Say people are using your products two billion times every day. In 190 countries. How can you use that to have more positive impact? And be less taxing on the planet? This is Unilever’s major challenge.
Lessons on transitioning
On 27 November, Snowballs & Flywheels and the Flevum Executive Network organised the symposium ‘Sustainable growth, the new business model?’ Unilever Benelux was host to about a hundred colleagues from other large businesses. Anniek Mauser, head of sustainability and Rob Stolk, VP HR, shared their lessons on an organisation in transition.
Be good and tell it
In 2010 Unilever set the bar very high with its Sustainable Living Plan. Doubling turnover, reducing environmental impact and increasing positive social impact. So sustainable growth. But how do you get your organisation moving in that direction?
Anniek Mauser stated that setting the bar very high and telling about it publicly is a crucial first step. ‘Be good and tell it.’ Even though the path is not yet clear. ‘We will find the answers in our corporate philosophy as we go.’
Magnet for young talent
Unilever’s ambitions are much praised from outside the organisation. ‘And we are also attracting young talent because of our vision. Our recruiters ask candidates about it during interviews and on the initial training days they flesh out sustainable business cases,’ Rob Stolk said.
Five Levers For Change for colleagues
Internally the ultimate goal and the visionary CEO are generating a lot of energy among colleagues also. However, the paradigm shift in attitudes people in the organisation individually have to go through, the insight and the skills to realise these ambitions, are too easily overlooked. Product innovation is not enough. Behavioural change is the key. ‘What does it exactly mean for the business and for me personally, both in my professional activities but also at home? Finding an answer to this for all my colleagues is one of my personal challenges,’ Anniek Mauser said. Within Unilever we developed the Five Levers For Change model. That approach works for helping consumers with more sustainable behaviour. But we can of course also use it internally for colleagues.
Colleagues create the content of the action tool together
‘The web- and game-based tool ‘brightFuture in Action’ by Snowballs & Flywheels fits this perfectly. It has helped me beyond expectation to really make sustainability hit home, to get people involved, have them sharing their thoughts and ideas, giving them tools to come into action. From broadcasting to interacting. It packs a wallop also because colleagues from a wide variety of departments got involved in developing the content. Now we’re poised for another round, to bring it home.’
Hustle and bustle
Rob Stolk: ‘Great programme to do! BrightFuture in Action triggers positive hustle and bustle, and strengthens the informal network. Which is incredibly important. It also shows in our employee satisfaction ratings. Colleagues are discussing it with friends, relatives and customers. Which in turn is having a positive effect on our external reputation. And that again is attracting the right people to help fulfil our vision of sustainable growth.’
Two billion products each day. Small or big improvements. There is your sustainable gain.