Unilever: leading the way in providing sustainable initiatives
With recent news that consumer goods giant Unilever is undertaking an acquisition of private green cleaning company Seventh Generation, the company has become increasingly focused on providing sustainable initiatives, winning several awards through their continued efforts on producing eco-friendly products and solutions through their business operations.
We take a look at how the company’s sustainability efforts provide increased advantages for individuals worldwide.
Sustainable living plan
Originally founded in 2010, the company has gained an increased awareness of the importance to reduce its carbon footprint, besides providing products which are sustainably sourced and manufactured. As a result, the company is continually striving to look at new ways in which consumers will continue to utilise products with this increased knowledge, providing increased long term environmental benefits.
The company’s plan is underpinned by three main areas, two of which are aimed at educating consumers and supporting them in the drive to improve their health and wellbeing, amongst developing and enhancing the livelihoods of people all over the world by developing and supporting sustainable living methods and products.
UniLever’s brightFuture scheme has allowed consumers to become aware of behaviours which impact on the environment. This has enabled little changes to be made which has supported the environment effectively.
Several iconic brands under Unilever’s umbrella have increased company revenue and supported the company’s continued focus on sustainability, such as projects with Lipton tea and food brand Knorr’s, which focus on sustainable sourcing.
Unilever is aiming to eradicate the element of deforestation in its business model through the alteration in its supply chain methods, with the long-term vision for sustainable sourcing of agricultural produce to become a regular, universal standard practice. A successful collaboration with WWF has supported this increased awareness.
On its website, Unilever has proudly stated that at the end of 2015, “60 percent of their agricultural raw materials were sustainably sourced.”
Unilever aims to become a carbon positive company by 2030, transforming all its current operations and incorporating further renewable sources. The company has also implemented a greenhouse gas strategy.
The Dove Self-Esteem Project also focused on increasing the confidence of its female consumers, but also was the first company to introduce compressed deodorants in 2013, incorporating less packaging but providing the same quality and quantity.
The company has implemented a waste manufacturing programme with the goal to become a ‘non-hazardous waste to landfill’ enterprise, with the goal to reduce current costs, recycle previously used packaging and become increasingly sustainable through its operations.
On its website, Unilever has stated that “by February 2016, over 600 Unilever sites around the world – including nearly 400 non-manufacturing sites – achieved zero non-hazardous waste to landfill.”
Sanitation and hygiene facilities
To further its ambitions, Unilever is determined to ensure individuals all around the world have access to sanitation areas and products, alongside the ability to obtain water that is safe to drink. The company has also collaborated with Save the Children and UNICEF.
Projects with brands, such as Domestos and Persil highlight its continued focus and importance to support the development of hygiene and sanitation facilities within developing areas beside gaining access to safe drinking facilities.
Unilever’s current sustainable goals currently effect the entirety of the business’ strategic directives, all of which will produce societal and environmental benefits. The development and increased revenue alongside growing consumer awareness has resulted in the creation of green, low cost solutions and enabled consumers to become aware of the effects of energy, waste and water usage. This, in turn has enabled Unilever to lead the way in driving sustainable initiatives.
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Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.