“ What we need is a team of heroic chief executives willing to step up and move outside of the comfort zone and take personal risks. .....We are trying to creat tipping points....The premise is that chief executives need to drive change in the absence of politicians doing it right now.....Business that do not embrace issues of diversity , sustainability and equal rights will struggle to attract talented young workers..”
Was this a key not speech at the resent LGA annual conference , a passionate plea from a newly elected regional mayor or the editorial in one of the local government magazines? No. The next quote gives the game away. “ Millennials want to work for companies that stand for more than making money.” This is the former boss of Unilever saying capitalism has failed to adapt and needs to be made to worked for everyone. He believes that unless we address inequality and climate change a lot more people are going to be dissatisfied, feel not included or left behind leading to the increase in popularism and growing schisms in society.
Paul Polman is working with leading industrialist and politicians to push sustainable development goals, he is also aiming to recruit 500 chief executives from multi national companies who will commit to getting disability rights on their boards agenda in the next 12 months. Polman is a global player but at a regional level this is traditional local government territory. This is what we do and could do more of given the resources and will.
By implication Polman is saying too much of the private sector is to focused on the short term and obsessed with the bottom line. A similar charge could be made against local government since few authorities seem to be able to look beyond balancing the next budget. How many chief executives would say that embracing diversity was in there top five priorities or even in their top ten? It would have been ten years ago pre austerity. I hear council leaders say Climate Change is the most important issue but then spend most of their time and energy on other priorities.
So at a local level we to could do with a team of heroic chief executives willing to take personal risks to embrace diversity, promote equality and champion climate change initiatives. Perhaps the Local Government Association could invite Paul Polman to speak at their next annual conference.
Blair Mcpherson former Director, author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk