Unilever CEO Paul Polman - wide-ranging interview with analysts

Unilever CEO Paul Polman - wide-ranging interview with analysts

Unilever CEO Paul Polman has indicated he is in no hurry to step down from the role.

The Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant's boss - interviewed in a call hosted by Sanford Bernstein as part of the bank's CEO Unplugged series - said: "We need to do a few things that we're in the middle of now that I am probably better-placed for finishing".

However, Polman said when he does step down he favours his replacement being an internal candidate.

In a wide-ranging interview, Polman - who has been in the role since 2009 - stressed the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) to the company. He said Unilever believes in "responsible social corporations" and suggested the company's Sustainable Living Plan is a "little bit more revolutionary" than traditional CSR because it is not an add-on or only true to parts of the company but across the entire value-chain and at the core of its business.

Quizzed about the Kraft Heinz approach for the business in February last year, Polman said the move had not changed Unilever's commitment to the "model of long-term compounded responsible growth" that has historically driven strong shareholder returns. 

But he admitted the bid has driven some change at Unilever, specifically it "brought us definitely a sense of urgency" and led to Unilever making tough promises to which it can be held accountable, he said.

Asked whether Unilever is equipped to compete against small, local players, Polman said Unilever's Connected 4 Growth programme makes it faster, closer to the market and empowers local decision-making.
He said Unilever has seen a 50% increase in innovations in the year since Connected 4 Growth and a 50% increase in the speed of rolling out products. 

Polman said Unilever has no plans for large M&A moves and said its deal strategy has been purposely skewed towards businesses with e-commerce capabilities.