coronavirus

Pandemic Has Delayed Sustainable Development Goals by Decades, Says Former Unilever CEO

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  • Paul Polman is now the chair of social venture IMAGINE and a founding member of CNBC's ESG Council.
  • "The pandemic has put us back probably 20-30 years on the sustainable development goals," Polman told CNBC's "Street Signs Europe" Monday.

LONDON — Former Unilever CEO Paul Polman has warned that the coronavirus pandemic has pushed back sustainable development goals 20-30 years, in terms of exacerbating inequality. 

Polman, who is now the chair of social venture IMAGINE and a founding member of CNBC's ESG Council, was speaking to CNBC's "Street Signs Europe" Monday. 

"The pandemic has put us back probably 20-30 years on the sustainable development goals," he said, "And once more, the people that were already marginalized in society including the gender dimension … these people have suffered disproportionately. 

Women, people of color and young people are among those that have been found to have been hurt most by the coronavirus crisis. 

"So if we don't create more jobs, if we don't create better jobs coming out of this pandemic, then I think we will see more issues of social incohesion and dissatisfaction in society, undermining of democracies and all the other things," Polman explained. 

On the plus side, Polman highlighted how governments had reacted to the crisis by spending trillions of dollars in an effort to support their economies

"And hopefully increasingly, we'll see part of that spending moving to greening our societies and also ensuring that we address the issues of inequality," he said. 

Polman said he believed there had 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. 

"The health of the people, the protection of people in our value chain, the social safety nets that have come with it, are now very much on the agenda," he said.

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