Two industry-leading figures in publishing and FMCG have been awarded Honorary Fellowships by MRS in recognition of their evidence-based approach to business purpose and decision-making.

Baroness Gail Rebuck, Chair and Chief Executive of Penguin Random House UK, and Paul Polman, Chief Executive of Unilever until 2019, are the final names to be announced as part of a cohort of 15 new Honorary Fellows for 2021. This is a record number in a calendar year, marking MRS’ 75th anniversary as the UK’s professional body for research, insight and analytics.

Baroness Gail Rebuck DBE, Chair of Penguin Random House, comments: “We were the first book publisher in the UK to set up a consumer insight department, which was unusual at the time. The book industry has now transformed globally, highly valuing the science of market research and data analysis, alongside the art of finding the best stories and creating bestsellers. I am honoured to have been awarded a Fellowship by MRS on its 75th anniversary and congratulate the institution for leading in this important field.”

Paul Polman, Co-founder and Chair of IMAGINE, comments: “I am really very grateful to MRS for awarding me an Honorary Fellowship. It is a great distinction, and I am absolutely thrilled to have been selected. The work of MRS has in fact never been more vital – especially in this age of fake news. We will not make the progress needed on our biggest social and environmental challenges without your continued leadership, so thank you to you and your team for everything you are doing to help build a fairer and greener society.”

The Honorary Fellowship is being awarded to Baroness Rebuck for her consistent promotion of research and for being a role model as a female business leader. Since 1991 she has served as Chair and Chief executive of Penguin Random House’s UK operations, driving the company to place greater importance on insight so it is now a prime example of best practice in the research industry.

Paul Polman becomes an Honorary Fellow for his lifelong commitment to putting purpose and social value at the heart of global business. At Unilever he was one of the first chief executives to position sustainability at the forefront of corporate strategy and, as a member of the U.N. Secretary General’s High-level Panel, he was highly influential in creating the Sustainable Development Goals.

More recently he has been a major supporter of the MRS Net Zero Pledge which commits a business to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2026. He was one of the first to sign, representing IMAGINE – an organisation he co-founded which mobilises business leaders in tackling climate change and inequality.

Jane Frost CBE, CEO of MRS, comments: “Since our foundation in the 1940s, we have always looked to promote research and showcase its application. The fifteen new Honorary Fellows come from a diverse range of backgrounds and careers and are a visible representation of the importance of evidence in present day society.

“These final two Honorary Fellows we are announcing this year are both worthy recipients. Baroness Rebuck is someone I personally admire, who has always supported the research sector. Meanwhile Paul Polman has tirelessly promoted sustainability, including by signing his company up to the Net Zero Pledge – which I encourage all members of our industry to consider. Both have placed insight at the heart of the businesses they have successfully led.”

2021 marks MRS’ 75th year as the UK’s professional body for research, insight and analytics. Since its foundation in 1946, the body has transformed from an elite band of just 23 professional researchers to an organisation that represents over 4,000 individuals and 600 companies. To celebrate this anniversary fifteen Honorary Fellowships have been awarded.

Get the latest MRS news

Our newsletters cover the latest MRS events, policy updates and research news.