EXCLUSIVE: 'Too many strategies and not enough culture' says Unilever sustainability VP

Businesses do not always fulfil their "wonderful sustainability strategies" due to a weak partnership with HR, according to Unilever's Geoff McDonald.

Speaking at the Sustainability Communications Forum yesterday, Unilever's vice president of HR marketing, communications and sustainability said: "When culture and strategy collide, there is only one winner, every single time, and that is culture."

McDonald insisted that the reason there had not been sufficient environmental or social progress around the world was because companies often had superficial strategies which were meaningless, if the cultures within organisations were not embedded in sustainability.

"If we put the same amount of energy and effort [put into drawing up sustainability strategies] into developing and ensuring the cultural aspects are there, we might see a bit more progress," he said.

McDonald also said it was crucial that sustainability managers ensured their sustainability strategies would demonstrate a drive in business performance.

"If it doesn't, the company will stop doing it. You will have no head of finance, no CEO, or no shareholder who is going to want to engage, if you cannot show how your sustainability strategy is going to enhance either the performance of the business, the service you provide or the product you give," he said.

"Too often it seems right now, we see sustainability as some reputational gimmick. It is all about corporate reputation, let us tick a few boxes and people will think we are ok."

McDonald added: "We have to get our mind around how the strategy drives business performance and be able to show that in very practical terms to people within the organisation."

"Unilever is not [driving sustainability] because it wants to be philanthropic; it is doing it because it wants to be in business in one hundred years' time, and in being in business, making the world a better place."

Conor McGlone


| Communications | drives | unilever


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