Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Forget corporate social responsibility: doing good should be a core part of your business model

I’m a firm believer in the power of business to do good. Until recently, many companies saw their role in bringing about positive change as secondary to their main goal of creating value for their shareholders. Businesses had separate corporate social responsibility departments, and separate marketing departments. Each with their own separate targets and KPIs.

To truly make any change for good, to create a sustainable business legacy, this model needs to change. Encouragingly, the desire from consumers for businesses to make this shift is becoming ever more apparent. The popularity of socially responsible brands like Toms or Patagonia shows the increasing expectation from people that businesses should take positive actions, and more — to be role models in this space.

Many customers say they are willing to pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact

But let me be clear: this is not just a moral argument. People often ask me what’s the business case for sustainability. My reply? I’d love to see the business case for the alternative. Show me the business case for destroying the very planet and society in which we live. Future proofing your business against a changing climate and building a more prosperous and healthy society can only be of economic benefit to a business.

As a business, we are starting to see the dividends of taking this approach, although it is far from a new idea for Unilever. Rather, it goes right back to our roots, when our founder Lord Leverhulme developed Sunlight soap, with a mission to make cleanliness commonplace among the Victorian masses. Today that mission continues with us, but we are focused on making sustainable living commonplace across the globe.

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