Create, share value across the eco-system: Unilever’s Manwani

V. Rishi Kumar Hyderabad | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on March 25, 2013

Harish Manwani, Global COO of Unilever.   -  Business Line

Three Gs of growth — consistent growth, competitive growth and profitable growth are no longer enough to sustain leadership. The fourth G of responsible growth has become a new major dimension in today’s world, Harish Manwani, Chief Operating Officer of Unilever and Chairman of HUL, said.

As one who steers the global FMCG major which operates in more than 190 countries, employs 1.7 lakh people and handles over 400 brands, who better to give a feel of the pulse from the grassroots?

There is no other way but by helping people feel good, look good and get more out of life, he says.

From the workers making Lifebuoy soap and Pureit water purifiers to marketers and brand managers, this is the invisible glue that holds the company together.

The Unilever Sustainable Plan aims to double business while reducing environmental footprint and increasing positive social impact.

“We have committed to halving the environmental impact of our products across the value chain, to sourcing 100 per cent of our raw materials sustainably and help more than a billion people take action to improve health and well-being,” he said.

Citing a series of corporate scandals, he said such companies have destroyed public trust in business to do right things.

In chasing the 3Gs, companies have forgotten the true role of business in society.

That role is to create value. Value is not just for shareholders, but also for consumers, customers, suppliers, employees and for communities where companies operate, he said.

Speaking at the Indian School of Business on Leadership in the new age, the Unilever official said ensuring responsible growth is the most important challenge. Mentioning the ‘VUCA’ world, one that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, he said, “We are now in such a world surrounded by black swans.”

Quoting American baseball star Yogi Berra who said, “The future ain’t what it used to be”, he said, “It describes the world we live in.” In such an environment, leadership is all about seizing some megatrends and converting them into opportunities.

An online world

Today more than a third of the world is online — a five-fold increase over the last decade. And Facebook, Twitter and YouTube did not exist just 10 years ago. The travel, music industry and book stores have changed.

This year, the world’s 130 biggest airlines expect to sell more than half of their tickets direct to consumers. They have seized the opportunity. Others have not been as lucky.

Such megatrends can provide opportunities but also come with risks.

Social value

The role of business is not just to create economic value but social value in a sustainable way. Corporate social responsibility is good but responsible business is much more than that.

Quoting a study of most desired employers, he said it is not surprising that Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook finished the top four. But the fifth was Unilever.

But it is this “soups and soaps company”, as someone described Unilver, that has led the Dow Jones sustainability index for 14 years in a row. People want to be part of it, he said.

The Unilever honcho did not miss out an opportunity to make a marketing pitch. “We make great ice creams. If you haven’t had one so far, I call upon you to try one, they taste great,” he said.

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Published on March 25, 2013
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