Meet the Author: Paul Polman (and Dad)

Holly Branson's Meet the Author Paul Polman and Richard Branson
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 14 April 2022

Paul Polman and my Dad are two purpose-driven business leaders who inspire me more than almost anyone, so it was amazing to bring them together for a Meet the Author interview about Paul’s brilliant book: Net Positive.

Both Paul and Dad have been changing business for good for decades now, and their commitment to using business to solve the world’s problems instead of creating them is beyond inspiring. Paul is the former CEO of Unilever, the co-author of Net Positive (alongside Andrew Winston), a tireless campaigner, and a leader (with Dad) on The B Team! The work he has done in the field of purpose has greatly inspired my work as Chief Purpose and Vision Officer at Virgin, and when I read Net Positive , I wanted to share it with every business leader I knew. Paul perfectly explains whybusinesses need to give more to the world than they take, and I hope you find our conversation as enlightening as I did.

Meet the Author, Holly Branson, Paul Polman and Richard Branson

Paul and Dad made a compelling business case for why every company needs to act as a force for good in the world. As Paul said:

We can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet… Businesses cannot succeed in societies that fail. Nor can they be bystanders in the system that gives them life in the first place.

The world is finally waking up to the dire situation we are facing with climate change and the bio-diversity crisis but it was still shocking to hear Paul put the size of the problems we’re facing in perspective:

This world is 4.6 million years old. If you put it on the scale of 46 years, human beings have only been here for four hours. The industrial revolution started one minute ago, and in that one minute we’ve destroyed 50% of the world’s forests. In the last five decades, we’ve lost 68% of the world’s species – mammals, birds and reptiles. We’re living well beyond our planetary boundaries.

The B Team_CVF_COP26
The B Team at COP26 in Glasgow

Both Dad and Paul are eternal optimists, and it was reassuring to hear themmake impressive cases for why companies that address global issues are valued higher in the market. Ultimately, at this point, the cost of not acting is higher than the cost of acting - we, as business leaders, need to convince all company leaders that this is presents anincredible business opportunity! Paul and Andrew’s book does exactly that in such a compelling way and that’s the reason I’d love every business person and politician to read his wonderful book! For a company to become a force for good in the world, Paul says their leaders should ask themselves two questions: 

  1. How can companies profit from solving the world’s problems, not creating the world’s problems? 

  2. Is the world a better place because your company is in it? 

Holly Branson listens during a panel on female entrepreneurship
David Watts

Take the next step by joining the Net Positive movement, because as Paul said: “It’s better to make the dust than to eat the dust.”

Check out some of the other brilliant authors I’ve spoken to here.