McKinsey Video Features Unilever CEO Paul Polman on Leadership and Sustainability

Paul Polman knows the consumer goods industry. He has been a high level executive at both P&G and Nestle, and this past January he took over the reins as CEO of Unilever.  And make no mistake about it: Polman knows the importance of corporate sustainability and values-based management, as well.

In the latest video instalment in the McKinsey interview series, titled McKinsey conversations with global leaders, Polman reflects on a wide range of issues, including the current economic downturn, leadership styles, and the role of business in society.

Every day, two billion consumers use the Unilever brand, and for Polman that reach is intertwined with an even broader social mission, one that keeps the company focused on various CSR initiatives, such as sustainable sourcing, water stewardship, and working to improve hygiene.

“I’d hate, the day when I pass on, to have people talk about me building market share. I’d rather have them talk about me making a difference in society,” Polman says in the video.

Take a few minutes to watch the full interview here

2Sustain: “If you are not playing in the green space, you are competing against it. Either fold it into your strategy or have a clear competitive advantage over green competition.”


Grail Research Identifies Habits, Traits of Green Consumers

Posted: 22 Oct 2009 01:53 PM PDT

Are consumers truly committed to green shopping, or is it just a passing fad?

A fascinating new study from Grail Research deep dives into this question, and the results strongly suggest that “green is here to stay.”

Findings in “The Green Revolution,” Grail Research’s 21-page report, show that 85% of US consumers have bought green products, and nearly all of them expect to do so in the future. What’s more, among the few who have never bought green products, 67% say they have considered switching to eco-friendly purchases.

But, even so, not all green consumers are considered equal.

Compared to their “light” green counterparts, “dark” green consumers:

  • Care more about what is in products (natural, organic, or non-toxic ingredients, e.g.).
  • Are older, more educated, and more affluent.
  • Are not as impulsive. They plan their purchases ahead of time.

It’s also interesting to note that Grail Research found that environmentally-friendly packaging is considered important for driving purchases among almost all product categories.

Check out the full report here for even more in-depth insights into what today’s green consumers are expecting. As the report succinctly sums it up:

“If you are not playing in the green space, you are competing against it. Either fold it into your strategy or have a clear competitive advantage over green competition.”

Mapping Out a Business Case for Sustainability

I have first hand experience of how difficult it can be (is) to communicate a message that, to many business leaders sounds, at best, like it is from deep in left field. At worst it is some form of insurrection from people normally content with hugging trees, wearing sandals and extolling the virtues of being a vegan. I don’t qualify in any category!

Challenging "conventional (business) wisdom", even when the latter is in scarce supply, can be a dangerous thing to do when seasoned Directors/managers can only see making other people job-casualties as the best way of ensuring their own survival.

So it is always interesting to take on board the wisdom of others: Six Key Lessons on Mapping Out a Business Case for Sustainability Initiatives

Why we need a very British democratic revolution!

Gerry Hassan is a (Scot) writer, commentator and policy analyst. Ordinarily this piece would be a bit too political for me BUT I think it illustrates what UK politics has become. We can’t afford to let our political leaders (or any other kind of leader!) merely “talk the talk” then fail to deliver.

Why we need a very British democratic revolution!

The failure of Britain’s political class has become terminal. A crisis of governance – exemplified in the overbearing and intrusive power of an unaccountable ruling elite – can only be addressed by radical and comprehensive change. The experience of the last generation offers invaluable lessons for getting it right in the next, says Gerry Hassan.

“You got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to run.” – Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

British politics are going through a rapid period of change, at once profoundly disorientating and emphasising the dislocation and disengagement at its heart between people and the system.

In the last few weeks, we have seen the extent of the British government’s collusion with torture at Guantanamo Bay put centre-stage, alongside the one-sided nature of “the special relationship” between the United Kingdom and United States that British politicians so love to fret and coon over. At the same time, Jacqui Smith, one of the least convincing Home Secretaries of all time, claims £116,000 in second home allowances for her family home and at first parliamentary authorities dismissed the need to investigate any wrongdoing, eventually managing to bring themselves to look into her case after a public complaint.

Against this backdrop, the recent publication of a collection marking the twentieth anniversary of Charter 88 and the forthcoming Convention on Modern Liberty (1) on 28 February 2009, provide an opportunity to assess where we are, how our political classes measure up, and what we should do.

Twenty years ago, the high authoritarianism of Thatcherism was symbolised by the erection of the Downing Street security gates and the exclusion of an area from public access. Tellingly for all the rhetoric of Labour politicians, once Tony Blair was in office there was no move to take them down. Then under came Blair the creation of a parliamentary exclusion zone of one mile around the Houses of Parliament – something which sounds of Falklands war origin – and which was used to get rid of Brian Haw’s anti-war protest. Protest may now be tolerated around Parliament, but Brown has not repealed the provisions of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, which created the exclusion zone in the first place.

Whatever happened to “Radical Brown”?

The collection Unlocking Democracy: 20 Years of Charter 88 (2) contains contributions from Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, along with other politicians and campaigners. It provides an appropriate resource to examine the analysis of our senior political leaders, wider political class, and the case for reform. Read more of this post

BusinessWeek: Seven Deadly sins

Interesting and, potentially, useful information From Maddock Douglas, amongst other things, an American innovation agency.

Sinnovation – BusinessWeek
SinnovationThe seven deadly sins of the innovator—and how you can stop yourself from committing them…

1. Lust: Innovating in a space you have no business being in. Trying to innovate outside your operational expertise or brand footprint creates incredible inertia internally. "Should I be working on the things I should be working on or the harebrained scheme that someone else higher up on the org chart has conjured up." It also causes unhealthy confusion externally. "Wait," the customer says. "My longtime supplier of plastic molding injection equipment is now making iPhone (AAPL) accessories? What gives?"

Most successful innovation involves complementary products, services, and business models because they are readily accepted by your team and make sense to your customers. Unless a solid business case proves otherwise, "Stick to your knitting" is excellent advice.

2. Gluttony: Trying to create too many initiatives with too few resources. Innovation takes emotional and financial capital and focus. Venture capitalists can afford to back 10 companies, hoping the payoff from one or two will cover the expense of having the other eight or nine investments fail. But those odds won’t work for you. Instead of making a number of small bets, focus your team and resources on one or two initiatives that have the greatest probability of hitting it big.

3. Greed: Taking short-term profits at the expense of long-term growth. The stock market demands a high rate of return, which naturally results in safe bets like line extensions. Line extensions are fine, but they leave you at risk of being blown out of the water by an industry-changing idea. The solution? Create two teams. Put one in charge of evolution and the other in charge of revolution. You’ll get both short- and long-term growth.

4. Sloth: Taking short cuts—not doing the hard work, not following the proven process. Too many otherwise brilliant leaders have made the mistake of thinking that speed and short cuts are the only way to successfully innovate. While we agree that being overly cautious—"Let’s test the idea for the 83rd time"—is also potentially fatal, there is a happy medium. Think big, quantify, qualify, refine, and launch. This should take no more than 12 months. If you can do it in eight, great! If you can do it in three, then you have left something out or you have a very, very tired staff on your hands. Remember: Just because it takes one woman nine months to have a baby doesn’t mean nine women can produce one in 30 days.

5. Wrath: Being so focused on your competition that you miss the same opportunities your rivals are missing. You can’t read the label when you are sitting inside the jar.

Remember, your competitors are in the same jar you’re in. If you concentrate on what they’re doing, you’re both going to get kicked to the curb by someone outside your industry who is rightly focused on the consumer (and not either one of you).

6. Envy: In the context of innovation, envy means launching a "me too" product instead of finding a space you can own. An example of envy is when your sales team comes to you and demands that you launch a product to compete with the "hot" new offering they just saw from the competitor. Don’t take the bait. Chances are, that product is going to fail. Instead, use your sales team to find out what other needs your customer or consumer has, and then attack them with your own novel product, service, or business model.

7. Pride: You won’t give up on your favorite idea—even when the numbers prove you’re wrong. "Hey boss, this one is for you." Nobody wants to tell you that you are wrong, which means that when it comes to your ideas, you must take a long, hard look at the data. Unless the data are overwhelmingly in favor of your idea, drop it and work on the one the team secretly knows is better.