Unilever retains top spot in Fit for Purpose Index

Consumer goods company Unilever tops the list of the world's most purposeful companies in Radley Yeldar's (RY) 2016 Fit for Purpose 2016 Index for the second consecutive year, with the likes of Philips and Nestle making up the top 10.

The Fit for Purpose research uses publicly available information from more than 180 brands across the FT500 and the Eurofirst 100 to assess four indicators of communication, performance, purpose and behaviours which outline a company’s societal, environmental and individual impacts.

RY’s report highlights that collaboration is reshaping business-thinking in the 21st century, with brands increasingly working together for a common goal. The report cites Unilever’s Foundry platform as a perfect example of start-ups leveraging big companies’ reach for wider impact, and corporates looking to start-ups for innovative business models.

“This year’s report is our small contribution to this collective thinking,” RY’s head of brand strategy Paulina Lezama said. “Over the last couple of months, we’ve measured how well purpose is embedded across a company’s business strategy, targets, KPIs, internal culture and external communications. This report showcases the best examples of brands that have achieved this. Our aim is to celebrate those that are getting it right and to provide inspiration for those on the journey.”

Sustainable purpose

Unilever’s strength of communication and sustainability campaigning with various industry actors such as Hubbub has earned the firm a top-placed ranking. The company forms part of a consumer goods sector that solidly performs above average across all criteria in RY’s ranking, primarily due to employee engagement, commitments to making a difference and reporting on their progress.

Lloyds Banking Group follows just behind Unilever in recognition of a reported growing prominence of its purpose. The RY research highlights initiatives such as client mortgage plans and partnerships with schools and communities as a demonstration of the Group’s ambition to integrate purpose across the business.

Technology company Philips completes the top three, praised for its use of social media to bring its purpose to the forefront. The firm’s ‘Breathless Choir’ video is highlighted as a highly emotive short film that uses narrative storytelling to show how Philips is improving the quality of people’s lives through technology-enabled meaningful innovations.

The report dedicates a section to smaller organisations not big enough to make the ranking – green energy company Ecotricityapparel firm Patagonia and campaign platform Change.org are acknowledged for becoming agents of change and creating disruptive business models.

Familiar faces

The RY Fit for Purpose index reflects a sense that some firms continue to lead the way on sustainability. Earlier this month, Unilever retained its positions as industry leader of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI). Driven by its Sustainable Living products, Unilever scored highly on supply chain management, brand management, packaging and corporate governance.

The same firm recently overtook nutrition business Nestlé to claim the top spot in Oxfam’s ‘Behind the Brands’ campaign, which measures and ranks the social sustainability of the ‘Big 10’ global food and drinks companies.

Last month, automotive giant Toyota beat Siemens, Schneider Electrics and Panasonic to the top spot of the first Carbon Clean 200 rankings, which lists the world’s largest publicly listed companies by revenue generated from clean energy products.

George Ogleby

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