'From License to Operate to License to Lead', the 2013 Hofstadlezing was given by Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever


The yearly 'Hofstadlezing' (royal residence lecturein the Grote Kerk (big church) in The Hague is organised by Ernst & Young Netherlands. Former lectures have been given by Jacques Rogge, Guy Verhofstad, Feike Sijbesma, Neeli Kroes, Jeroen van der Veer and Jan Peter Balkenende. 


Ushers of the Protocolbureau
preparing the seating
The 2013 Hofstadlezing, by Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever

We are living in what some have termed a VUCA World: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.
Governments and international agencies are struggling to keep pace, and their attention has been diverted by the financial and economic crisis, which is driving a more insular approach.

Meanwhile, citizens are demanding change, and the digital revolution is providing them with the tools to take action. What we have seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg. In tomorrow’s totally transparent world, our every action, our every motive will be scrutinised.


The lecture is organised by Ernst & Young 
in the Grote Kerk in The Hague every year
Any system where too many people are left behind or feel they are not participating fully will ultimately be rejected.
It cannot be right that around 7 million children die before their fifth birthday, including two million a year from diseases like diarrhea. That’s the equivalent of a jumbo jet of children crashing every hour, every day.
I am pleased to say that things are changing. All over the world, businesses are rising to the challenge of addressing sustainability and poverty. Business now wants to be at the forefront of change in recognition of the need to earn a “license to lead”.
It is about reconnecting with the individuals and communities we serve and fundamentally changing the way we operate – moving if you like from a ‘licence to operate’ to a ‘licence to lead’.


Read the full lecture here.

Photo's: the ushers of the Protocolbureau, in charge of welcoming and seating the guests.