Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Unilever's CMO slams CSR 'posturing' (Marketing Week, By Russell Parsons)

Unilever’s chief marketing officer Keith Weed has slammed “posturing” brands that develop CSR initiatives simply to sell more products and services.
Speaking during a Chartered Institute of Marketing sponsored debate at the House of Commons earlier this week, Weed says social responsibility needs to be woven into the DNA of a company and not just a “tool to paper over the cracks” in businesses that are failing to serve the communities they operate in.

“It is not enough just to put a glossy picture in your annual report to demonstrate investment in a project in Africa in order to show you are a caring company, ” he added.
He cited Enron – “the poster child of making claims for competitive advantage”, he says – as an example of a company whose claims of ethical practice did not match reality. Enron, which was awarded several accolades for environmental behaviour, filed for bankruptcy in 2001 after it emerged its financial position was based on accounting fraud.

Unilever is two years into its 10-year Sustainable Living Plan, which is aimed at achieving sustainable growth. The company argues its plan is different as it is applied across its value chain.
Weed says all businesses need to develop a new model to serve “the environment and the society they operate in”.

He added: “In a world that’s moving fast we need to think differently about doing business in the 21st century. We cannot have a healthy business without a healthy society. Businesses and not just government need to step up.”

Weed was arguing for the motion “social responsibility claims by businesses amount to little more than posturing to gain commercial advantage”, which was passed.

Delivering on the Promise of Private-Public Partnerships (HBR blog network)

The numbers are staggering: 884 million people do not have access to safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion people — over half of the developing world's population — lack access to basic sanitation. Unilever believes these are basic human rights. As a business that operates in many of the countries where these needs are most evident and pressing, we must help ensure those rights are realized.

Through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan — our strategy for sustainable, equitable growth, tied to 50+ time-bound targets — we have made a commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of one billion people, through access to sanitation, hygiene, safe drinking water and adequate nutrition. And we are unapologetic about the fact that improving people's livelihoods will also enable us to grow our business.

But we are under no illusions that we can do this alone.

To tackle threats to the future health and wellbeing of people in need, businesses must partner with governments and NGOs, lending their skills, resources, and reach.

We have found that choosing the right partner allows us to amplify our message and impact. We may sell products and have offices in a country, but a local NGO will likely have more insight into the problems facing a particular neighborhood; or a locally-operating international nongovernmental organization may have the physical presence of volunteers across a region; or perhaps a local government is already delivering a community outreach programmer that we can support and grow.

There is no value in duplicating efforts; we'd rather work with others and bring our skills and resources to bear in achieving a shared goal.

A couple of our programs illustrate this well:

*       To add to the scale and reach of our own programs that promote handwashing with soap, we partner with UNICEF, the Millennium Village Project, Population Services International (PSI) and national governments. And within each country we support many local charities and NGOs to deliver behavior-change programs that educate mothers and children about how to stop the spread of easily-preventable diseases such as diarrhea.

*       Through the Unilever Foundation, also in partnership with PSI and jointly with Facebook, we created Waterworks™, a not-for-profit program that provides safe clean drinking water to communities in need. Currently running as a pilot in Bhopal, India, Waterworks™ operates as a Facebook Timeline application, through which people can make donations to support Waterworkers who visit their local communities to distribute PureIt water purifiers and sachets to families in need, as well as provide education about the importance of clean drinking water. The Waterworkers, who are themselves part of the community, also receive an income that helps them improve their livelihoods.

In both programs, the partnerships draw on the respective expertise of each player and we come together to deliver results at a scale that we would not have been able to deliver individually. Importantly, these collaborations have also taught (and re-taught) us some valuable lessons about what we can bring to and get from partnerships:

Find the right partner: Successful partnerships should draw on the marketing, consumer understanding and expertise of the private sector; and the reach, resources and scale from the public sector. There are many effective NGOs and government organisations to work with; some are large and have wide reach across countries, some are small and specialized in serving very specific communities. Find the one that has the expertise and experience in the particular field that you are aiming to influence. Don't be afraid to work with more than one partner; equally, don't stretch your resources too thinly by trying to work with everyone in the field.

Understand your audience: We've been in emerging markets for over 100 years, offering products aimed at the bottom of the pyramid as much as for wealthier consumers. We understand consumers and cater to the needs of those less affluent — from fortified margarine that help fulfill the nutritional requirements of people on a limited diet; to sachets that offer affordable access to well-known brands. And our insight is not limited to products. For instance, we also have Project Shakti: a rural distribution system run primarily in India, which currently employs more than 45,000 underprivileged rural women — Shakti Ammas, or 'strength mothers' — who are invited to become direct-to-consumer sales distributors in very small rural villages. We drew on our experience with the Shakti women to inform the Waterworks project that we are currently running with PSI.

Make it incremental: A partnership shouldn't replace or replicate existing programs. Instead, focus on identifying new approaches or amplifying and extending the scale of proven programs. Be open to change, adapt and grow a partnership — it's only through stretching goals that you will be able to make progress.

Empower the partnership: A senior executive must champion the partnership to ensure that the longer term goals survive the inevitable internal distractions and new priorities that arise in any business. At Unilever, each of our key partnerships is overseen by a dedicated global team that works jointly with a designated champion within each key country — and, depending on the programs, with local brand teams. Importantly, I oversee all our partnerships — and as a member of the executive board, I update my colleagues at the top table on the progress of the various projects.

We have big ambitions for our business, and for our consumers around the world. These ambitions are shared by many, and it's only sensible that we all work together to make a difference.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

CMOs Flock to Consumer Electronics Show to 'Get a Feel for the Pace of Change' (AdAge, By Michael Learmonth)

Vegas Gathering Has Become a Crucial Stop for Marketers Who Want to Learn About the Devices Affecting Consumers' Lives

CMO, Unilever 

At this point, you're a CES veteran. What kind of team are you bringing this year?
We are bringing a reasonably sized team, 10 people. But we're not just bringing out media and marketing teams like last year. This year I'll be with our CIO and CFO.

Why is CES important to Unilever? We go to get a feel for the pace of change. We have an interest in the way people live their lives, and that has undergone radical change in the past five years, perhaps the most radical change since the Industrial Revolution. We are interested in where they are spending their media time. As the world's second-largest advertiser, that is important to us.

What do you expect to see this time? One thing that was present last year was that everything is mobile and connected. This year, the hardware and software are not locked into the device, they're in the cloud. A car connected to a fridge via the cloud is nothing more than a mobile shopping cart. Can you imagine driving by a shop and knowing you're short on Hellmann's and then being alerted that there's a deal on Hellmann's?

Is there a risk of getting too far ahead of consumers? My principle is, I want to get to the future first and welcome consumers as they arrive. That way we don't have to chase them. There is nothing wrong with failing as long as you do it quickly and don't scale the failures.