A recent headline in Financial Times read “Unilever’s new chief says corporate purpose can be ‘unwelcome distraction.'” The new CEO, Hein Schumacher was reported to have rejected the idea that “every brand should have a social or environmental purpose.” Schumacher’s intention was to build a “performance culture.” The article goes on to explain that the change in focus for a CEO to concentrate on corporate performance is due to the rise of ESG, which stands for environmental, social, and governance factors. The rise of ESG has further blurred the lines between the government and the corporate world and is part of the challenges the ESG agenda is now facing. Unilever’s past under Paul Polman’s leadership was also discussed, as they made corporate commitments to environmental and social causes, incorporating “purpose” into virtually everything they did. However, signs of trouble began to appear towards the end of Polman’s term. Investor Terry Smith ridiculed Unilever’s “virtue-signaling,” calling for the company to focus on fundamentals. Unilever’s shift in focus from ESG was initiated by Hein Schumacher, who believed that the company’s focus on ESG goals was a “distraction.” The article discussed how businesses should concern itself with U.N. goals, further explaining the recent retreat of ESG efforts. The article presented various viewpoints on ESG and the role of governments in advancing the agenda. It also touched upon the impacts of ESG disclosure and goals on businesses in the U.S. The article concluded by highlighting the regulatory standards for private pension plans and President Joe Biden’s first veto against a Congressional Review Act trying to repeal this rule.

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