LONDON – Former Unilever CEO Paul Polman has warned that the coronavirus pandemic has pushed back the Sustainable Development Goals by 20 to 30 years to exacerbate inequality.
Polman, who is now chairman of IMAGINE social venture and a founding member of CNBC’s ESG council, spoke to CNBC’s Street Signs Europe on Monday.
“The pandemic has probably brought us back 20 to 30 years in terms of sustainable development goals,” he said.
Women, people of color and young people are among those most affected by the coronavirus crisis.
“So if we don’t create more jobs, if we don’t create better jobs out of this pandemic, then I think we’ll see more problems of social cohesion and dissatisfaction in society that undermine democracies and all those other things.” “Explained Polman.
On the plus side, Polman highlighted how governments responded to the crisis by spending trillions of dollars to support their economies.
“And hopefully we will increasingly see some of that spending on greening our societies and also making sure we address issues of inequality,” he said.
Polman said he believes there has been an “acceleration” of work on environmental, social and governance issues during the pandemic, with a particular focus on the social aspect of these three elements.
“People’s health, the protection of the people in our value chain and the associated social safety nets are now high on the agenda,” he said.