A pointed question to Unilever’s CEO unmasked a conflict in conscious capitalism

Friday, September 28, 2018

By Sarah Kessler

When Unilever CEO Paul Polman and the writer Anand Giridharadascame together on Thursday (Sept. 27) for a panel discussion about “conscious capitalism,” there was bound to be some disagreement.

Since taking the helm of the consumer goods giant in 2009, Polman has been praised for efforts to expand Unilever’s social impact and decrease its environmental impact. He stopped issuing quarterly earnings guidance and started a robust sustainability program, the former intended to relieve pressure from short-term shareholders who might get impatient with the latter. He has literally been named a “hero of conscious capitalism.”

Giridharadas is the author of the newly released book Winners Take All, in which he argues that “elite do-gooding” is how the winners of capitalism maintain the status quo—while continuing to cause some of the very same problems their social initiatives ostensibly try to solve. At the panel discussion, hosted by the Unilever-owned condiments maker Sir Kensington’s and moderated by Quartz At Work editor Heather Landy, Giridharadas was introduced, in Matrix terms, as the “Morpheus of conscious capitalism.”


Source: Quartz (link opens in a new window)

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