NEWS30 October 2023

Unilever shifts sustainability focus and appoints growth & marketing chief

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UK – Unilever has changed its approach to sustainability and appointed Esi Eggleston Bracey to the newly created role of chief growth and marketing officer, as part of wider shifts within its leadership team.

hein schumacher

As part of Unilever’s quarterly results, chief executive Hein Schumacher said the company would revise its approach to sustainability commitments to focus on four priority areas – climate, plastic, nature and livelihoods.

Speaking during a webcast for the FMCG giant’s third quarter trading statement, Schumacher (pictured) said Unilever’s efforts on sustainability had been “spread too thinly”, adding: “We have too many long-term commitments that failed to make a sufficient short-term impact.”

Rather than longer term “aspirational goals”, Unilever will focus on shorter-term goals. Schumacher said: “Everything we do in this area must have material impact for the benefit of Unilever, as well as for the environment and the societies we serve.”

Schumacher also discussed what this new approach would mean for the company’s brands, saying: “In recent years, the debate around brands, sustainability and purpose has arguably generated more heat than light. The topics have been conflated and the business case has got confused. All of our brands or businesses will be expected to be full and active participants in delivering Unilever’s four big sustainability priorities. This is an enterprise-wide endeavour.”

However, he added: “We will not force-fit purpose across our entire portfolio. For some brands, it simply won’t be relevant, and that’s OK.”

In other changes, Unilever will look to focus its efforts primarily on growing its top 30 ‘power brands’ – including Dove, Magnum and Hellmann’s – which collectively represent 70% of turnover.

Schumacher also said the company needed to broaden how it measures and delivers what he termed “product superiority” as it looks to “identify the distinct drivers of superiority”, citing Domestos Power Foam and Dove Deep Moisture body wash as examples of how the company has applied this. In these products, he said: “The focus on product superiority has been expanded to a quantitatively measured composite score of how brands perform against each of their key attributes, and that is unmissable superiority.

“By increasing the other key attributes alongside product and price, we can give proper weight to increasingly important determinants, like desirable packaging, and sustainability, which is key now for many consumers.”

The next step, he said, would be to embed the approach across all business groups “using clear and measurable KPIs”.

Unilever has also updated its executive leadership team, appointing Esi Eggleston Bracey to the new role of chief growth and marketing officer.

Bracey has been with the FMCG giant since 2018 and has led its US business as president since July 2022. She is also the general manager of its personal care business in North America.

In other changes, Fernando Fernandez will become the company’s new chief financial officer, effective from 1st January 2024. Currently president of Unilever’s Beauty & Wellbeing Business Group, he replaces Graeme Pitkethly, who is retiring.