Pic c/o mccanexposure.com
Was lucky enough to be sitting in the audience for yesterday's webcast at Unilever's HQ to hear UL CEO Paul Polman (and some others) talk about their Sustainable Living plan
As regular readers will know, we've been talking purpose here for a decade or more (as my buddy Hugh reiterated recently), long before it became popular (in churches, business schools or in blogs and coaches or consultants who have drunk the coolaid, too). For a long time, senior (aka "sensible") business folk have treated this notion as if it were for the Fancy Dans of this world – the kooky and the crazy.
So it was genuinely affecting to hear the leader of the world's second biggest advertiser talking about their social purpose as the only way to growth – not as a risk or a by-product but the thing the whole organisation has to focus on – and to see the leadership trying to work with organisations that know more about the impacts it makes on the world than it does.
You'll know – for good or ill – the Dove story as one of Unilever's previous attempts to embrace purpose, but this is genuinely something different. The level of senior engagement with this, the degree to which they've made it structurally possible to travel this way and – once more – the clarity and conviction of the leader's voice made this more than a step change. And the acknowledgement that there is a long way to travel before the real benefits are clear to all was remarkably refreshing and honest.
I think this is a genuinely bold move and one which, whatever false steps they take (and they will take them), we should credit the corporation and its leaders with.
However, I was slightly disappointed to read the 5 levers for change document they have produced. Like so many other behaviour change manuals, it is still primarily construes behaviour as an "I thing", an individual phenomenon; still imagines that what we do to individuals is what matters in shaping their behaviour; still focuses on the "p" and not the "q" of diffusion.
As for the calls from NGOs on the panel and in the audience – however admirable and amazing the people were – who want us to "make conscious choices", the less said the better. If our future depends on getting people to think, we're really screwed.
Looks like we still have work to do here…I'm ready.