Tag: Unilever

The optimism of action

 

It was back in 2005 that I launched the Marketing Society not-for-profit group – a small thought leadership group for charity marketing folk. The Marketing Society backed the new group and have been stellar supporters ever since of charity and cause related marketing. Little did I know then that the Society would honour me with a Fellowship all these years later. I have admired previous Fellows, and secretly each year at the ceremony, wondered how they managed to achieve their awards…

Receiving the award was a good moment to reflect on the charity sector and the work we’ve done. Above all else, the thing that stands out most is the real passion people in those organisations have for their causes and for making a difference. This, to coin the words of Greenpeace, has often meant “stopping wrongs”, which is not a bad thing to say about your day job!

A redefined Marketing Society vision is also more hands-on and about making a difference in your work; “inspiring bolder leadership” including the work to support sustainability and good causes.

Charities have also taken a long hard look at their visions to meet the needs of today’s demanding supporters who want more transparency and greater action. Macmillan are about supporting and being there for the journey with cancer, Oxfam are about changing lives for the better – lifting people out of poverty. Charities have become more action oriented around fewer issues, which is a good thing. Passion and leadership doesn’t have to come from the global North.  Companies like Unilever with their 5 Levers for change and the Fairtrade Foundation, addressing sustainability and poverty, have found that people care as deeply about sustainability in emerging markets such as China and Brazil, and these countries now bring great leadership and inspiration to the table.

And organisations like Amnesty have relocated their resources to be closer to where human rights abuses are happening.  There is no point in standing on the edge of the issue. I remember Blake Lee-Harwood at one event, Greenpeace’s then Director of Campaigns, telling us how Greenpeace ‘practiced what they preached’. Still guided by the words of one of the early founders, Harald Zindler – “the optimism of the action is better than the pessimism of the thought”. Today all members of Greenpeace staff are expected to ‘stop a wrong’ or to try and ‘replace it with a right’. It is simplicity and passion at work. Take their fight against Lego partnering with Shell, who are battling to dig up the Artic, and you see the same approach at work. Seb Coe talked about his role in bringing the Olympic games to Africa, one of his stated dreams, at a Marketing Society hosted evening. His vision is to make health and sport a part of everyone’s life and normalise disability in sport. I hope that the Marketing Society continue to play a pivotal role in inspiring people to see optimism and opportunity in life changing action.

Curtis is counting on your support

arts-graphics-2007_1176999aRichard Curtis can persuade anyone to do anything, particularly when it comes to doing good.   A life defining moment for him was setting up and running Comic Relief as a young man.

He sees the world through the prism of doing good – which is refreshing. Particularly in our times where cut backs are made, corners are cut and the squeeze usually hits the people at the bottom of the tree, most likely workers in the developing world.

He asked us all to do things that make a difference to others within our work.  He appealed for people to see their roles as bigger than the day job – to have a vision that connects with part of the world. Like Unilever and Sainsbury’s doing their bit, he showed ASOS’s and newer brands of today how they could show more responsibility.

 What advice can we take from Richard Curtis:

– You have to have the confidence in what you are doing

– As a creative, achieving one good thing in day is a triumph (but you have to have the ability to self edit)

– The thing that amuses you will probably work

– Pick the right people – the wrong people can lead to angst

– Empower others do to creative things

– There is a rare exceptions to David Ogilvy’s “where people aren’t having any fun, they seldom produce good work” with Black Adder, which was apparently ghastly to work on and Mr Bean, which was awful to work on too.

– Mine data audience insights but leave room for big instinct, which you can not ignore

– And if something is meaningful, it probably means it matters.

Greenest Leaders Ever?

With environmental leadership floundering at the very top of our “greenest government ever”, we thought it would be a good exercise to look at who has brought about some real green leadership through their work and vision.  Our Top 10 Environmental Leaders are as follows:

1. Tim Smit – founder of the Eden Project, which has become synonymous with raising awareness of green issues and inspiring young people

About 13 million visitors have come to the Eden Project, which cost £141m to build and is estimated to have generated £1.1bn for the West Country in extra tourist spending. Built to be as energy self sufficient as possible, the attraction provides environmental projects as well as allowing visitors to explore ideas and innovations that can be implemented to ensure we ‘tread lighter on the planet’.

Talking about the launch of The Eden Project “I thought that environmentalists were usually so boring, I wanted to do something that was so theatrical that people would have to suspend cynicism.”

2. Harriet Lamb – Fairtrade opened up the lives of producers on the other side of the world

Her team have helped build commercial partnerships that have resulted in sales growing from £30 million in 2001 to £1.32bn in 2011. This means that More than 7 million people in Africa, Asia and Latin America benefit from Fairtrade – farmers, farm workers, and their families. Fairtade this year launched a campaign requesting that the public sign a petition for smallholder farmers to get a better deal to hopefully spark debate about the matter at the summer G8 meeting. They achieved over 15,000 supporters.

“Times are tough for people in the UK right now. But across the developing world, times are desperate for smallholders, caught between rising food and fuel prices and a credit crunch that sees orders falling and access to loans becoming harder than ever”

3. Yvon Chouinard – founder of Patagonia who ‘walks the talk’

Just announced that his company will be launching an in-house venture fund named $20 million & Change for startups that try to make a positive impact in five areas: clothing, food, water, energy, and waste. Patagonie itself has challenged the status quo of retail

“…most of the damage we cause to the planet is the result of our own ignorance.”

4. David Attenborough – for an 87 year old, imagine if he was your granddad?

The famous face, or rather voice, of nature surely deserves his place amongst our green leaders. Playing a pivotal role in the regular depiction of nature on our TV screens, providing a window to the vast world we live in and the need to treasure it – his role in bringing to light the need for environmental action across the world has shown that he has been equally important outside of the small box in which we see him.

“We are a plague on the Earth…It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us”

5. Alistair McGowan – brought many faces to the environmental movement

Well-known ambassador of WWF, patron of charity Trees for Cities and 4-time host of the British Environment and Media Awards as well as many other environmental awards. Using his celebrity status to highlight issues in the environment. His involvement in the environment includes collaboratively purchasing a strip of land to prevent the development of a third runway at Heathrow airport, publicly backing Solar Power and developing an old coach house into an eco-friendly residential home.



On battling for the environment – “It’s the drip-drip effect of lots of small actions by individuals that has created the problem. And lots of small actions in reverse can help undo the problem.”

Other fantastic leaders who narrowly missed out on the top 5:

6. Andy Wood – MD of Adnams, low carbon brewery leading light in how to do best by community / environment

7. Kevin McCloud – eco-design champion in the design / built environment)

8. Paul Poleman – 5 levers for change at Unilver

9. Chris Packham – host of SpringWatch and exe CEO of BATS

10. Prince Charles – has the ability to change things and scale-up Duchy of Cornwall etc

These environmental leaders span many different professions from retail to the brewery trade and all are:

  •  Committed to creating change
  • Leading by example
  • Making sure that what they do is second to none.
  • Inspire millions of people through their work and vision
  • Happy to stand up and be counted – not hiding behind the parapet.

Governments take note – each of these leaders saw the need for change and acted on this.

Who will be the next environmental leaders of the future?

Emerging countries innovating could be our sustainable key

You don’t often leave a day’s conference with a Trashion bag made from recycled packaging. This was part of ‘turning waste into style’, one of Unilever’s initiatives harnessing local Indonesian creativity and creating 25 fashion lines from waste packaging.


Unilever’s Keith Weed pledged at The Marketing Society’s Annual Conference to halve emissions from his 4,000 products (as diverse as Marmite and Dove soap) by 2020. Who can blame him for injecting some creativity into embedding sustainability – it is now core to Unilever’s business. The scale of the challenge is clear with 68% of emissions coming from product use.

Imagining tomorrow’s products is one of their approaches (think Comfort’s One Rinse detergent which needs less water to wash clothes) alongside working with the right ‘expert’ NGO partners to help them on their journey.

As the global population booms and we see a shift of power from G7 to E7 countries, Keith said it is important for companies to be transparent (as people are increasingly interested in companies) and to be honest with what is achievable (if the whole planet lived like we do in the West we would need an extra three planets to support us).
The International Airlines Group CEO, Willie Walsh claimed reducing emissions could be achieved through the use of biomass plants to create aviation fuel and by rationalising air traffic control into one system, allegedly saving 12% of CO.  Perhaps more leadership in driving such innovation through to a workable proposal is needed from Willie himself?

Emerging economies such as Indian, China and Brazil are also key to addressing global sustainability.  Dr Tim Lucas from Sao Paolo’s The Listening Agency talked about Brazil’s uniqueness  – on track to be the fifth largest economy. Brands are respected and a fierce class hierarchy exists which has driven many companies to have sub brands to co-exist in completely different parts of town.  Perhaps a shared approach to product sustainability and recycling could unify company approaches- something few brands have attempted.

Ajayan Gopinathan from The Philosophers Stone discussed Indian’s motivations and desires. The world’s third largest economy is clearly enjoying a boom. 32% of the population are under 15 years of age and kid’s parent pester power is king when it comes to certain brands. Young people think they can do anything, an energy brands could harness for the good of the people and the planet.

Brands new to this market need to touch people with narrative stories that fuse cultures in sensitive and real ways. Indians are people oriented and very proud of their country.  Over 865 million have mobile phones and there are 400 TV channels – many of them local.

We’ve learnt from our work in emerging markets like China and Brazil that people care deeply about sustainability.  Companies who tailor their approach supported with on the ground projects making a real difference, stand to be part of the country’s fabric for the next decade.

Engage with climate change today to be more competitive tomorrow

It is comforting to know that although climate change has been pushed to the back pages of the newspapers, sustainability and climate change are still embraced by some and innovation led by others, as we heard at the Climate Week Stakeholder Reception and the Unilever sustainable living debate last week. 
There is desire that the Durban UN climate talks, beginning today (the 17th Conference of the Parties, ‘Cop17’), result in our government adopting a clear roadmap.

Interesting themes came from the discussions about what companies could and potentially should be doing with regard to sustainability and climate change at The Climate Week Reception and the Unilever sustainable living debate last week.

The Rt Hon John Gummer said companies should aspire to be forward thinking, linking with the next generation of businesses. They need to commit themselves to real and tangible on-the-ground activity as part of society’s response to climate change. As Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever said, companies more in touch with society by definition have a greater chance than their competitors for longer-term success (and survival). Tackling climate change is vital for future markets and emerging economies, increasingly important as Western companies look to South America, Asia and Africa for opportunities as their economies suffer.

Engaging with youths was seen as another way of getting involved, highlighted by Tony Juniper (Special advisor to Prince of Wales Sustainability Unit). When companies use powerful examples of their work, it can reconnect the current ‘disconnect’ between society and the environment, too often felt by many young people, and spread through communities like wildfire.

He further emphasised the need for forward thinking companies to engage with on the ground people and projects. A line of thinking that was also echoed in the Unilever discussion by Malina Mehra, CEO of Centre for Social Markets, who stressed the importance of creating an inter-generational dialogue when companies craft an approach to sustainability.

Increasingly, companies are looking to external bodies to help them achieve their climate change and sustainability goals.  Companies often look to specialist climate change experts within charities who have the credibility and on the ground projects to make an effective partner.

It may be time to discover how your organisation can do more in the pursuit of an innovation led sustainable business, which should help secure your future.