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Honorary doctorate for Unilever top man Paul Polman

04 February 2014

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and alumnus of the University of Groningen, will be awarded a social honorary doctorate on 13 June 2014 during the 400th anniversary celebrations.

Polman is being awarded the honorary doctorate in acknowledgement of his exceptional drive to successfully combine entrepreneurship and sustainable development. He is not only CEO of Unilever, but also holds several social positions: he is a member of the UN High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Agenda, chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and board member of the UN Global Compact, the Consumer Goods Forum and Conservation International, to name but a few.

Paul Polman is a proponent of sustainable entrepreneurship and as an alumnus of this University is an inspiring role model for the business leaders of the future’, says honorary supervisor Prof. Janka Stoker.

‘We greatly admire – and are very proud of – the way that our alumnus Polman is successfully heading one of the Netherlands’ and the world’s most important and influential businesses. Polman not only inspires the people in his own organization, he is also an example for the students we are training in Groningen.

Paul Polman
Paul Polman

Paul Polman

Paul G.J.M. Polman (1956) is an alumnus of the University of Groningen. He graduated in 1977 in Business Economics. He went on to do a Master’s in Economics at the University of Cincinnati and an MBA in Finance and International Marketing. After graduating, Polman worked for Procter & Gamble for 27 years, in various positions. In 2006 he transferred to Nestlé, where he became CFO and Head of the Americas. On 1 January 2009 he succeeded Patrick Cescau as CEO of Unilever.

On the international front, Paul Polman promotes sustainable growth models that take both man and the environment into consideration, for example in the field of reducing deforestation and CO2 emissions through his leading role in the Consumer Goods Forum, advising the European Commission on the effective use of natural resources as a member of the European Resource Efficiency Taskforce, and tackling the causes and consequences of climate change as a member of the International Council of the New Climate Economy, which is headed by the former President of Mexico, Calderon. In the Netherlands, Paul Polman is a joint initiator of the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition – a group of Dutch multinationals that wants to actively contribute to making society more sustainable. Paul Polman thinks that it is important to enter into dialogue with young people, for example via his mentorship of One Young World.

Paul Polman has won several awards for his leadership. In 2003, for example, the Wall Street Journal made him European Business Leader of the year. In 2007, Investor Magazine made Paul Polman Chief Financial Officer of the year, and in 2010, 2011 and 2012 CEO of the year. In 2012 he became Business Leader of the World and received the Atlantic Council Award for Distinguished Business Leadership and the First Award for Responsible Capitalism. Last year, the World Wide Fund for Nature awarded Paul Polman the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal.

In 2000, Paul Polman was awarded an honorary doctorate by University of Northumbria at Newcastle, and in 2009 by the University of Cincinnati.

Conferral of 10 honorary doctorates

The University of Groningen will be conferring ten honorary doctorates in total on the occasion of its 400th anniversary. The honorary doctors have been proposed by the University faculties in recognition of their extraordinary contribution to their fields of expertise.

The honorary doctorates will be conferred on Prof. José Casanova (Theology and Religious Studies); Prof. Ronald M. Evans (Medical Sciences); Prof. Andreas Faludi (Spatial Sciences); Prof. Sir Francis Jacobs QC KCMG (Law); Prof. Renata Kallosh (Mathematics and Natural Sciences); Prof. Christine M. Korsgaard (Philosophy); Prof. Dani Rodrik (Economics and Business); Prof. Michael Schudson (Arts); Prof. Robert E. Slavin (Behavioural and Social Sciences).

Last modified:14 September 2021 1.01 p.m.
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