Unilever on why sustainability has acted as a ‘talent magnet’

Unilever says in 54 out of 75 markets where it tracks staff attitudes, sustainability comes out as the top reason for joining the company.

Unilever says sustainability has been a “real talent magnet”, with the FMCG giant’s reputation for being a business that puts purpose before profit a key reason for potential employees joining its ranks.

Indeed, Claire Hennah Unilever’s vice-president of global ecommerce said research among its employees shows in 54 of the 75 markets where it tracks staff engagement, sustainability is the main reason people choose to join the business, equivalent to 72%.

“We have an incredible workforce of people who are so passionate [about sustainability]. It’s one of the core reasons people are joining Unilever. They have the passion to really lead the agenda and have the difficult conversations with retailers, listen to consumers and work with partners,” she said, speaking at Econsultancy’s Future of Ecommerce conference this week.

Hennah said it is further proof that Unilever’s “growth equation”, which has sustainability at its core, is working.

“It’s quite straightforward for us; brand purpose grows brand power and brand power drives market share and hence growth,” she explained.

We have an incredible workforce of people that are so passionate [about sustainability], it’s one of the core reasons that people are joining Unilever.

Claire Hennah, Unilever

“We really firmly believe that companies with purpose last, brands with purpose grow and people with purpose thrive. Now, we know that sustainability matters more to people than ever, particularly to young people.”

The company collaborated with analyst firm Kantar to find out the “correlation” between brands contributing to society and growth.

“We see that those brands that really care about purpose grew sales more than two times faster than the rest of the portfolio,” said Hennah.

Consumers have a desire to be more sustainable, but they demand brands to make it more affordable, comprehendible and transparent, she added, citing insight from Unilever’s collaboration with Amazon for its Climate Pledge Friendly initiative.

“People are very aware of greenwashing. They need to be able to decipher and understand the choices they’re making so we can also communicate with them better,” said Hennah. “Consumers don’t want to pay a premium for making sustainable choices.”

However, there is a “yin and yang” split in consumer personas, according to the research, because while people have a desire for sustainable practices, such as reducing packaging, they are often still driven by price and convenience.

She pointed out the landscape for convenience has increased with rapid delivery services such as Deliveroo and Gorillas on hand to feed an “I want it now; anytime, anywhere” mentality.

“Are consumers also willing to trade that [convenience]? I think ultimately, there’s going to be this push and pull from consumers,” said Hennah.

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