“Companies with purpose last. Brands with purpose grow and people with purpose thrive.”
From being created as a response to the dirt and squalor of Victorian England to becoming the multinational global enterprise it is today Unilever as a brand takes purpose very seriously,
At Davos in 2019 I spent time with Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Unilever. We braved the freezing cold to talk about sustainable development goals within the company and how it attempts to align purpose with profit.
Keith talks about the biggest challenges in achieving sustainable
goals stressing how hard it can be to integrate them across the business. He also mentions how purpose has always been at the heart of Unilever from its early days when its founders spoke of ‘making cleanliness common place.’
He argues that brands need to identify with what people are interested in across society and the world – citing the Dove campaign for real beauty and and how it tackles the issue of self esteem.
He also talks about how brands can’t fake it by just having purpose in their advertising – rather it has to be at the root of all they do.
We also talk about the importance of engaging Millennials and Gen Z and their passions. Also how their emergence in the workforce (increasingly in management positions) is changing company approaches to things like climate change and sustainability.
I was struck by how he spoke about CSR (corporate social responsibility) as potentially being part of the problem, as he feels it encourages the idea that companies are doing enough for a good cause and not thinking more strategically.
He also shared with me how Davos three years ago had finally cajoled the company into delivering recyclable, compostable or reusable products.
Keith is leaving Unilever soon and you can find out at the end of the interview what fun stuff he is going to be up to.