Business / Q and A with CEO

Retail veteran champions green business

By ZHU WENQIAN (China Daily) Updated: 2015-10-23 07:53

Unilever's sales in China rebounded in the second quarter. Is this related to the e-commerce sales through an enhanced partnership with Alibaba Group?

E-commerce is a very dynamic space and China is one of the five e-commerce hubs for Unilever.

We hope to strengthen this further. We have already established leading partnerships with major e-commerce firms like Alibaba.

You have held various positions in the consumer sector. What is your management style like?

I am passionate about consumer goods and the initiatives that seek to lift people out of poverty.

Projects that bring sanitation and nutrition to people are also of interest to us at Unilever.

Toothpaste, shampoo and soap are basic products, but they are very important in daily life.

It will be an awful day without them. I have a strong sense of purpose, and this is the motivation for my work.

Secondly, we need to look over the long term, as there are no short-term horizons for an enterprise.

If we want to address major issues, like climate change, poverty and food security, we need to work together for the longer term.

Thirdly, I believe very strongly in the role that business has in creating a better world for all. Companies like ours can make a major contribution to achievements. Our business model is very unique, as it seeks to eliminate the environmental impact and improve social impact.

How do you balance between making profits and being green?

If you want to run your business for the long term, you have to find a way to do that sustainably. For example, the raw materials need to be sustainably sourced. China is leading the world in the use of renewable energy. About 30 percent of the investments in renewable energy were made in China, and the country has seven out of the 10 biggest solar energy companies globally.

Young people want to work for companies that are responsible. Increasingly, consumers want to buy products that are responsible. Costs go down for companies if you don't have waste. Similarly reputation goes up for companies if you don't have any issues. Together they drive innovation, because you have to be creative to find solutions.

Have there been any interesting anecdotes between you and the staff?

I was very happy to attend the Unilever China Sustainability Family Day recently at our campus at the Shanghai headquarters.

This was the largest family day in entire Unilever history with over 5,000 people in attendance. I was particularly impressed with the huge number of smiling people at the event.

It was a great opportunity to thank our people and their families for the work they do.

What kind of green lifestyle do you have?

As individuals, we can all play our parts in creating a greener planet, and I try to do everything I can personally to make a difference.

I see it as a great privilege in my role as the CEO of Unilever that I am able to reach two billion consumers every day.

The biggest contribution I can make is to ensure that the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan is fully embedded in our company, helping our consumers to choose greener products and making a difference in communities around the world.

For example, we have already achieved one million tons of carbon savings and we send zero waste to landfills across our global factory network. Of course, there are a lot more that we can do, but we are making an impact. I continue to work hard on changing the industry on issues like deforestation, sustainable agriculture and climate change.

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