History of the ILA

The Inspired Leadership Award was relaunched in 2015, at our Lisbon, Portugal, Theatre, to recognise and reward emerging leaders.

But, prior to that, the Award focused on established global business pioneers.

Here are the winners of the original inception of the Inspired Leadership Award, since 2006.

  • Melinda Gates, American businesswoman and philanthropist, and co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

    The 2014 award was accepted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Nigeria representative Dr Mairo Mandara on behalf of Melinda Gates. Ms Gates and the foundation were recognised for applying business principles to develop innovative, results-based models for achieving highly ambitious goals, such as eradicating polio and ensuring that 120 million more women and girls have information about, and access to, voluntary contraceptives by 2020. Then committee chairman Geoff Colvin said: “For her role in leading a global enterprise that has already improved and saved countless lives and promises to achieve far more – and that is finding new ways for organisations everywhere to solve the world’s largest problems – Melinda Gates is the recipient of the 2014 Inspired Leadership Award.”

  • Andrew N Liveris, president, chairman & CEO, The Dow Chemical Company (2004-present)

    Upon becoming CEO, Andrew N Liveris committed to transforming Dow, a US-based global chemical, agrosciences and plastics company, by putting sustainability at its core. The economic downturn was tough on the chemical industry, yet Dow, under Mr Liveris, remained dedicated to its sustainability goals. As he has often said, confronting the world’s most important environmental challenges is good for the planet and good for business – and the 2012 ILA recognised him for just this.

  • Zhang Ruimin, CEO, Haier Group

    China’s Zhang Ruimin is known for turning a little-known, bankrupt refrigerator manufacturer into the world’s fourth-largest white goods company. Under Mr Zhang’s leadership, Haier products are high quality, last longer, have less environmental impact and are more energy efficient. Employees are better looked after, too. So, for combining outstanding business success with benefit to society and the environment, Mr Zhang earned the 2011 ILA.

  • Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever (2009-present)

    It was Paul Polman, CEO of Anglo-Dutch food and detergent multinational Unilever, who took the ILA in 2010. Early into his appointment, Mr Polman articulated an ambitious new strategy – to double the size of the company while reducing its environmental impact. What’s more, while pursuing this strategy, Unilever performed well financially – a key ILA criteria, in recognition that no business can do much good in promoting sustainability unless the business itself is sustainable.

  • William C Weldon, chairman & CEO, Johnson & Johnson (2002-2012)

    Chairman and CEO of US multinational medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods manufacturer, William C Weldon, received the ILA in 2009. Mr Weldon was credited with navigating the company through the then-recent financial crisis – all the while raising the bar for social and environmental standards.

  • Ratan Tata, KBE, chairman, Tata Group (1991-2012)

    The chairman of Indian multinational conglomerate Tata Group, Ratan Tata, was recognised in 2008. Mr Tata was praised for exemplifying the ILA criteria, having devoted his career to achieving business success ethically and responsibly. Osvald Bjelland said at the time: “He is an inspiration to all who wish not only to be successful in business but also to contribute significantly to their communities.”

  • Lars G Josefsson, president & CEO, Vattenfall (2000-2010)

    The ILA was presented to Lars G Josefsson in 2007 in recognition of him transforming Swedish company Vattenfall into Europe’s fourth-largest electricity generator and the region’s largest producer of heat. Mr Josefsson delivered double-digit sales growth while also re-positioning the company as a leading exponent of environmental sustainability.

  • Sir Richard Branson, founder & chairman Virgin Group

    The inaugural ILA prize was awarded to British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson in 2006. Sir Richard was chosen for his innovative and inspiring business practices, which have created a highly profitable global brand. The committee also applauded his calculated risk-taking, which they felt had challenged traditional business thinking.