Paul Polman has set Unilever on a path to sustainable business that is exemplary. For him, the 2007–8 financial meltdown represented a “crisis of ethics,” compelling leaders like him to reimagine capitalism and consider other ways of doing business. Here are five ways he demonstrates the qualities of a Being-centered leader, as described in Two Birds in a Tree:

1. His strategy is long-term. – “I figured I couldn’t be fired on my first day.”

One of Polman’s first acts as CEO of Unilever in 2009 was to get rid of quarterly reporting, which was the norm among European firms. By doing so, he also got rid of the need to give quarterly earnings guidance to investors, which is an entrenched business practice that drives short-term decisions by corporate leaders. Polman was willing to take this daring step because, as he said, “I figured I couldn’t be fired on my first day.” This strategy of encouraging long-term investments has worked: ownership of Unilever shares by hedge funds—which tend to focus on short-term gains—dropped from 15 percent to 5 percent during 2009-13.

Polman also instituted new policies to ensure long-term thinking in Unilever, such as management incentives that encourage long-term performance, a broader focus on stakeholder well-being, and a strong long-term pipeline of innovations.

2. He wants to contribute first, profit second. – “I don’t think our fiduciary duty is to put shareholders first. I say the opposite.”

As soon as he became CEO at Unilever, Polman gathered his colleagues and asked, “Why don’t we develop a business model aimed at contributing to society and the environment instead of taking from them?” He later explained:

I don’t think our fiduciary duty is to put shareholders first. I say the opposite. What we firmly believe is that if we focus our company on improving the lives of the world’s citizens and come up with genuine sustainable solutions, we are more in synch with consumers and society and ultimately this will result in good shareholder returns.

3. He prioritizes sustainability.

In a world of growing needs where emerging countries are industrializing, what matters most is sustainable growth. According to Polman,

The challenge for business is to meet these needs in a sustainable fashion. Success will require completely new business models. It will demand transformational innovation in product and process technologies to minimize resource use, as well as the development of “closed-loop” systems so that one man’s waste becomes another’s raw material.

Unilever’s vision for ensuring sustainable growth, the Sustainable Living Plan, seeks to double sales while halving Unilever’s impacts on nature, improve the nutritional quality of its food products, and enable five hundred thousand small landholding farmers to make a sustainable living.

4. He produces measurable results.

In the four years since Polman took over as CEO, Unilever’s financial performance has been outstanding: its share price increased by 55 percent, its revenues grew by 25 percent, its operating costs were reduced by streamlining its corporate structure, and it launched many new products and services.

By contrast, Unilever’s main rival (Procter & Gamble) fared considerably worse in terms of growth, overhead costs, product innovation, and corporate reputation.

5. He wants to reinvent business. – “We need a different approach.”

Polman has said, “Changes in policy will mean little if not accompanied by changes in behavior. That’s why we need a different approach to business—a new model led by a generation of leaders with the mind-set and the courage to tackle the challenges of the future.”

Polman’s approach to business success is a good example of the long-term stakeholder well-being model of my new book, Two Birds in a TreeWhat businesses and business leaders do you most admire?