Many predictions have been made about the post-covid world; among all the doom and gloom about the immediate recession we’re all bound to experience, there’s also some real optimism; in the post-covid world, we’ll all be greener and more thoughtful, so they say.
And perhaps this hopefulness isn’t just wishful thinking. In an interview with Bloomberg, Unilever CEO Alan Jope said that the Great Virus Crisis (GVC) has strengthened his resolve to do the right thing. That is, nurture employees, treat the environment with respect, take care of supplier partners and give back to communities.
That’s one tall order, not least with increasingly vocal shareholders to serve, although Jope says that if you achieve the above, then the shareholders will be well rewarded. In other words, good business pays dividends.
“We truly believe that by positioning our brands on doing real good, by running our supply chain in a sustainable way, by being a responsible employer and creating great opportunities for people, a by-product will be better financial performance,” Jope told Bloomberg.
Let’s zone in a little about the people – Unilever achieved a gender balanced workplace, in which 51 percent of management roles are held by women pre-GVC, and during quarantine, it helped employees adjust to lockdown challenges with a dedicated mental wellbeing programme designed to promote resilience and it empowered local teams, which in turn provided the business with the agility it needs to reach consumers today. The latest Dove campaign is the perfect example. As Jope attests, “We’ve discovered a new responsiveness in Unilever that I wish we had unlocked years ago, but it’s taken this crisis to do that.”
Unilever isn’t the only one, L’Oréal has also lauded the agility of its teams, and Twitter has become the first big name to greenlight flexible homeworking forever, while Natura &Co didn’t need a global pandemic to force its hand, having gained B Corp certification several years ago. Indeed, B Corps are said to be 63 percent more likely to weather storms such as this precisely because of their strong relationships with workers, customers and supply chains.
As Andrew Kassor, Co-founder of B Lab points out, the GVC will accelerate the move from shareholder capitalism to stakeholder capitalism. Through government support schemes, the taxpayer now has a stake in brands, and expects it to be paid back in kind. “This crisis has helped make clear that the world in which the sole objective of a company’s purpose is to maximise profit is no longer acceptable,” BP boss Bernard Looney wrote in a piece penned for LinkedIn.
Certainly, Edelman’s Trust Barometer indicates that issues such as how a company treats its employees are already having an impact on purchasing behaviour. A third of all respondents to the survey said that they had already stopped using a brand that wasn’t acting appropriately in response to the global crisis. Some 90 percent of consumers said that they expect companies ‘to protect the well-being and financial security of their employees and suppliers, even if it means suffering big financial losses’. And more than half said brands must do this to retain or win their trust.
It very much looks like good business is the future from where I’m standing.