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Unilever CEO calls U.S. climate change withdrawal unfortunate

The CEO of consumer products giant Unilever PLC on June 7 described U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change as unfortunate, but said the accord remained legally binding.

Paul Polman, who during his eight years at Unilever has been one of the world's most vocal corporate leaders in support of sustainable strategies and on action to tackle climate change, sent the pre-recorded message to a conference on responsible business in London.

"It is unfortunate that the decision has gone this way," Polman said in a statement to the Responsible Business Summit Europe 2017. "Nevertheless, the Paris Agreement remains legally binding and continues to provide a collaborative international framework to manage climate change while strengthening the competitiveness of global markets."

Trump on June 1 said he would pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement. He said he would be willing to renegotiate U.S. membership under a new deal. Top executives from companies including Facebook Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have expressed their disappointment at the withdrawal. Elon Musk of Tesla Inc. and Bob Iger of Walt Disney Co. resigned from Trump's advisory council.

Unilever, the maker of Dove deodorant and Ben & Jerry's ice cream, is seen as a leader on sustainability in big business. Earlier this year, the company said it would make all its plastic packaging recyclable by 2025. It has pledged to use only sustainably sourced palm oil by 2019. Polman himself is a board member of the United Nations Global Compact, a group set up to implement the U.N.'s climate change goals.

In a post on his LinkedIn page published June 6, Polman said the "outpouring of support" following Trump's decision gave him "huge confidence that there will be no u-turn in our journey towards a low carbon world." The post ran to 833 words but did not mention Trump by name, instead referring only to "the events of last week."