Home / News & Speeches / Unilever chief Paul Polman named Chair of ICC, world’s largest business organisation

Paul Polman, CEO of consumer goods company Unilever, has been elected Chair of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) at the ICC World Council in Paris today.

Having led Unilever since 2009, Mr Polman is a leading advocate for the role of business in driving progress towards the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Under his leadership, Unilever set an ambitious vision to fully decouple business growth from its overall environmental footprint and increase the company’s positive social impact through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

Mr Polman’s commitment to securing long-term sustainable growth and development is also reflected in his membership of the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council, and his role as Chair of the B Team and Vice-Chair of the UN Global Compact.

Mr Polman said: “I am very pleased to join the ICC leadership at a pivotal moment for the organisation and the international community. It is more vital than ever for business to take a leading role in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals and responding to the many global challenges we collectively face. As the voice of the private sector on the world stage, ICC is uniquely poised to mobilise business towards long-term gains that are both socially and economically productive.”

Earlier this year, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II awarded Mr Polman an honorary knighthood (KBE) in recognition for his services to business and received the Treaties of Nijmegen Medal, for his contribution to building a more sustainable world.He is also a recipient of France’s Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, recognising his work in support of the landmark UN Climate Change (COP21) agreement in Paris.

ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO said: “Throughout his business career, Paul Polman has consistently set himself apart as champion of sustainable development and inclusive growth. I am very pleased to have him on board as ICC approaches its 100-year anniversary and have no doubt that his leadership will help us achieve the ambitious new course we have set.”

Mr Polman succeeds Sunil Bharti Mittal, Founder and Chairman of Bharti Enterprises, who assumes the role of Honorary Chair having chaired the ICC Executive Board since June 2016.

ICC has accomplished several landmark achievements under Mr Mittal’s leadership. In April 2017, Mr Mittal met with the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, at UN headquarters in New York, and as Chair of the first private-sector organisation accorded permanent Observer Status at the UN General Assembly, Mr Mittal attended a Heads of State lunch meeting attended by US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Brazilian President Michel Temer as well as other global leaders.

Mr Mittal also joined global business leaders to call for international cooperation to shape an interconnected world ahead of the Hamburg G20 Summit in 2017, underscoring how common rules and strong institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) are vital to ensuring that globalisation benefits everyone, everywhere. Mr Mittal highlighted the potential of e-commerce to revolutionise global trade flows and has recently responded to rising trade tensions, to urge the US and all its trading partners to find new ways to resolve tensions through multilateral dialogue — and without recourse to further tariff increases.

The ICC World Council also confirmed the following leadership positions today:

  • Alexis Mourre was elected to a second term as President of the ICC International Court of Arbitration
  • Ajay Banga, President and CEO of Mastercard, was named ICC First Vice-Chair
  • Yassin Al Suroor, Chairman of A’amal Group, was named ICC Vice-Chair

Four new Executive Board members were also elected:

  • Monica de Grieff, President, Bogota Chamber of Commerce (Colombia)
  • Giampiero Massolo, Chairman, Fincantieri S.p.A. (Italy)
  • Xu Niansha, Chairman, China Poly Group Corporation (China)
  • Zabihullah Ziarmal, CEO, Cefe Group International (Afghanistan)
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