Imagine, if you can, industry leading the way to the SDGs


“Imagine all the people, living life in peace….no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man.”

Those lyrics are surely familiar to you. They are from one of the most successful songs of all time, Imagine, by John Winston Lennon. Lennon, singing of his better world, voiced certainty that he “was not the only one” with this dream. Now, prominent corporate leaders have begun a new firm with the express purpose of making business and industry better global citizens. They have named the firm, Imagine, after the song. On this episode, Edie Lush and Claudia Romo Edelman discuss Imagine and talk with two of the founders, Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, and Valerie Keller, a well-known CEO whisperer, coach and expert in transformational business leadership. With governments acting too slowly or in many crucial places gridlocked, more focus has fallen on the role of business in curbing climate change and achieving the other Sustainable Development Goals. Keller and Polman argue that much can be accomplished by creating “collective courageous behavior” by corporations working together to achieve what no one of them might take on alone. There first effort is underway in the Fashion industry and they talk about future plans for travel, tourism and, perhaps, even energy. Claudia observes that Imagine, the song, which was written in 1981, seems to call for the Sustainable Development Goals long before they were created in 2015. But Lennon also sang of “no possessions,” which might be a step further down a socialist road than Imagine, the company, envisions. Edie and Claudia discuss Imagine, the company’s place in what they describe as a movement to create a “better capitalism,” not replace it. “What we are really seeing in this world is that many people are dreaming for a better world than we have currently,” Polman says.

Facts and Actions “to help meet the moment…the decisive decade of the 2020s” are from a leading expert in sustainable business, Aron Cramer, President and CEO of BSR, a not-for-profit which advises companies on sustainability. You can read Cramer’s 2019 CEO letter, “A New Climate for Business”.

Laura MacKenzie, Senior Vice President of our sponsor, Mastercard, describes Mastercard’s work creating digital systems to pay garment workers, predominantly women, around the world. This protects their earnings and increases their access to the formal financial system. “many of the women,” MacKenzie says, “also have ambitions of their own. They would like to own land they would like to start a business. That’s what’s so exciting about this work.”

Photo credits: Hirsty65

Featured guests

Paul Polman

Paul Polman is Co-founder and Chair of IMAGINE, a benefit corporation and foundation accelerating business leadership to achieve the Global Goals. He also serves as Chair of the International Chamber of Commerce, The B Team, Oxford Said Business School and is Vice-Chair of the U.N. Global Compact.

He was CEO of Unilever for 10 years where he demonstrated that a long-term, multi-stakeholder model goes hand-in-hand with good financial performance. During his tenure, Unilever was one of the best-performing companies in its sector, delivering ten years of consistent top and bottom line growth.

Paul was appointed to the U.N. Secretary General’s High-level Panel that developed the Sustainable Development Goals and has played a leading role since in highlighting the business case for the 2030 development agenda, including as a founder member of the Business & Sustainable Development Commission. He remains a U.N.-appointed SDG Advocate.

Photo credits: @justinwu

Valerie Keller

IMAGINE Co-Founder and CEO, Valerie Keller helps leaders use their power for good. With deep expertise in transformation, she helps global corporations become purpose-led and future-fit — and convenes cross-sector coalitions to accelerate tipping points for humanity’s Global Goals.

Valerie is also an Associate Fellow of the University of Oxford Saïd Business School where she directs executive education programs.

Founder of Veritas and of Beacon Institute, she served as EY Global Markets Executive Director and CEO of US-based social enterprises addressing homelessness, healthcare and housing.

She was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and serves on the Harvard Kennedy School Women’s Leadership Board. 

Photo credits: @justinwu

Aron Cramer

Aron Cramer is recognized globally as a preeminent authority on sustainable business. In addition to leading BSR, which has grown substantially throughout his tenure as President and CEO, Aron advises senior executives at BSR’s more than 250 member companies and other global businesses on the full spectrum of social and environmental issues.

Aron joined BSR in 1995 as the founding director of its Business and Human Rights Program, and later opened BSR’s Paris office in 2002, where he worked until becoming President and CEO in 2004. Aron serves on advisory boards to CEOs at Barrick Gold, Marks & Spencer, and SAP, and previously for AXA, Shell, and Nike. He is also a director of the Natural Capital Coalition, the International Integrated Reporting Council, and We Mean Business, and serves as a member of the Steering Council for the World Economic Forum’s Board of Stewards of its Future of Consumption System Initiative.

Aron speaks frequently at leading business forums and is widely quoted in top-tier media such as the Financial Times, Le Figaro (France), The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He is co-author of the book Sustainable Excellence: The Future of Business in a Fast-Changing World, which spotlights innovative sustainability strategies that enable business success.

Prior to joining BSR, Aron practiced law in San Francisco and worked as a journalist at ABC News in New York. He holds a B.A. from Tufts University and a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Laura Mackenzie

As Senior Vice President of Global Prepaid for Mastercard, Laura is responsible for developing, executing, leading and adapting the global product strategy for Mastercard’s core prepaid products. In addition, she is responsible for driving product solutions to deliver Mastercard’s commitment to the World Bank to include 500 million people into the formal economy by 2020 through the development and deployment of innovative products and delivery channels.

Prior to this role, she spent 12 years leading Mastercard’s US Merchant acceptance for core merchant verticals. Mackenzie began her career in fashion with luxury global brands Ralph Lauren, Ann Klein and Nicole Farhi before making a move into the financial realm with South African start up joint venture e-commerce companies. She has spent many years living and working overseas in London, Barcelona and Johannesburg.

This episode was made possible thanks to the support of

Special thank you to:


Paul Polman:  00:01 You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I think what we are really seeing in as well to as many people are dreaming for a better world than we have currently.

Valerie Keller:00:09  We were looking at pictures of children as young as four and five who because their fingers are so small, right? They’re able to pick out the metal, right? Nobody wants that.

Paul Polman: 00:20 Obviously, you have leaders and laggers there, but don’t forget they’re all parents. They all have children at home and these children are saying, I don’t want you to be my parents anymore. If you don’t create a future that we can live in.

Valerie Keller: 00:31 If you want to change the trajectory of kind of the collective behavior, sometimes you can actually just shift by the murmuring of a few birds, right? To start till flock starts to move in a different direction. It takes one, two, three to start to tip it.

Paul Polman: 00:42 If you get enough people together in the private sector, you get a collective courageous behavior and we believe, and we’ve already seen some proof of that, that as a result, we can drive the implementation of the sustainable development goals a little bit fast on, hopefully make this world a better place for everybody.

Claudia Edelman: 01:06  Welcome to the Global Goalscast!

Edie Lush: 01:08 The podcast that explores how we can change the world.

Claudia Edelman: 01:12 This episode, we will imagine a different world economy, a world where the biggest industries and corporations work together to redefine globalization. I make capitalism work for everyone that includes cutting carbon emissions and pulling people out of poverty for example.

Edie Lush: 01:30 Remember that song? Imagine from John Lennon [humming] inspired by Yoko Ono. Exactly. Imagine all the people John Lennon saying, no need for greed or hunger.

Claudia Edelman: 01:50  I think that he was calling for the Sustainable Development Goals even before there were Sustainable Development Goals. Every line in that song refers to one or more of the goals. It seems to me, end conflict, eradicate hunger, make it a better capitalism.

Edie Lush: 02:07 And our guest, this episode will tell us why this doesn’t have to be a dream. They’ve started a company to make it happen and they’ve named the company, Imagine.

Claudia Edelman: 02:16 Can I be the official singer of the company?

Edie Lush:  02:18 They actually have official socks, so I don’t know why they wouldn’t have an official singer. I think you’d be great.

Claudia Edelman: 02:25  I can make a … I can go on stage every time Paul Polman wants to…wants to talk. I can be the intro. Why do you need to interrupt Polman if you can sing his intro. There you go.

Edie Lush:02:34 We’re going to talk about all of that and much more right after this.

Transition:  02:39This episode of global goals cast is brought to you by MasterCard. MasterCard is dedicated to building an inclusive world in which the digital economy works for everyone everywhere.

Sponsors: 02:51 So many of the women that we spoke to also have ambitions of their own. They’d like to own land. They’d like to start a business. That’s part of what’s so exciting about this work. We’re not just helping workers get their wages more safely, but we’re including them in the formal financial system.

Transition: 03:09 Later in this episode, you’ll hear about MasterCard’s digital pay project to protect the world’s garment workers. Thanks also to CBS News Digital and Universal Production Music and to Harman, the official sound of Global Goalscast.

Claudia Edelman: 03:33 Welcome back. I’m Claudia Romo Edelman.

Edie Lush:  03:36 And I am Edie Lush. Claudia, you and I have been for two years now sharing stories about the Sustainable Development goals. One question I think tugs on us more than any other. How will we get this done? And then next 10 years.

Claudia Edelman: 03:50  Yes, how will we curve of global warming and eradicate poverty? How are we going to increase gender equality? How are we going to reduce conflict? Especially when so many governments are not doing enough or even worse, taking us in the wrong direction?

Edie Lush: 04:05 Right? US pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords, China building more new coal fired power plants and the entire rest of the world.

Claudia Edelman: 04:14 And the Trade Wars that are happening are undermining the effort to eradicate poverty. So much to do, so little time. But here’s the thing. Governments matter of course, and they are on the growing pressure from the public to do more and more. But the truth is that most of the world’s economy is shaped not only by governments, but by the actions that the industry and big corporations take. Imagine if industry did more.

Edie Lush:04:42 You got it, and I sat down actually in this very studio just the other day with two people, friends of the Global Goalscast who believe that they can make it happen. They’re called Paul Pullman and Valerie Keller .

Claudia Edelman: 04:56 Paul was until recently the CEO of Unilever, one of the largest household and personal product companies in the world. He was widely known for keeping Unilever and its employees focused on making the company be part of the solution and not part of the problem and creating a more sustainable world. As a fact, Edie, he suggested 10 years ago that every brand of Unilever, everyone of them would have a purpose that made it not only a great success financially, but Unilever became the third most desirable company to work for in the world because people care.

Edie Lush: 05:33 And that’s in fact why I started using Unilever products.

Claudia Edelman: 05:37 Is that right?

Edie Lush: 05:38 Back in the day.

Claudia Edelman:05:39 Oh, do you…do you soap it with dove.

Edie Lush 05:41  Deodorant, Dove, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Very loyal to Ben and Jerry’s.

Claudia Edelman: 05:46 It is actually crazy because consumers care and buy with their beliefs and employees. Young people want to work for a company that inspires them. So this raised big anxiety when he decided to retire. Could the sustainable world keep the work going without its main champion. So Paul turn for guidance to Valerie Keller, a well known CEO whisperer coach and leadership expert.

Paul Polman: 06:11  We started working intensively together about a year ago when we were thinking about the transition at Unilever and some people were concerned outside of the company more than inside that if I would retire, that our focus on driving this more sustainable and equitable business model grounded in the sustainable development goals, multi-stakeholder longer term, that that would be challenged

Edie Lush: 06:33 and now is not the time to lose such a powerful force for good. As Paul himself explained,

Paul Polman: 06:38 I think what we are really seeing in as well as many people are dreaming for a better world than we have currently and bringing the sustainable development goals to life. We’re actually well behind on our current trajectory globally. We will only achieved them in 2073 and that’s way too late. Lots of people will suffer or lose their lives as a consequence and fortunately there are many people in the world who don’t want to be part of them, but then we have this dilemma of fine, we know what we need to do and we need to solve issues like climate change and make this world function for more people than we currently do. But collectively we don’t seem to be able to do it. And Imagine is really created to create that collective courage and work at industry level under the premise really that we need the private sector to step up. It’s very clear that moving forward we’re having a little bit of a difficult situation geopolitically, whilst we need the NGOs and trade associations, et cetera, they are not really designed to deliver the step changes. But if you get enough people together in the private sector, you get a collective courageous behavior and with 25 to 30% of a industry sector present around a table, you can actually create tipping points and we believe, and we’ve already seen some proof of that, that as a result we can drive the implementation of the sustainable development goals a little bit faster and hopefully make this world a better place for everybody.

Edie Lush:08:03 You mentioned collective…

Valerie Keller: 08:05  Courageous.

Edie Lush:08:06 courageous collective. What’s interesting about that is that it encourages people to act together, but you also work with leaders to make them more empowered, more excited to take these changes. So how do those two things work together?

Valerie Keller: 08:21 And actually even when we work with leaders, we will usually work in the collective. So Paul mentioned how.

Paul Polman: 08:27 it’s a synergy.

Valerie Keller:08:28 it’s a synergy and it also comes from just a deep understanding of this human operating system. Human beings get courage in the collective. The best image that I might want to think about is this kind of the, the flock of birds. If you want to change the trajectory of kind of the collective behavior, sometimes you can actually just shift by the murmuring of a few birds, right? Just start to flock starts to move in a different direction. It takes one, two, three to start to tip it. Part of it is also about just tapping into the fundamental essence of our human nature. Humans meaning and belonging. We’re hungry for that and the people who make up these CEO and C-suite positions, these executives are human beings. Who fundamentally at some level know what time it is and are deeply concerned about the trajectory of our planet and of course what that means in terms of rising inequality and the kind of social fabric, right? So when you put these people together in conversations, they get higher ambition and collective action. People kept asking me after Paul was leaving Unilever, gosh, do you think Unilever is going to hold the course? Cause we really need them to really prove the model. Right? Why? Because they were looking for more of the collective as well. Safety in numbers. I think one of the interesting learnings was part of the work that Paul and our other co-founder, Jeff Seabright was involved with the consumer goods forum. So we’re looking at, you know, kind of leveraging the learnings about what we’ve seen work well elsewhere, where you’ve been able to kind of bring together CEOs of companies who might otherwise be in competitive spaces and together make decisions on it.

Paul Polman:  09:55 Well, see there are many areas that you don’t want to compete on that if you don’t fulfill them, the whole industry gets pulled down. You’d take plastics as a good example. Now there is a huge issue after David Edinburgh’s on the national geographic issues on the wheel on the beats. I think everybody is now understanding that we need a more circular or regenerative economy and that the fact that we’re heading towards more plastic in the oceans than fish is not a good thing. But any individual company take consumer goods. It’s impossible for these companies alone to set up a recycling industry. They don’t have to scale the knowhow, the capabilities, and it requires working with multiple parties from civil society to governments to companies and others alike. So you need to put these alliances together and that’s obviously very hard work, but if you bring an industry together, you can actually move these things forward as a faster speed. A good example of a, an area that is what we would call pre-competitive.

Edie Lush:10:51  Pre-competitive meaning?

Paul Polman: 10:53  Pre-competitive means that consumers don’t really buy on those criteria in a consumer doesn’t buy a television based on the mechanism for remote control yet it sucks in a lot of energy. If you can put the standards for the industry, there was lower energy use, you’d be better off. So the same as two on ice cream and beverage cabinets. If you take all these cabinets which engines in there to keep it cool, consumers don’t buy a beverage. It’s a Coke or Pepsi or an ice cream like a Magnum or a Ben and Jerry’s based on the engine that is in this cabinet. Now these engines are HFC or CFC. That’s an enormous destructive effect on global warming industry. Got together, decided to move to natural refrigerants, collectively spent money to provide the innovation to get there. Engineers invented less energy use, no HFC or CFC natural refrigerants like ammonia. Big influence on the Kigali agreement which goes back to the Montreal Accords. So the countries didn’t get courage when they see the whole industry moving. So you’re not only in case transform over a period of 10 years to 3 million ice cream cabinets or all these Bedford’s cabinets, but you’re also influencing then at that scale, that public policy and you’re moving faster than any company could have. None alone. It could have never achieved that.

Valerie Keller: 12:07 What’s interesting there is that you say the company’s move or the industry’s move. It’s people, right? We say organizations are made of organisms if you just want to distill it down to that. Right? And so when, when we look at that story and we say, well, how did that happen? Right? So how do we get more of those kinds of collective actions? You would say? Well, there was a guy named Paul, he was at Unilever and then there was a guy named, I don’t know who was it, who was at Nestle at the time,

New Speaker: 12:30 Nestle at that time was Paul Booker.

Valerie Keller:12:30 so it was like, let’s get Paul and Paul on the call and let’s talk together about how when we go in, who’s going to say what first? Right? Who’s going to set the bar high and then we’re going to move it together. I think we often kill ourselves in the notion of systems transformation. We all need to move. No, the flock needs a couple of birds to start to think how do we use our power to start just fly differently? No CEO wants a child in their value chain, in their supply chain to be going to bed hungry. Actually this morning we were with an entrepreneur in the fashion industry and a member of the Royal family who’s really passionate around taking slavery, modern day slavery and ending that and the supply chains and we were looking at pictures of children as young as four and five who because their fingers are so small, right? They’re able to pick out the metal, right? Nobody wants that. Right? So there’s a deliberate conversation that says we don’t have to do it that way. The only reason it’s done that way is just because we’re not being conscious about it and we haven’t decided that we want to do it differently. So I think there’s an important learning for us here that when we do these, let’s just humanize this, let’s simplify it at a certain level and it doesn’t mean that it’s easy, but it can be simple.

Paul Polman:  13:40 We have actually the opportunity to convene in the industries that have the highest impact on the Sustainable Development Goals. And that’s what we have priorized on. We have the possibility to convene about 25 to 30% of the value chain. Partly having been a CEO was the networks that we have created around us. We can bring them actually together. And when you get 25 to 30% of the industry together, and usually they are leading companies by themselves, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. But then the CEOs collectively actually set the bar higher than each of them individually would do. And what you see is when you get 25-30% of the industry together, others actually call in and say, why can’t I be part of that? Because clearly there’s something happening.

Edie Lush: 14:20 It’s like being part of the cool gang.

Valerie Keller: 14:20 Your absolutely right. We say let’s put the cool kids club. and yeah.

Paul Polman:  14:21 and I don’t want to miss the boat. You know, I don’t wanna miss the boat.

Speaker 1: 14:26 And what also happens is then NGOs who have a strategy of attacking each individual company. When they see 25 to 30% together, they say, I want to be part of this journey. I want to influence it, be sure that it happens transparently and to the highest standards, but I want to be part so they become partners. And what we also see is governments become more interesting. So instead of getting these knee jerk reactions in rules, laws and regulations that are basically geared towards the next election cycle are not what we need. You get substansive frameworks that are put in place that are often translated into less regulation.

Speaker 1: 15:02 How do you tackle something like the auto industry? So just taking a a moment in time. For the last couple of months we saw four auto makers reaching agreement with the state of California to limit auto emissions, but then we saw the Trump administration coming in messing that one up, announcing they want to loose their standards, and they began an investigation to see if the auto companies had broken antitrust laws. How do you work with both the companies and then the government to make the right thing happen.

Paul Polman:15:33   While you’re pointing out here, a specific issue was California. Where you have a state was in a country that is more ambitious and a government that has set different targets, often driven by political interest and election cycles. So there is tension sometimes at micro level, but take a step back and look at the car industry. All the major car companies in the world have made commitments to decarbonize and get out of internal combustion engines. It was actually invented by Mercedes. Mercedes has made very aggressive agreements. Some companies by 2025 some by 2030 but it’s moving. Folks who are going just made a commitment to spend over $1 billion in their research to get there. So we see major cities in the world now cities as far as London and Rome and Copenhagen and Brussels, and the list goes on that are putting timelines in place now for being a combustion free and getting into electric vehicles. That’s moving very fast. And obviously you can imagine if these big cities move, then the country’s moving and the thing will spread very quickly. We need to electric grid systems for jotting of these. We need standards on batteries. We need standards on materials being used in recycling and safety standards. So getting collectively together with these industries will allow us to move much faster than you automize would be.

Claudia Edelman: 16:54 When we returned to Edie’s conversation with Paul Polman and Valerie Keller. We will hear how, Imagine is working with a fashion industry to help save the planet and improve the life of its workers.

Edie Lush: 17:07 But first, here’s Laura McKinsey from our sponsor, MasterCard, who’s providing those same garment factory workers, long overdue financial inclusion and a possible future beyond the factories.

Laura McKinsey: 17:21  We know that we can’t do anything without partners that can help us reach and access individual sectors of people. So as we’ve embarked upon our garment program, we’ve established a recent coalition and that coalition at the moment includes industry players like Levi’s strauss, Marks and Spencer in vanity fair corporation and vanity fair corporation is the parent company of brands. You’ll know like North face, Timberland, Jansport and many others and we work with them to identify factories that they use to produce their goods and digitize the wages for those factory workers. We also work in conjunction with a global nonprofit BSR, which stands for Business for Social Responsibility. One of the critical elements of being successful in these pilots is ensuring the financial literacy and education of these workers. Certain workers who have a leadership position and a level of respect within the textile factory community are chosen to be pure leaders and they become the trainers and we bring those folks into the program. We give them access to the card products and the mobile wallets early on so that they can begin to use it and they can then become not only trainers, but evangelists out to their colleagues and their peers in the factory. I had the great good fortune to be in Egypt at one of our factories earlier this summer, and we’ve met with many factory workers. They’re predominantly women, and they’re driven is so many of us are by a deep desire to ensure that their children have good education, can move on to professions. They don’t actually want their children to remain garment workers as they are. They have higher aspirations for them. So many of the women that we spoke to also have ambitions of their own. They’d like to own land, they’d like to start a business. So for me personally, that’s part of what’s so exciting about this work. We’re not just helping workers get their wages more safely, but we’re including them in the formal financial system, which means that they can have savings accounts. Some have access to credit for their business. They can put away funds for their children and their families and they can continue to support their families both locally in and around, but also overseas.

Edie Lush: 19:57 Thanks to Laura McKenzie, she’s senior vice president from our sponsor, MasterCard.

Claudia Edelman:20:02 Now back to Eddie’s conversation with Paul Pullman and Valarie Keller from Imagine.

Speaker 1:   20:09 So what are the industries that you’re working on that will make the biggest difference? Believe it or not, the second most polluting industry from a point of view of climate change, biodiversity oceans, uh, is in fact the fashion industry to many people surprise, but 45% of the plastic you find in the oceans are the microfibers from the clothes and washing that obviously enter into the food chain very quickly and have devastating effects. But also the way that cotton is grown or water use, it’s behind a making of blue jeans and other things is a devastating effect on biodiversity. And then obviously the labor standards in the value chain as we’ve seen in the runup last hours of this world are not up to the standards of what we want our own children to be exposed to. So this industry has worked to do. That’s the first industry we focused on. Now we’re starting to make progress there. The second industry we’re focusing on right now and a relatively limited time we’ve had together is travel and tourism. 10% of the world population is employed in tourism itself. It’s an industry that has so over 320 million people working for them, a tremendous impact. And here again, triple on tourism alone, it’s about a 10% of carbon emissions. So that’s a big industry that we’re focused on. And then fruit

Valerie Keller: 21:25 contributing to biodiversity loss at a rapid rate as well.

Speaker 1: 21:28  And the third industry we focus on is food and land use. 30% of the natural solutions for climate change is the forest side as well. And reforestation. And the way we currently produce food leads to enormous poverty in the value chain once more, but also leads to enormous destruction of the world’s biodiversity was devastating. Climate affects over 20% of the climate effects actually come from food and land use. So if we can tackle those three industries fast as a priority over the next five years to create these tipping points, I think we might not have solved all the problems. We should not be pretentious here, but we might have made a major contribution in accelerating the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Valerie Keller:  22:07 As we’re working with the fashion industry. It feels really great what we’ve been able to help to support and catalyzed and tell us what you have been able to. Sure. I’ll do it because Paul’s too modest. I remember saying, yeah, it’s the industry doing it right. That’s right. President Emmanuel Macron had met with Paul during the UN general assembly a year ago. And we were saying, of course, you know, governments aren’t moving fast enough, but France had the G-7, um, that it was going to be hosting. And so the question was is can we help mobilize the private sector around this kind of public moment? And one of the things that we were looking at already was saying, okay, but where are the industries that really in the companies that can make a big impact? And so fashion well we thought France is fashion, right?and what happened there was really amazing. I mean it’s the first step toward the longer step, but we had 32 companies, 32 companies signed on. Now it’s an open ended, right? It’s optional on a piece. But in terms of really making material commitments around climate regenerative cotton and plastics, big steps in that way, not knowing how they were going to get there, but you know, as we would say and agree with and others have said as well, it’s about acts not packs. The question now is saying, can we help curate a group of CEOs across the value chain? And if I had my magic wand to wave, it would be of course people from mass, the Adidas and the Nike’s of the world. Obviously there’s people who are from the manufacturing and the retailers like Alana with Selfridges and others. But what if I had to wave a magic wand? I’d say we’d put this group together on the floor of the Aral Sea because you can be on the floor of the Aral Sea right now. And when I came into this world, you couldn’t, it was a fourth largest city in the, and why is it now of carcinogenic? Arid forbed that’s lost all the fishing villages and a livelihood. It’s just because of cotton over production. The water was diverted to Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. So it was just scale and bad planning on this. And to help a group of people see something, you can’t unsee and then to say, you know what? We don’t have to do it this way. We can collectively do it better.

Valerie Keller: 24:14 This isn’t a snap your fingers and move to transition overnight. Right. There’s a design to the current system on it and we need to redesign something better. So we’re saying it’s about a five year commitment that we would see minimum five years and maybe of course there’s a 10 year horizon for the global goals and then travel and tourism. I mean, let’s see, the CEOs have been reaching out right? From hospitality, from cruises, from airlines, right? From the travel and tourism operators.

Edie Lush:  24:41 And talk a little more about de-risking because that seems to be one of the things that you guys work on quite strongly. Making CEOs and industry feel like there’s less of a risk, is that right?

Paul Polman:24:54 Well, collectively there is less of a risk if you do it as an industry. If we all move, then you don’t get this a prisoner’s dilemma. If I do it and you don’t do it, I might be at a disadvantage. There is still disbelieve in some of them in the industry that it costs money. In fact, it’s increasingly proven to be the opposite, but having safety in numbers is a very important part to get the industry on board and as we see as fashion as we’re going to see with travel and tourism. That will definitely happen. But the other thing that is far more important that the industry, we have few leaders that are first to engage with governments or to engage with NGOs.

Edie Lush:  25:28  Like what?

Paul Polman:  25:28 Well, many CEOs are busy keeping their companies afloat and they hate to get involved in politics and they don’t really have the skills on how to do that. Because as an individual company, you cannot do that might be some lobbying, but how do you really collectively change the system? It’s very difficult. But if you come together as an industry, 30-40% of an industry, all of a sudden you discuss with governments and Congress good proposals. So this is where Imagine provides that safe space and that is what we call de-risking. And that’s a very important thing right now because what we’re really after is changing the systems and not working in the system anymore.

Valerie Keller: 26:06 I had a one of the world’s largest ice cream brands out with us in Indonesia and we were looking at the largest Buddhist temple and having the conversation around kind of, okay, well what is the need of the world right now? What’s the big challenge that the world needs from us? And if we were to have the courage to put our scale in service of that, and when they redefine it says what we’re up to as being part of the happiness movement. There’s, we’re solving for a deep disconnect that people have with themselves, with their ecology and with societies and we actually are at the grassroots level and have an opportunity to help to solve that. Then the next question comes, it says, well, who else is in the happiness movement? Right? And how can we be a part of actually saying we are here to help accelerate that. So that’s part of saying how you can move from people who are adversaries to allies just by saying we’re redefining the game to say what does the world need from us now and how do we show up in service of that? And that’s a fun game to play too. That’s the other thing. We really have seen this move from sustainability as it’s heavy and hard and don’t do batch, right? There’s a possibility here, and I think this goes back to the sense of, you know the what, when John Lennon and Yoko Ono were gifting to us with the song, “Imagine”, right? There we’re saying imagine all the people sharing all the world. I mean this is not just a pipe dream. It’s what we set our imagination on. We can achieve it. We’ve done that. Humanity has done that over the course of centuries. So what is it that we want to imagine as the possible?

Edie Lush 27:24 I wonder if you imagine sitting down with the oil production majors as well and what might be possible there. I think there was a report the other day saying that by 2030 on current trends, the world be taking more than twice as much fossil fuel out of the ground that can be burned if we’re ever to achieve the Paris climate agreement. So could you imagine, there’s the word, sitting down with the major oil companies to work out a curb on extraction?

Paul Polman: 27:52 The oil industry is obviously a very challenged industry because under the, the privately owned companies or of what you would call the publicly traded companies are probably only 15 to 20% of the whole industry. And it’s a state controlled industry in many cases, which makes it especially difficult because for many of these governments, it’s an enormous source of revenue. So can the industry alone solve that at the speed that is needed is probably difficult. Can we get the industry collectively come together and create a critical mass to drive some changes? I think that is possible. The industry is now coming together and looking at carbon capture storage. They’ve committed 1 billion. That’s probably not enough for what is needed. We have a broad enough coalition now that is calling for carbon pricing. As you know, you need to look at your risks in your value chain. You need to have a carbon price and you need to have, or a cap and trade system and, and uh, and, and to move it forward. So the industry has collective initiatives, but I think increasingly the bar is being set higher. And the question is, can we get them up to that level? And there’s obviously in some of the elements of that industry is still dysfunctional behavior where people have an interest to protect the current system because it’s serving them well. But there are companies within that are making rapidly the transformation. And if we can create some more critical mass around that, I think also that you see this industry being more responsible. Obviously you have leaders and laggers there, but don’t forget they’re all parents. They all have children at home and these children are saying, I don’t want you to be my parents anymore if you don’t create a future that we can live in. They also see the great Thornburns and they’re actually taking off on Fridays to be protesting. So more pressure is coming from them.

Valerie Keller: 29:37 An the insurers are getting on board too, right? So I think that’s also a part of it. You talk about risk, right? And de-risking it well. If you’ve got to start pricing risk and a completely different way, then

Paul Polman:29:44 it’s a big de-carbonization movement happening now. So they feel that pressure. Now what we need to do is work with these companies because they’ve provided energy to us. They’ve given us this tenet of living. There are many people working there, although seven times more jobs get created now in green energy, there’s still many people working in the fossil. So this just transition that people are starting to talk is also extremely important. And to not just go cold Turkey on these companies because we do need energy, but to work with them on an accelerated transition and there the oil companies can probably step up to be more focal in working with governments to create environments that allow that transition to be accelerated. Yeah. So one day although there are lots of efforts going on globally right now, one day. We certainly envision that we apply the imagine learnings that we have right now also to that sector. Yeah,

Valerie Keller: 30:36it’s interesting as I’m thinking back to, and Paul, we were in, um, in Davos actually where we launched soft launched, imagine a little bit, but we had a CEO of Allianz who Paul knows, well Oliver Bate. It’s right on. He was sitting in the conversation and Gillian Tett says actually kind of launching moral money and all of said something really interesting to Jillian. He said, you know, my daughter asked me, dad, are you proud of everything you do? And he attributes that as his moment of going, Hmm, actually let’s go back and have a conversation. So it’s the conversation with yourself. The conversation again about Oliver and his daughter again, this is what he was saying right on the stage and Davos was kind of his, Oh yeah, right now maybe actually no, we could do something different. And he goes back and he has a conversation with his board and his management team and then he asked Paul to come out and have a conversation with his management team.

Paul Polman:   31:26  There was once a year right now, not to be named, but he has all his board members, internal board members to write a letter to their children and what they would be telling their children they would be doing and then converting from those chains. It’s very transformative because it really helps. It really helps.

Edie Lush: 31:46 We’ve talked about climate and infultriating is this other idea about extreme poverty and tackling that as a real issue. So I wonder why for you cutting and eliminating extreme poverty is part of your goal for Imagine.

Speaker 6:   32:02 because they’re two sides of the same coin. In fact, climate change right now is driving more people into poverty. We’re at that tipping point and if you also look in these industries, what you want to solve, let’s take the food and land use industry, 826 million people still going to bed hungry every night, not knowing if they wake up the next day. So you cannot make an industry transformation if you don’t take that into account. At the end of the day, it’s not about solving climate change. At the end of the day, it’s giving a decent life to everybody on this planet earth. There are some simple principles in this world of dignity and respect of equity with a certain level of compassion that comes into that and it then boils down to ensuring that we don’t leave too many people behind. This is now a system where last year, the bottom 3.8 billion people of the world population has seen their income combined code down by 11% it’s the first time that that is happening whilst the billionaires became again 900 billion richer. So if we can find a way to include in these industries more inclusive, it’s also to the interest of the industries because lots of them might be their employees, they might be in their value chains where there are lots of issues in many companies and there might be uh, not only their employees, they’re also their consumers, which is a very important part of that. And obviously the broader society at large needs to function. So having all these businesses really focus on inequality at the same time. It makes a lot of sense in tourism, you see the same thing, a lot of child labor still in tourism that exposes tourism to its negative side. That is actually not helping the industry over time and what you see as if you can attack that by treating these people better, paying these people better and doing that again collectively by having some courage sticking to the ruggy framework of human rights and other areas that you actually lift that whole industry up, make it desirable, make it aspirational, and actually your economics work for you. Then as well, you have a motivated workforce, less a attrition and other things that come in place. But you need to lift the industry collectively because it’s very difficult for each individual company to do that. So whatever sector you look at, be it fashion, be a tourist or travel or be at food and land, use the leaving, no one behind, which is the ultimate goal of the sustainable development goals or attacking this inequality that is there is that very important component.

Valerie Keller: 34:20   This is a not a nice to have. This is a necessity. And so there’s a kind of a moment, there’s a rallying cry is an invitation that says, okay, business leaders, you’re not just business leaders, you are members of tribe humanity.

Claudia Edelman:  34:34  So what is the difference between a courageous collective and a cartel, Edie asks Paul Polman, to answer one of Adam Smith’s , most famous quotes that people have the same trade seldom meet together even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public or in some contrive as to raise prices.

Paul Polman: 34:57 It is good to remind ourselves that before he wrote the a wealth of nations which you referred to in your quote, he actually wrote 17 years before the book of the theory of moral sentiment and people have forgotten that. So I would say first read the book of the theory of moral sentiment. Now there is a truth that the invisible hand will not automatically correct ourselves and there are tragedies of the comments that are increasingly transparent and one of them is that we don’t have a price on these externalities and the resource use earth overshoot day this year was July 29th which means that we use 60% more resources than this earth can replenish. That’s a typical example of the tragedy of comments. So more than will they raise prices or not. I think the markets are transparent and competitive enough to intervene. And we’ve had, uh, enough examples there of government activity, which gets the attention is more as how do we deal with these tragedies of the common and they can only be solved if we have collective action.

Paul Polman: 35:55 And that goes back to the theory of moral sentiment. Ultimately, we have to ensure that we can live together as human beings on this planet now and for generations to come. It’s inconceivable to me that in the last 20 or 30 years, our generation that we have done more damage to this planet than in his previous 5 billion years of existence. What gives us the right to do that? So more and more businesses understand that more and more businesses want to be part of that solution. And in fact, we’re coming to the point where you now see that businesses are probably moving faster to attack. Some of these issues like climate change, then we get governments to do. And it’s now a moment. We’ve benefited from governments for a long time to give us this standard of living. Now it’s actually time for businesses to step up and help these governments and to be more courageous collectively. And that is exactly what we’re going to focus on. And that’s the essence of imagine in action.

Claudia Edelman:36:54 Wow. What an interesting conversation.

Edie Lush:  36:56 And do you see the connection to John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and imagine John Lennon was a poet and poets offer us visions, dreams. That is another poet. Robert Browning once wrote, must exceed our grasp. Poets show us where we could go. CEO’s, leaders like Paul Polman and Valerie Keller try to get us there. Poets are incredibly important. Having that imagination to rethink the problems that we have. When you have a man like Paul Polman that is both a man of action but also a man of ideas, you create traction and movements and people that want to follow. This is part of our movement, isn’t it? I’ll call it the better capitalism movement or the fourth industrial revolution. So everywhere I’ve been recently, Edie, business people, news magazines, everyone has been like, Holy cow, we really need to do something about it. Doesn’t it? We went too far, capitalism has to be rethought and we have to make globalization work for everyone. We have globalized music and sports and trade, but we now have to globalize rights and globalize fairness for everyone. And I think that that’s where the movement is going. However, John Lennon asked us to imagine a world with no need for greed. Right? In a sense, Polman and Keller don’t go that far. They imagine a world with the rough edges kind of smoothed off of greed. A capitalism of where profit is one of several motives. A balance. Yeah. And I think that recognizing the stakeholders the way that the business round table recommended. So in that sense, Paul and Keller are reformers and not revolutionaries.

Speaker 3: 38:43 And I imagine there’s, there were the, again, that those who really want a whole new system will view these as tinkering, could be, or even worse, they will say that a cartel is a cartel. Basically, that’s what Trump is saying about the automakers who made a deal with California to go further than Trump wanted to in curbing emissions. So Paul Polman skirted around that question about Adam Smith’s famous warning that letting the bosses of an industry sit together, even if they say it’s for good will end badly. Yeah, well he will surely get that question again. But Edie, at the same time there’s, those were arguing that capitalism is actually our only hope. Take Andrew McAfee in his brand new book “More from less”. He argues that it is the engine of capitalism, the profit motive, the greed, if you like that better. That will drive innovation and the efficient use of resources that we must have in the next 10 years to reduce our consumption of resources while continuing to improve living standards. So from that point of view, better capitalism is the best path to achieving the SDGs. There is no question that from Korea, Japan, China, editors of he financial times. I went to the Bloomberg New Economy summit. I see that origin, desire, what are the things that need to be done? What is the plan? So the SDGs provide one answer, but there’s a movement out there to restore a fairer globalization for all. Although we still have to break the gridlock that is paralyzing. Many governments, taxing carbon, for example, to cure global warming won’t happen without governments agreeing.

Claudia Edelman:40:26 Pretty much the same story about inequality, which I think is the main driver of losing trust in every institution in the world for the last 20 years. It undermines business governments, everything. Everyone has lost trust in their institutions because of inequality and Keller and Polman were very clear that they recognize that sharing the fruits of industry more widely, reducing inequality and eradicating poverty are essential.

Edie Lush: 40:55  Without that you can imagine much more radical approaches taking hold or just a retreat to short term thinking. Look at what’s happening in China.

Claudia Edelman: 41:04  Yes, exactly. I’m just coming back from China as I mentioned, and it’s so complicated and it’s so interesting to see China and climate change as a way to explore how complicated is to achieve these goals and to really move the needle for things like climate change. So they are a leader in solar energy and renewables. The vice chairman was at the Bloomberg new economic forum expressing justified pride saying we are on track for the Paris Accords. And nevertheless, you know, like it’s complicated because there’s also building more coal plants and the rest of the world. And why is that? Because they’re worried about their economy too. And that is where I worry, Edie, that we’re putting too much on the plates of corporations.

Speaker 3: 41:46 We’re expecting a lot, but no one really knows how much corporations can really achieve. Take it on climate change. It really in order to solve the issue of climate change, you need all the political will, the policies, but also trillions and trillions and trillions of dollars. Not even if you put all the budgets of all the corporations of the world together, you would get that amount of money. And also no one has really measured what can really be achieved by corporation when it comes to the SDGs. So there may be an elution that they can do more that what they really can. That is right. And I’m sure at Claudia that we’re going to be back to this discussion in future episodes.

Edie Lush: 42:27 For this episode’s facts and actions section where as you know, we give you three facts that you can take away and look smart in front of your mother-in-law at the Christmas dinner table.

Claudia Edelman: 42:36 And impress her tick-tick bye mother-in-law tick, tick. Happy New Year.

Edie Lush:   42:41 And three actions you can take. If you want to go and do more, we turn to one of the experts on sustainable business.

Erin Kramer:  42:51  Hi, I’m Erin Kramer, the president and CEO of BSR, and I want to share with you three facts and three actions to help meet the moment that we face the decisive decade of the 2020s as we aim to accomplish the sustainable development goals. So first three facts. Well, just this week we’ve heard from the UN that the world needs to reduce emissions 7.6% per year during the 2020s in order to keep warming below 1.5 degrees. That is an urgent call to action. Secondly, let’s talk about income inequality. And as Oxfam has said, incoming equality continues to grow. We saw a wealth of the richest around the world grow by over 10% and the wealth of the 4 billion people with the least declined by over 10% in the last year. One fact, that’s good news though that I think is worth pointing out. We now have more than a hundred companies and I think we’ll see that number grow by the end of 2019 who’ve committed to a target of 1.5 degrees.

Speaker 7:  44:00 And we’ve also seen two of the six largest economies in the world, California and the United Kingdom commit to net zero by 2050 so three facts. Two of them I think tell us the urgency we need to work with and one of them is a sign of real progress. So three actions. Let’s talk about climate. And I would underline the fact that having companies commit to get all of their operations, including their supply chains at a 1.5 degree target, that’s become the new normal. Let’s companies really embrace that as we go into 2020. Second one is we badly need innovation in order to achieve the sustainable development goals. But right now, people don’t trust innovation. They don’t trust it because they see new business models, new technologies very often violating human rights or getting out beyond ethical principles that are broadly shared. So we need innovation that takes human rights, takes ethics into account that will ensure that we get the new kinds of products and services and business models and partnerships that we need to achieve the SDGs.

Speaker 7: 45:06Third action companies need to lend their voice in public policy debates. Governments around the world are retreating from climate commitments. They’re interfering with enjoyment of human rights. The business community has an important megaphone, has influence using it in order to ensure that we have public policies that create the right kinds of incentives for the right kinds of businesses to succeed and thrive and deliver on the SDGs. That central, it’s not too political, it’s absolutely important. So those are three facts and three actions as we head into the 2020s the 10 years when we need to deliver on the SDGs and the vision of the Paris agreement,

Edie Lush:45:50  Thanks to Aaron Kramer from BSR. BSR is a not for profit that has been advising businesses and industries on sustainability for 25 years.

Claudia Edelman: 46:00 For more from BSR, you can read Aaron Kramer, CEO it is cold and new climate for business.

New Speaker: 46:11 You don’t need to be a meteorologist to know which way the wind blows.

Claudia Edelman: 46:16  Our Global Goalscast playlist is coming together. John Lennon, Bob Dylan, who else? Annie Lennox of course, of course. Yeah. No and I, with our partnership with universal, we’re going to have even more artists coming your way.

Edie Lush: 46:28 Artist.

Claudia Edelman: 46:28  Artistas.

New Speaker: 46:28  So send us your suggestions, the listeners for our Global Goalscast SDGs playlist to us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Now I do think it’s a great idea to do a great playlist of the songs that are like spelling out how to change the world and make it a better place. Yeah. So the global goals guest playlist, including some Christmas carols.

Claudia Edelman: 46:51 There you go. Send us your suggestions and talking about carols, can we mention that? Um, I met with the head of communications of the Financial Times and she mentioned that the carols that her toddler is learning in school is no more jingle bells, jingle bells or you know, like Twinkle Twinkle. And so one old this goodies she’s learning carols of recycle and oceans and you know like save the planet.

Edie Lush: 47:15 Right.

New Speaker:  47:15 Turning England, you know,

Edie Lush:  47:18 Into young activists.

Claudia Edelman: 47:19 There you go.

Edie Lush: 47:19 I love it.

Claudia Edelman: 47:20  Yeah, all of those playlists are accepted as well. All the activist carols will accept those into our Spotify playlist.

Edie Lush:  47:29 Thanks to Claudia for coming to London to see me and record this and our thanks to Paul Pullman and Valerie Keller for sitting down with us and sharing their story. We will no doubt be hearing more from them in future episodes and thanks to you for listening please like and subscribe as we iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts from and follow us on social media @Globalgoalscast. See you next time.

Claudia Edelman:  47:55 Adios.

Edie Lush:  47:55   Adios, Happy holidays, whatever you celebrate. But do celebrate something, we have much to celebrate!

Outro: 48:02  Global Goalscast was hosted by Edie lush and Claudia Romo Edelman. We are editorial guru by Mike Oreske editing and sound production by Simon James. Our operations director is Michelle Cooprider and our interns, Tina Pastora and Brittney Segura. Music in this episode was courtesy of Universal Production Music, one of the world’s leading production music companies, creating and licensing music for use in film, television, advertising, broadcast, and other media, including podcasts, original music by Neil Hale, Angelica Garcia, Simon James, Katie Crone, and Andrew Phillips. This episode is brought to you by MasterCard, creating scalable solutions for sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Thanks. Also, CBS News Digital and Harmon, the official sound of Global Goals