Unilever’s corporate challenge: Find purpose or perish

Phil-HaidPhillip Haid is Co-Founder and CEO of Public Inc.

In the 1890s, Lord Lever, founder of Lever Brothers, wrote down his idea for Sunlight Soap — a revolutionary new product that would help keep England clean. His mission was to make cleanliness commonplace, so that people maintained better health, women had less work and in turn, life could be more enjoyable. His desire to make money while improving people’s lives translated into uncommon acts for a wealthy businessman in the late 19th century, namely: improving working conditions, promoting better hygiene, and helping reduce infant mortality rates.

These ideas and values are still at the heart of Unilever 120 years later. In a recent interview, John LeBoutillier, president and chief executive of Unilever Canada, stressed that Lord Lever is alive and well and continues to roam the halls at the company’s offices.

“Authentic purpose” is at the core of Unilever’s DNA and permeates into all its brands, he said. It’s critical to the future of its business both from a moral and profit perspective.

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