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Anglo-Dutch multinational company Unilever shows that it is serious about sustainability in recent statements by CEO Alan Jope warning shareholders that it will sell off brands that do not positively contribute to the planet and societies.
Following earlier comments against companies that are “woke washing” by only publicly posturing on sustainability without real changes being made, Jope told journalists and reporters at a recent conference in Cannes that Unilever will demonstrate support through actionable measures.
One of these measures is through the MNC’s Sustainable Living Programme. This programme seeks to ensure Unilever’s portfolio includes only those businesses who are developing long-term sustainability plans beyond traditional financial goals, which must consider environmental and societal demands. This programme will be applied to many of its 400 brands with an aim to minimise the damage companies are doing to our planet.
In addition to bringing on a number of its own brands into the Sustainable Living Programme, Unilever also wants to refocus attention on health and wellbeing. They have already made steps to acquire several purpose-driven and organic businesses on the market. Among these are Pukka Herbs, Schmidt’s Naturals and Mãe Terra.
“Purpose-led brand communications is not just a matter of ‘make them cry, make them buy.’ It’s about action in the world,” said Jope.
This is not the first time the multi-million dollar company has spoken out about advertising and communication standards in today’s corporate culture. Just last year, Unilever was prepared to withdraw its advertising from large platforms such as Facebook and Google if they failed to remove extremist and divisive content on their sites.
This shift has been prompted by trends in consumer responsibility globally, and particularly in Asia. According to a 2019 Global Food and Drink Trends report by market intelligence agency Mintel, consumers are increasingly concerned about sustainability, health and wellness when they choose where to spend their dollars.
Unilever’s approach, while far from perfect, to sustainability is a step in the right direction and one that more businesses should be taking. Corporations can no longer afford to only pay lip service to environmental and social responsibility, but must hold themselves accountable and be committed to genuine, actionable changes in order to stay relevant to an increasingly eco-conscious market audience.
Lead image courtesy of Unilever.