FORMER Unilever CEO, climate and equality campaigner Paul Polman spoke to academics, students and residents at University of West London’s Ealing campus.  

The public lecture coincided with UWL winning Corporate of the Year for Sustainability at the West London Business Awards. 

The charismatic Prof Polman told his audience: “It’s apt that Queen singer Freddie Mercury attended the university, when it was called Ealing College, because my talk today, like one of his songs, is all about being ‘under pressure’.”  

He continued “We are still at the point in history where we are creating problems at a faster pace than we are applying solutions.

“This world is around 4.5 billion years old, and it is estimated it has another 4.5 billion years to go. Some people may think, ‘Don’t worry because you won’t be here.’

“But we are at a mid-life crisis. If we scale this time frame to 45 years, human beings have been here for only four hours. The industrial revolution started one minute ago.

“Yet, in that one minute, we lost 50 per cent of the world’s forests. In the last 50 years we have lost 68 per cent of the world’s species. It is incomprehensible what we are doing.” 

Paul believes positive change can only happen if the private sector works with civil society and governments. Education also has a vital role to play.  

He concluded: “We need a different kind of leadership from the past. We can solve a lot of problems with a higher level of thinking.”