States, Al Gore,stressed the need to focus on sustaining developments in Africa by tackling climate change.
“Africa is projected to have more people than China and India combined by the end of the century and this lays emphasis on the need to tackle climate change in Africa,” he pointed out.
Another discussant, Bill Gates, founder of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, stressed the need for countries to focus more on reducing extreme poverty while reviewing the MDGs.
He also emphasised the need for an improved health delivery in different countries, as a means of checking the increasing world population.
“If you get health improved, families will embrace the need to reduce the number of children they will have,” he said.
Other persons at the debate were Paul Polman, Mishal Husain and Erna Solberg.
An unprecedented international effort will be made in September during the UN General Assembly to energise leaders to successfully negotiate a climate change agreement and set new goals for ending extreme poverty globally.
The Climate Change Summit meeting at the UN on September 23 will focus only on climate change, the UN Secretary General has said.
Mr Ban Ki-moon urged all government leaders, philanthropists, community leaders and investors in carbon intensive technologies that would be attending the meeting to bring their own commitment.
“Political leaders should come to the meeting with a very decisive, determined, passionate and visionary leadership for the future of our generation and the future of a sustainable planet earth,” he said.
Channels Television’s correspondent covering the World Economic Forum, Harriet Agbenyi, says a lot of focus is on Africa and the development of the continent.
“Listening to Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, it seems Nigeria has a game plan, but Nigerians will have to wait and see how these turns out,” Harriet said.