Sustainability agendas must be kept ‘real’ says Unilever CSO

Sustainability managers need to take a more pragmatic approach if they want to effect change and secure buy-in across their organisations, Unilever's chief sustainability officer Gail Klintworth has said.

Speaking at the Sustainable Brands conference in London earlier today, Klintworth said that while having bold vision was “crucial” in terms of aspiration, companies also needed to “think about systems that can be practically applied – that’s really important for business”.

She said in her experience, getting people on-board with the CSR agenda required both “intellectual argument and emotional engagement”.

“I spend at least half of my time trying to overcome resistance from people and channelling enthusiasts,” she told delegates.

Klintworth also advised British organisations to not engage in too much silo thinking around sustainability. “As a business, don’t be too UK focused. The challenges are much broader than that and the opportunities to address those challenges are worldwide.”

Under its sustainable living plan, Unilever has set itself the target of halving environmental impacts across its value chain including consumer use, by 2020, while doubling growth. Klintworth admitted the company was still on a journey to figure out how to do this.

“We don’t have all the answers yet on how to meet our targets [but] nothing is going to stop me from trying to create a more sustainable business, this is something I want everyone in our organisation to feel.”

Maxine Perella

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