Unilever chief executive Paul Polman has fired a warning at business leaders that make short-term profit the sole measure of company performance.
Polman told the Financial Times that focusing on driving shareholder value in the short term was misguided and put the long-term future of companies at risk.
“It’s easy to be a short-term hero,” he said. “It is very easy for me to get tremendous results very short-term, get that translated into compensation and be off sailing in the Bahamas.”
Polman said sustained success was derived from giving value to consumers.
“I drive this business model by focusing on the consumer and customer in a responsible way,” he added. “I know that shareholder value can come.”
Polman took control of Unilever in early 2009 amid City criticism of the fmcg giant for years of slow growth. The Pot Noodle maker's share price has risen in the past year from under £13 per share to nearly £20.
However, in February Unilever announced full-year results showing profits down €2bn, as sales slipped by 1.7%.
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Love it or hate it: Unilever’s 2009 results divide opinion (13 February 2010)