New Food Order: Is the world better off with your business in it?

Former Unilever CEO Paul Polman shares how acting responsibly can improve a business’s bottom line in the second episode of the New Food Order podcast.

Dawn Reiss

November 21, 2022

2 Min Read
New Food Order, a new podcast, will explore the business of tackling the climate crisis through food and agriculture.
New Food Order

Despite what some companies may think, acting responsibly can improve a business’s bottom line.

Paul Polman, the former CEO of Unilever and author of Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take, increased shareholders’ returns by 300% and helped the company rank first in the world for sustainability for more than a decade.

In the second episode of New Food Order, a new podcast about the business of tackling climate crisis through food and agriculture, journalist Louisa Burwood-Taylor and entrepreneur Danielle Gould discuss with Polman why companies need to become net positive by driving transformative change. The podcast is produced in partnership with New Hope Network.

Companies need to reframe what good looks like because at best, most companies are doing CSR—Corporate Social Responsibility, Polman says in the episode, Is the world better off with your business in it? But a little less deforestation, fewer plastics in the ocean and slightly less carbon emission isn’t good enough, he says.

“A little bit less bad is still bad,” Polman says. “I used to murder 10 people, now I’m only murdering five people, I’m not a better murderer. That’s really the issue we’re facing right now.”

Unfortunately, most companies use objectives that aren't what's needed. Companies need to take the long view to become model businesses. Leadership buy-in is key, along with broader partnerships need for bigger systems changes.

Related:New Food Order, a new podcast, explores the food industry's influence on climate

“But it starts with getting your own house in order,” Polman says.

The hidden costs of the current food system are estimated to be $12 trillion in poor health and ecological damage, according to a report by the Food and Land Use Coalition. That’s why purpose driven companies are more profitable and produce a higher return for the shareholders, he says.

“The cost of not acting now is actually becoming higher than the cost of acting,” Polman says.

Listen and subscribe to the podcast here.

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Future of Food

About the Author(s)

Dawn Reiss

Dawn Reiss is a Chicago-based journalist who has written for TIME, The New York Times, The Atlantic, AFAR, Travel + Leisure, Civil Eats,, U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, among others. Find her at

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