Over the past few months as I’ve put together this Food Logistics special edition on sustainability, I’ve learned so much about new and experimental projects, truly innovative solutions, and inspiring people who are leading the sustainability movement. If there’s a single feel-good issue right now, it has to be the advancements so many companies are making to get their ‘green’ house in order.
There’s something else that struck me: sustainability is becoming embedded in the thinking of so many business leaders today. It’s a standard part of business now, right up there with striving to make a profit. No longer is it something that may or may not be pursued, or abandoned if the economy dips. Sustainability is a mindset.
One of the best articles I ran across during my research was about Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. He’s on the path to address capitalism’s ills, including “mindless consumption” on the part of consumers. That might seem odd for the head of the third largest consumer goods company in the world with brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Dove, yet I believe he’s absolutely right.
We can manufacture, transport, and dispose of products more sustainably, we’re proving that today. But we sure as heck can’t overlook the wasteful overconsumption of food and other goods—particularly in the developed world—for much longer.
According to Polman, the supply chain is a powerful agent for change in society, “and that’s why we take responsibility from sustainable sourcing to sustainable living.” Unilever not only focuses on raw materials and ingredients that are sustainable, but encourages sustainable choices on the consumer end, too.
And, while he’s definitely a fan of capitalism, Polman thinks it’s ready for an overhaul.
“What we’ve created here is an enormous force to lift people out of poverty,” he acknowledges. “But at the same time, we haven’t figured out how to do that without incurring these enormous levels of government or private debt; overconsumption; and frankly, leaving too many people behind. You cannot say that the system properly works if there are over one billion people going to bed hungry.”