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tv   Bloomberg Best  Bloomberg  February 13, 2016 3:00pm-4:01pm EST

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>> eater teal is one of silicon valley's most contrarian investors. he made his name founding paypal and funding facebook. he is backing rocket ships, d.n.a. manipulation, and a startup island. he has paid kids to skip college and start companies instead in hopes of reaching a better future pastor -- faster and building flying cars along the way. joining me today, the bold venture capitalist and author of
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the new book. "0 to 1" what does that mean. peter: it means going to the first car, the first airplane, doing something never done before. it will require us to do new things, to invent new things. what companies have taken us from zero to one? peter: facebook, twitter. emily: you argue we have been in a tech slowdown. have they not been innovative enough? as a society, i would argue we have not done as much as we could have. energy, biotechnology, there has not been as much as one might like. transportation, not moving faster. emily: one thing you tell inspiring -- aspiring entrepreneurs is not to copy larry zuckerberg or steve jobs. why not?
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page will next larry not be starting a search engine. the next bill gates will not start an operating system. in some sense, you cannot copy them because they did not copy summary else. emily: you also suggest they come up with one important truth that very few people agree with you on. why is finding something that nobody agrees with you on the best way to get everyone to believe in you? peter: i think great companies have a sense of mission, there's a sense that if we were not doing this, nobody else would be doing this. and you will be a monopoly in the good sense of an inventor. that is the best kind of business to have. emily: you say google is a monopoly. peter: it obviously is. ofdon't talk about the 98% revenues that come from search, which is where they have a monopoly. ebay has a monopoly in the auction space.
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amazon has a monopoly of scale in e-commerce. there are still emerging competitors in the social networking space every year. i see twitter, snapchat, all these companies emerge on a continual basis. emily: do you have concern companies like google, facebook, apple, amazon, could become so powerful they stifle innovation? this does not happen a lot in the technology area because there has been enough innovation to keep things flowing. they: do you think someday will not be as dominant as they are? peter: i think they will be dominant for a while. i think they are all great businesses. but i don't think they will be dominant forever. emily: do you see one becoming more dominant than the rest? peter: if i had to pick one, i
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think of google as the one on an incredible arc at this point. i think that search monopoly is powerful and they are trying to extend it to other areas. emily: they are exploring so many different things. robotics, self-driving cars. peter: absolutely. as a business matter, these are attempts to extend the search monopoly. i think self-driving cars would change transportation may be as much as the development of the car itself. emily: you compare repelling startups to colts -- cults. they should not be like colts in the sense of believing something that is wrong. but it is always a good sign there is an intense understanding of something true that very a few other people do. spacex is motivated
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by the idea and will build rockets that will get human beings to mars in 15 years or so. it is unusual. it is a unique set of ideas that motivate people and distinguish them from the rest of the world. emily: something else you say is a messed up startup cannot be successful. why not? peter: foundations are incredibly important. if you get first things wrong, it is hard to recover. emily: i'm guessing you don't think messed up startup companies can be fixed. can yahoo! and h.p.v. fixed? peter: i would argue they are not really technology companies at all. they were in the 1970's and 1980's with h.p. and even the 1990's with yahoo! even though these were theyology companies, today
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are vets against technology and innovation. emily: even though they are not technology companies, can they be saved? peter: there are things that can be done to streamline them. to radically try to reinvent themselves and become technology companies again. emily: you mentioned marissa mayer. what do you think her chances are? she is by far the best c.e.o. yahoo! has had in at least a decade. i think she should not be evaluated on whether she invents something new. that is setting her up for failure. the existing businesses are big. you can improve those incrementally and make them work. that is fantastic. emily: other than what you have written in this book, what are some things that you believe that very few people agree with you on? peter: certainly an issue i have been quite spoken about is this idea that college education has become something of a bubble. with of student debt, we are not $1 trillion getting what we are paying for. and it needs to be rethought in
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a really fundamental way. emily: if you could start education over again, what would you do? peter: get rid of the word "education" to start with. emily: would there be no schools? peter: i think you would still have schools, but they might look very different. i mean, they are stuck in the 19th century. i think you would try to figure out ways to make them individuated, where different students learn at their own pace. emily: you do have the thiel fellowship. basically you give aspiring entrepreneurs some money to not go to school, and to start companies instead. i know some of those entrepreneurs have gone back to school. why do you think that is? peter most of them have not. : it was designed as a two-year program in which people could take a break from college. i think they have, across the board, found it to be an incredibly valuable learning experience. you know, i went to stanford, i went to law school. i might do that again. emily: i was going to ask, would you do it over? peter: if i did it again, i would ask a lot more tough questions, why i was doing it. emily: would you be where you are if you do not go to stanford
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undergrad and law school where you met the paypal mafia? peter: you can never run these experiments twice. i think having on to stanford and having met a lot people there was invaluable. but i wonder, had i gone to any other university, that may have actually discouraged me from going into tech. emily: what else would you may want to do? peter: i would be tempted to be a teacher. emily: the guy who wants to get rid of education wants to be a teacher. peter: i am not against learning, i am against education. emily: of the six people who built paypal, four had built bombs in high school. peter: i was not one of those four. [laughter] emily: who built the bombs if it wasn't you? ♪
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♪ emily: something that you talk about is the danger of founders becoming captive to their own myth. what is the myth of peter thiel and what is the reality? peter: the myth of all of these founders is that it is somehow
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singular and that they are somehow these divine, omnipotent beings. any of these things that i am doing are not solo efforts. i have friends who i talk to a lot. there are people i talk to -- there are people i work with closely. emily: i am curious about your background, and what has shaped your views along the way. i know that you were born in germany and moved around a lot, you went to south africa and namibia. tell me about your upbringing. peter: i went to seven different elementary schools as a kid, and so i felt a little bit like an outsider and something of an insider. there was some kind of a combination of outsider-insider perspective that i think shaped things -- shaped things a lot. emily: what were your parents like? peter: my dad was an engineer. my mom ended up being a homemaker after i was born. they were focused on education. emily: you were raised an evangelical christian and questioned things like evolution? peter: i still consider myself a christian and i think there is something quite valuable to have -- in having a very different
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perspective on things, because it pushes you to either defend your ideas really well or to have a much deeper understanding of why they are wrong. emily: on paper you worked in a new york law firm and you worked on wall street. it sounds pretty standard. where was the contrarian in you? peter: you could see ahead what people would be doing a decade from now, and there was a sense that i couldn't see myself as being happy doing this. emily: was there any event in life or something that triggered you to start down a different path? peter: it was a bit of an evolution. i could certainly point to late nights at the law firm where i was asking myself, what am i doing here? emily: from the paypal mafia to the people you have met since, who do you call for what? peter: there is something about the set of my friends from paypal, where this is an intense experience and i think those bonds will never quite be matched in their intensity. emily: the first line in chapter 14 is, "of the six people who founded paypal, four had built
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bombs in high school." peter: i was not -- i was not one of those four. [laughter] peter: but i think there is something that always is quite extreme about the personalities that go in to starting up a company. emily: so building a bomb is a good thing? peter: it's not a good thing. having extreme personalities is a somewhat good thing. emily: who built the bombs? if it wasn't you? peter: i'm not going to -- you have to choose four of the remaining five. emily: as successful as so many members of the paypal mafia have been, you have also said that paypal was a failure. why? peter: it was a failure in that we did not achieve our original vision of a completely new currency system for the world. emily: what about bitcoin? does that get closer to what you imagined? peter: i am probably psychologically biased against it. if we could not succeed at paypal, i would be tempted to come up with reasons why nobody would succeed at it. emily: you think that chances of
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it succeeding are unlikely? peter: my sense of it is it is still slightly too cumbersome to work as a new payment system. emily: you were the first outside investor in facebook. did mark convince you to invest or did you convince him? peter: i suppose some combination of both. at the time, it felt like a no-brainer to do it. the company was growing fast. they needed more money for computers. i convinced them i would be relatively hands-off. emily: do you worry facebook could get distracted? internet.org. virtual reality. peter: it is always a challenge. you have to do is things, -- you have to do some new things because you are not in a static world, and you don't want to do too many. so you want to do just the right number of things. emily: palantir. this is a company -- customers include the cia and the air force, yet there is so much mystery around it. as i understand it, it is using data on a massive scale to solve major problems from disease to terrorism.
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peter: right. and it is always an interactive problem where part of the data can be processed by computers and then part of it can best be analyzed by humans. one reporter who looked into it concluded that it was used in the bin laden raid and was critical in connecting all the dots in finding him at the end of the day. emily: do you think palantir could stop the next 9/11, or has it already? peter: something like it is the key to stopping major terrorist attacks. i don't think we are going to do it by projecting military force throughout the world, i think we will do it by sort of very cleverly uncovering these conspiracies before they come together. emily: some have expressed concern that your clients could use palantir to do evil things? do you worry about that? peter: there is always a two edged part to these technologies. you know, technologies are never intrinsically good. there is always a question of how they can be used or abused. i think there are a lot of checks in place.
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emily: someone described it as plugging into the matrix. peter: one government agency that gave us a bunch of data, and during the demo we uncovered a terrorist plot they had not suspected existed. this led them to conclude they had to reclassify data as classified. emily: would you say it has helped thwart multiple terrorist plots? peter: i suspect that is true. emily: what is the craziest sector that you might enter that we wouldn't expect? peter: one that we started to look at, at the margins, that is wildly out of fashion is the nuclear power industry. is it possible to build safer, cheaper, better reactors with all of these new technologies? and when you look at the technologies, it actually looks like the answer is definitely yes. i am very worried about the regulatory issues with it. but i think it is worth tackling that some more. emily: i want to talk to you a little bit about your vision of the future and man versus machine.
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you're not so worried that computers are going to take our jobs? peter: not anytime soon. i think -- i think technology has generally freed people up to do other things. emily: at some point though, you actually say in the 22nd century, computers could become smarter than us. peter: there is always an interesting sort of debate. what will happen -- will artifical intelligence actually get smarter than humans and how will that change things? i don't think that will happen for a long time, but i think if and when it happens, the primary questions are not economic but political and cultural problems. i think it is like having extraterrestrials landing on this planet. if we had aliens landing on this planet, we would not ask the first question, what does this mean for my job? we'd ask, are they friendly or not friendly? emily: what is the most audacious question you have pondered about how humans could potentially survive in the future? peter: we should give nuclear power very serious
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consideration, since it does not emit greenhouse gases. colonizingt about other solar systems? but it is going to happen? peter: it is going to happen. emily: is mars going to be first? peter: there are a lot of things about mars that make it the natural other planet, in the system, yes. emily: you ponder several different futures, including human extinction. what are the possibilities of that? peter: well, just think about it. what are the right things we need to be doing? what are the technologies we need to develop? we need to stay focused on that and i think our prospects are very good. emily: one of the things you have invested in is a startup island off the coast. what is the vision there? peter: this is sort of a very small side project. the question is is it possible , to create some new communities ? if we could start a new society that would have very different rules and be able to govern itself? this is still far in the future, but it has pulled in a lot of people. emily: so you imagine this being another country? peter: it would be another
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country, and it would cost tens of billions to build, more capital than i have. but there is nothing that makes it impossible. emily: you think that you may live to be 120. peter: i certainly hope to, yes. ♪
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♪ emily: you have been portrayed on the hbo show "silicon valley." this island has been portrayed on the hbo show "silicon valley." have you watched it? peter: i have seen a few of the episodes. they would dispute they were portraying me on that show. emily: he is called peter gregory. he invested in an island. peter: they would still dispute that. i think the character gives a compelling portrayal of someone
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who is passionate about the future, determined to make things happen. people that are driven, slightly crazy in ways. i think overall it is a positive show. emily: can you really grow meat and leather in a lab? peter: yes, you can. it is not clear people will eat it. emily: failure is okay, right? peter: this idea that failure is ok is one of the more destructive memes in the valley. i think that failure is always a problem. when a company fails it is always a tragedy. it is often damaging for the people who go through it. emily: what is your biggest failure? peter: there are definitely some things that have worked better than others. there are investments that have failed. but, on the whole, i have always been resilient. i always have come back. emily: i know you have thought a lot about the extension of human life. and you think that you may live until 120. peter: i certainly hope to, yes. emily: what are you doing differently? are you taking immortality pills? some super exercise regimine?
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peter: i have invested in biotechnology companies. i think on the nutrition side, there are some very basic things that can be done. you should not eat sugar. that is the one nutritional rule. emily: do you not eat sugar? peter: i still eat some, but not as much as i used to. emily: what do you need more of? what do you eat more of? peter: i do the paleo diet. that does not get you to 120. the caveman diet does not get you to 120. i think he will need new technology and innovation for us to have both longer and healthier lives. emily: new technology like what? peter: we need cures for cancer, alzheimer's, find ways to restore organs when they are falling apart. just, you can go through the ways bodies break down. we need to find ways to reverse them all. the main, drastic thing i am doing, is i am on hgh, the human growth hormone stuff, on a daily basis. emily: really? what is the benefit of that?
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peter: it helps maintain muscle mass, so you are much less likely to get, like, bone injuries, arthritis, stuff like that as you get older. there is a worry, does it increase your cancer risk. emily: you are not concerned about that? peter: i am hopeful we will get cancer cured in the next decade. the other big nutrition thing that is happening is all of the stuff on the biome level, where you have as many bacteria inside of you as you have cells. one of the things that will happen in the next few years is people will figure out ways to reset your bacterial ecosystem. you can look at people who are super healthy, you can figure out what ecosystem they have and replace yours with theirs. emily: peter thiel, thank you so much for joining us today on "studio 1.0," it has been great to have you. ♪
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the conference call. the ultimate arena for business. hour after hour of diving deep, touching base, and putting ducks in rows. the only problem with conference calls: eventually they have to end. unless you have the comcast business voice mobile app. it lets you switch seamlessly from your desk phone to your mobile with no interruptions.
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i've never felt so alive. make your business phone mobile with voice mobility. comcast business. built for business. ♪ francine: it is ranked as one of the top companies in the world to work for, and its products are used by of us every day. 2 billion in just over five years since becoming ceo, paul polman has tied unilever's core strategy to having a positive impact on the environment. in an exclusive interview, i speak with him about sustainability, cop 21, and what it takes to be a good leader. thank you so much for speaking to bloomberg. there is a lot of talk about sustainability. what is your biggest hope for sdg? paul: well, i'm actually very confident that we will, first of all, we have an agreement on the sdgs, where we have the 17 goals
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and 169 targets. in this decade, we have seen a few forces coming together. planetary boundaries starting to show up. nearly every week, you see a disaster hitting our planet, and in terms of our scarce resources, we see poverty, we see the migration issues in europe. all of these problems are exactly what is being addressed in the sdg's. which is how do we alleviate poverty now, once and for all, in a more sustainable and equitable way. and business wants to be part of that. because no business has a case -- making a case out of enduring poverty. if the societies don't function, then it is very difficult for business to function as well. francine: it looks good to say that. are you confident that actually businesses will really translate into something concrete for their own businesses? paul: most businesses are already. because if you go back to the real reason for business -- and i'm sure there are exceptions -- but the real reason for business is to really solve some of these problems that are out there in society. the problems of food security, the problems of access to water, the problems of climate change.
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although they are challenges, are at the same time enormous opportunities to invest behind. technology allows us to do that now. and funding ultimately has to come from business for a great part of that. business is about 60% of the global gdp. 80% of the financial flow. and 90% of the job creation, these days. so if business does not get involved, i do not think we will even achieve these objectives. and responsible business people increasingly realize, not only from a moral or humanity point of view, that this is the right thing to do, that it's actually good for business. francine: why is it good for business? paul: well, if you look at our business and the food business, if you would not tackle the issues of climate change, for example, you would probably see such a high volatility in supply. you might not even have supply as it moves around the world, that your business model is put at risk. you can see enormous parts of the world where people are not participating. in these parts of the world, you cannot sell your products. businesses increasingly see that
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it just makes sense to help be part of the solutions. francine: they do see it, but the problem is that it is often longer term. right? and when you have shareholders, you have pressure. and there's -- capitalism needs to be inclusive. but, again, was there a certain momentum that you think businesses mean business now? and want this to change instead of four or five years ago. paul: often, the shareholder pressure is confused with the short term. i think we should really put these two apart. there is a short-term pressure, which certainly isn't healthy. the average length of a company's life is only 18 years. a lot of companies run themselves on quarterly profits or guidance that they give, and it results, sometimes, in dysfunctional decisions. if you want to solve these longer-term issues of food insecurity, employment, climate change, access to water, then obviously, it requires a longer-term. now this longer-term is actually in the interest of shareholders, provided you are a long-term shareholder.
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we make long-term decisions in our factories, where the payouts come after five, six years. or in our i.t. systems, our investments in people. why not do that in something that is even more important, which is the investment in humanity and our planet. increasingly, businesses see good reasons to do that. the technology is there. the financing is obviously there. the opportunities are there. actually, the alternatives of not doing it is starting to cost business more. when you have parts of the world -- let's take the drought in são paulo, not long ago. where their water reserves are only one third what they should be. which is not a very good situation. the hydro dams do not give helio electricity. people do not have the water. when they do not have the water, they don't take the showers, they don't wash their hair, their electricity stops a few times during the day, if you have ice cream cabinets like us. so business sees these costs of these failures earlier than anyone else. and the solutions to avoid this often are enormous business
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opportunities. you see? the people that go to bed hungry are enormous opportunities to grow the market for food. 160 million people, there are enormous opportunities to provide nutrition and prevent that stunting, etc. these are really business opportunities. francine: in paris, do you think this year we are going to get an agreement? paul: oh, you will get an agreement in paris. and the reality is a lot of work has happened in lima, where the framework was put in place. good discussions in addis ababa for the financing for development. in fact, we should not forget that even today, the deadline is the first of october. when these countries can put in their individual national-determined contributions. or what they call "indc's". awful word, but that's what it is. we currently already have 58 countries that have submitted, and the 58 countries that have submitted is about 70% of the carbon emissions. we are waiting for some big countries like brazil and india, but there is some encouraging noise coming from there as well. i was in brazil just three weeks ago.
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i was in india a few months ago. so we are waiting for that. what you see of all these submissions that are being done, that we more or less can get to 30% or 40% of what i believe is needed. there has never been an agreement, globally, in the first place. let alone an agreement for 30% or 40%. which, frankly, is more than anybody have thought. francine: you would be happy with 30% or 40%? paul: no, that is a starting point. the agreement in paris will probably make a commitment, like the g7 did when they were in germany, of net zero emission by the end of the century. which i, personally, think is too late. but let's at least have a point. that is very important for business. because once that clear agreement is reached, business has a framework to invest against. and when you have a framework to invest against, investments to accelerate this conversion to a carbon free society will go faster. francine: why are you confident we will have agreement? it has taken us, what, seven years? paul: this is cop 21. the "21" stands for something. that's how long we've tried it.
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francine: so why number 21? paul: because finally, we have realized it's time to move. we never thought the effects as much as we start seeing them now. francine: coming up, we continue the conversation on sustainability. i challenge the ceo of unilever over consumer choices, responsible purchasing power, and the bottom line. paul: it is our duty as ceos in this world to set an example and be sure that we are not given by the shareholder primacy. that we are driven by the needs of these consumers. francine: back in a few minutes with more on that exclusive conversation with unilever ceo paul polmon. ♪
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♪ francine: in 2015, unilever was awarded the top ranking prize in the sustainability leaders' survey for the fifth consecutive
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year. paul polman, the ceo of unilever, speaks to me exclusively about how this has shaped the business. do you believe that, for example, your customers want a company that is more sustainable? i have always been told -- actually some of your rivals -- say, well, everybody would love, for example, a shampoo that does good, but then when it comes to choosing the shampoo that gives you glossy hair or that does good, we always tend to choose the one that gives us glossy hair. paul: that sentence i would not disagree with, but that's actually not the right comparison. obviously, you need to provide a product that performs, and you need to provide it at a cost that is affordable. that is the job of any company to do that, in any industry. once you have do that, consumers really differentiate. would you want to buy from the company that has child labor in its value chain? would you want to buy from a company that does not have sustainable practices? would you want to buy from a company that is more of a problem or contributes to the
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issues of society, not to the solutions that are provided? and increasingly, citizens of this world, again with the benefit of the transparency of the internet, are able to separate. and we see that in our own company. the expectations also go up. this is a moving thing. we, for example, moved from 10% sustainable sourcing of our agricultural base materials to now 55%, 60%. a tremendous improvement. what took us 150 years, we have done in the last five years five times. francine: why? paul: because we have put a new business model in place. we put our emphasis against that. we saw the importance of being closer in to our value chain. to better manage these volatilities. to ensure it is a more equal value chain. we have made changes in our business model, but, even though you have done five times more in the last five years than the previous 100 years, let's say, the expectations of consumers go up again. they say it's fine that you are at 60%, but what about the other? it is fine that you have better wages in your value chain, or
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better conditions, but are these conditions good enough? it is a continuous, moving playing field that you deal with. francine: and this is, you think, because of social media and the fact that people share more information? is there a specific age group that is maybe more militant in wanting these kind of sustainability goals? paul: if you see in the absence of government, really, because the world has become so interdependent -- financial systems, technologies, etc. -- it is very difficult for governments, which are basically still under a system of bretton woods of 1948. where some institutions were designed, good institutions, at the time when 80% of the world was in europe and the u.s. now that the world is much more global, we have seen a shift to the south and the east. these institutions have not really adjusted. that is why we have such a challenge in global governance. but it is a challenge for all of us. it is not really to blame the politicians for that. what you really see is that business then has to step up and de-risk that political process. what you see, that citizens in this world -- wealth might be
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concentrated in a few people, now, which is not good, 70% of the citizens of this world have access to a mobile phone. over half of them have access to the internet. 40% to 50% of the phones are smartphones. increasingly, they realize that they are connected. and there are enormous movements happening that actually drive change. in any country in the world. there are many examples of that. the group that really drives it are actually the millennials. if you ask the millennials, very few, actually, a minority, want to work for big corporates because of an issue of trust or transparency. the same as they would say about governments. so people will not be able to attract the talent if they don't make a responsible business model. millennials also say it is fine. that we have a certain level of well-being. but what i'm really looking for is a little bit more meaning. a little bit more purpose. they tend to look and seek companies that have that purpose. so putting that business model in place, like we did with unilever's sustainable living
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plan, we surged to now being the third most looked up company on linkedin after google or apple. or getting over a million people applying to us every year. and when we look at these people who come in, in the engagement scores that we get, we see that it is certainly driven by a purpose-driven business model. so attracting the right people, energizing the right people, are key ingredients for long-term success of a company. then, having more goals out there that you share with society in transparency. what is your water footprint? what is your carbon footprint? not only makes that -- makes you more accountable because of that transparency, but it also actually gives more information to the financial markets, in which case there is a lower risk for them. and probably a lower cost of capital, which ultimately results in a higher return as well. francine: but not many people understand that. so when you talk about purpose-built business model, does this come from you because you've always been passionate about? does it come from you in the last year?
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was there a turning point? where you thought, "actually, this has to be done for myself and my business?" paul: i've always felt that we are not sitting here for ourselves. the role of business, really, is to serve society. that's how lord lever started when he invented the lifebuoy soap, which he even called "lifebuoy". was really in victorian britain, one out of two babies did not make it past the age of one because of issues of hygiene. the issues have just moved to sub-saharan africa or parts of india. so our business is very much a business that adresses these basic issues of society, which is really the sustainable development agenda. and i think it is our duty as ceo's in this world to set an example and be sure that we are not driven by the shareholder primacy, but that we are ultimately driven by the needs of these consumers. and if we cater to them very well, the business will perform. as unilever has shown until now. francine: but you must be disappointed that not more ceos think like you? paul: well, you should not sit here and get frustrated by the
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attitudes of others or the speed with which things move. you should just continue to focus on bringing the right people together, creating these tipping points, and moving these barriers. sometimes, yes, you would think, "why can we move faster?" or "why aren't more people doing this?" but who am i to judge? the better thing is to show that we can have a business model where we actually do well, but also do good for our shareholders and all the other stakeholders. and the more we do that, we see other people enroll. and the role of a ceo has quite drastically changed, actually, over the last few years. one of these reasons that you see short tenure of ceo's, which is now 4.5 years for the fortune companies, is really because a lot of the ceo's are not equipped for the challenges of today's world. so you cannot -- francine: which are what? paul: more complex, faster moving. issues of water, energy, food. you know, you squeeze a balloon on one side, and it pops up on the other side.
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the need to work in partnership is not something that comes that easy to everybody. you need to navigate the field of governments, of civil society. having a longer-term view when there are lots of pressures on you that would point you to the shorter term. some people have more capabilities to move these boundaries or overcome that than others. you need to help each other. so we have a lot of initiatives to enroll others to move forward. francine: next, we continue the conversation with paul polman, the ceo of unilever, about leadership and key values. paul: to me, a leader is not just because we happen to have this job. i also think a leader is not necessarily someone who leads from the front. a good leader these days is somebody who leads from the back like a shepherd with the sheep. francine: more from that exclusive interview, next. ♪
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♪ francine: welcome back to leaders with me, francine lacqua. unilever is ranked as one of the top companies in the world to work for. its products are used by two billion of us, every day. in the final part of my conversation with paul polman, we discuss leadership. paul: leaders, to me, are not related to a level in the company or a title. for example, the medical community that immediately went to west africa at the risk of their own lives to fight ebola, those are real leaders to me. i work a lot with the blind and deaf, people who put themselves 24 hours to the availability of these people with disabilities. at pittance compensation. those are real leaders to me. the teachers in schools. and often, in fact, the teachers, the nurses, these
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people that are real leaders that positively impact others, are undervalued, strangely enough. so, to me, a leader is not just because we happen to have this job. i also think a leader is not necessarily only somebody who leads from the front. a good leader in today's world probably leads more from the back than the front, like a shepherd does with his sheep. ultimately, i hope they say for me not that they like or love me or all the other things, but i would hope at least to say that there is a respect. because ultimately, i think in the jobs that we do, these are very challenging jobs, to some extent. it also means that most of the decisions you are involved in are decisions that are not that easy. that have pluses and minuses. otherwise, they would not arrive at you. so you tend to, you know, not make friends. if you try to make friends, you will not do your job very well. i always say, "if you want a friend, get a dog." because in these jobs, you have to be often making tough decisions without having all the facts. that is why it is so important to be purpose driven. because that is probably the only beacon that you can have.
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your own true north to help you navigate an increasingly more volatile environment. francine: how much do you think about the world? about making the world a better place? do you remember the -- was it a day or a week -- at what age did you start thinking, actually, this is important for the generations ahead? paul: to me, it has always been important. because that's how i grew up. i was born after the second world war. my only goal of my parents, who had to work very hard, because university was deprived from them, and other things, was to have their six children, give them a better future. to have peace in europe. and they were tremendously involved in community activities. they met in boy scouts. we continued all of that. i have always felt that the purpose that we are here for is to help others. i wanted to be a priest. i wanted to be a doctor. life sometimes goes in a different direction. i end up in business, but i find that in a company like this, i can make as much of a positive influence, and perhaps sometimes even more because of the skill, than anything else. so, it is all about leadership. at the end of the day, it is all about positively influencing
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others. if you can do that in your own way, wherever you are, you are a leader. francine: so what do you look for in the managers that you are bringing up in the company? is it empathy? is it, again, respect? how do you choose? paul: well, there are the normal values that you have. i think that you find, in any leadership book and a certain level of intelligence, we all have. i think in today's world, next to the themes of integrity and the ones that you well know, i think you want people in this world that have a high level of awareness of the issues that are going on. not only a high level of awareness, but actually will be able to engage themselves. ultimately, that is what counts. and do that increasingly so with a high level of humanity and humility. i think those will probably be better leaders. now, these are leaders that obviously need to have new skills that come in, in this world, like systemic thinking. a thing everyone talks about, how do you put this complexity together? distill it to simplicity and drive it into action. leaders that can work in
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partnership, that understand it is not about them but about that common good that we try to solve. leaders that take a little bit of a longer-term view and, above all, are purpose driven. i think there are many of them. but as i've said many times, we are short of leaders and trees in this world. the more we can create, the better will be. ultimately, it is individuals that change things. francine: how do you create? this is things you don't learn in a textbook. paul: you do not do that in textbooks, but you can identify people when they come in. we, for example, have a lot of social entrepreneurs that we attach to our business model. they really bring in a fresh way of thinking in tomorrow's world. we created the unilever young social entrepreneur award with the prince of wales. we have 800, 900 people now applying every year. we get a lot of strength from that. in any the projects that we do, we want to work with partnerships. we do not really do any more projects alone. so be it the small farmers on the tea plantations, or be it the social compliance in your value chain, or be it working
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with your partners to get to sustainable sourcing, we really try to put these partnerships in place. with the dutch development agency, or u.s. aid, or with organizations like unicef, oxfam, or solidaridad, it keeps us, also, honest, because this is a moving thing. we do not have all the answers. we certainly cannot do it alone. we also have to be sure that in the approach of creating value across the total value chain and being sure that everybody is included and there is more equitable and sustainable wealth that we want to create, is that everybody is protected. and that can only be done if you work in partnership. i firmly believe that. francine: is there another ceo or a big influence in your life that you admire? paul: there are many people that you admire. the answers you normally get is to look at the gandhi's, or look at the nelson mandela's or look at the rosa parks'. but what they basically tell you is these are people that are driven by a strong sense of purpose. if a person like rosa parks, by
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not standing up on the bus, can change the face of racial segregation in the u.s., then every individual in its own circle can make a difference. what we see is everybody can be a leader. sometimes you have to encourage that. we have a lot of efforts in place. our training programs have been adapted. we work with these foundations. and have people worked there, so career paths have been changed from conventional career paths. we bring in examples from other companies. there are many ceo's, but also others, that have shown that. and that gives us courage. but ultimately what gives courage to do what we do -- and it should be true for everybody -- is that we realize why we do this. ultimately, we do this because we actually belong to a very small percentage of the population, which i estimate to be about 2%. that was educated. that has comfortable jobs. that can do what they wanted, work in places where they want. do not have to about their families or if they have jobs. but that is not true for the other 98%. i firmly believed that it is our duty, really, to put ourselves
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to the service of the other 98%. i think the moment in life that you really become a leader, at whatever level you are, wherever you are in the world, whatever function, whatever job, is when you discover that it is not about yourself. francine: do you think capitalism as a whole in three years will be more inclusive? paul: i hope so. what you have seen is there's nothing wrong with capitalism. we have all these big debates about capitalism, non-capitalism -- it is just a word. this year, we have a unique opportunity, in fact, with the sustainable development goals, to alleviate poverty. and with these climate change negotiations in paris to never have to deal anymore with the issue of climate change, if we decide to do so. actually, we have the tools, in the next 15 years, to do it. we do not have to send anybody to mars. so how can we drive the morality up? inclusive capitalism is actually moral capitalism, more than anything else. it is not about laws, rules, or regulations. in fact, they probably, in most cases, will do more harm than good. it is about us all rising to a
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challenge that is bigger than each of us individually. francine: paul polman, thank you so much. paul: thank you. francine: thank you. ♪
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