Now is the time to lead with courage and compassion.


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Sanjiv Mehta

Sanjiv Mehta

Chairman and Managing Director, Hindustan Unilever Limited,
President, Unilever South Asia 
Member, Unilever Leadership Executive (Global Executive Board) 

The global pandemic and the ensuing economic shock have heightened threats arising from climate change, as well as health, economic and social inequalities. We are now faced with an existential crisis that will demand collective action and firm commitments to build resilience and mitigate damages.

As businesses, the onus to integrate sustainability within the fibers of our systems and avoid collective inertia lies on us. For without a healthy planet and society, there can be no healthy businesses. It’s now increasingly clear that the cost of not acting will be significantly higher than the cost of acting.

Are companies doing enough to make sustainability central to business strategy and operations? ? The answer is not a resounding yes.

It’s hard to argue that the effects of climate change will soon be reflected in most businesses’ statements of accounts—whether that’s due to broken supply chains, cost fluctuations, or other disruptive forces. Yet it is also true that reimagining the company’s purpose to fully embed sustainability will draw eco-efficiencies, spur innovation, attract talent, build resilience, foster competitiveness, and unlock new market opportunities.

To achieve a sustainable future, we will need to lead with courage and compassion. We need the courage to set audacious goals, and the compassion to bring heart back into business. This has been our approach at Hindustan Unilever.

We are driving our sustainability efforts through our North Star, the Unilever Compass, which sets out bold time-bound commitments and strategic actions that we believe will help us achieve our purpose of making sustainable living commonplace. Through it, we are creating value for every stakeholder across our value chain, using a multi-stakeholder model that propels trust, transparency, and in turn prosperity. We’ve seen first-hand how our purpose-driven approach co-exists with high business performance. There have been no trade-offs.

Everyone from consumers to shareholders and the society at large are increasingly cognisant of sustainable products, practices, and ESG performance. Governments too are fast-tracking change. Globally, around 90% of emissions are now covered by net-zero targets. This is the future of business: a restorative and regenerative approach to be net positive, benefiting all.

This report from Russell Reynolds Associates succinctly puts forth the opportunity to embrace sustainability in business and urgently calls for dynamic leadership. India Inc’s findings show leaders’ hearts are in the right place, but they need to prioritize the acceleration of concrete strategies to unlock long-term value. India as a nation, and we as responsible corporate citizens, need to lead the way in forging sustainable pathways for the rest of the world to emulate.

I urge the leaders of India to embrace this era of sustainability. Let’s lead with compassion, make our society healthy, invest in purpose-driven people, and protect and preserve our planet—profits will go hand in hand.



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