Polman has been described by media commentators as being in a “league of his own” and to have “[laid] down the gauntlet” on issues such as corporate sustainability and responsible business practices, the study claims.
High profile CEOs including Sainsbury’s Justin King, Kingfisher’s Ian Cheshire and WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell also ranked highly (see below for the top 10).
Aberfield Communications, which compiled the study, used a scoring system across a series of annual reports, media coverage, speech transcripts, video and social media to determine its top 10.
Scores were based on how the CEOs’ policies and opinions were reflected in their personal communications; how their opinions are received and interpreted by journalists and analysts; whether they are perceived as leaders or followers by their peers; and whether CEOs showed the ability to positively influence other companies, consumers and politicians.
The study also looked at CEOs that keep up a “relatively low profile” at odds with the size of the businesses they lead. “Media shy” CEOs in the study included Vitorrio Colao of Vodafone and Rakesh Kapoor of Reckitt Benckiser.
Conversely, the study also picked out CEOs that are often interviewed and profiled about their own companies but do not use their positions and profiles to influence audiences outside their own sectors. Such CEOs included Philip Clarke of Tesco, Adam Crozier of ITV and John McFarlane of Aviva.
Top 10 ‘Most Influential’ CEOs
Source: Aberfield Communications
- Paul Polman, Unilever
- Justin King, Sainsbury’s
- Ian Cheshire, Kingfisher
- Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP
- Angela Ahrendts, Burberry
- Dame Marjorie Scardino, Pearson
- Willie Walsh, IAG
- Henry Engelhardt, Admiral Group
- Jeremy Darroch, BSkyB
- Marc Bolland, Marks & Spencer