Corporate purpose

Is there a business case for purpose?

Companies that have embraced a core purpose consistently report greater levels of employee engagement, customer advocacy and improved growth rates. Some report anecdotal evidence – staff feel more motivated and enthused – but Unilever is one of the few companies that has publicly reported tangible results.

It has developed a four point framework to capture the way that its Sustainable Living Plan contributes to its success.

Each point is business focused, and progress was last reported in May 2016, when the company offered the following insights:

1) DRIVING GROWTH

Sustainability deepens brand equity, drives sales and inspires innovation. Combined, sustainable living brands delivered nearly half Unilever’s growth in 2015. They are growing 30 per cent faster than the rest of the business, and the pace is accelerating.

2) LOWERING COST

Cutting waste and reducing the use of energy, raw materials and natural resources creates efficiencies and cuts costs. Unilever has reduced costs by more than €600 million through eco efficiency measures in its factories since 2008. Its waste programme has contributed to around €250 million of cost benefits in that time.

3) REDUCING RISK

The launch of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change has focused business and investor attention away from short-term risks to the wider risk environment. Sustainability helps mitigate risk. Sourcing more agricultural products sustainably helps to future proof the supply chain.

4) BUILDING TRUST

Trust strengthens relationships with everyone Unilever deals with. In 2015, Unilever maintained its status as the Graduate Employer of Choice in the fast moving consumer goods sector across 34 countries and was named one of the top three most sought after employers on LinkedIn.