In the face of difficult times, practical actions can inspire.

In the face of difficult times, practical actions can inspire.

My friend Noel Penrose shared with me some thoughts, articles and advice that he put together to help ground his sons who are at University and face an uncertain future according to the media-driven gloom merchants.
The notes are optimistic, practical, pragmatic, useful and bristling with suggested actions. Noel makes references to many inspiring people from Martin Luther King to Bill Gates. The most inspiring person of all is Nick Vujicic – “Get Back Up”.

Noel’s advice to his boys is just the kind of advice most companies and most brands need to thrive and survive in the 21st Century. By taking actions that are achievable, short term, testable and positive, brands can build towards providing meaningful experiences for consumers. At the same time, brands have to operate under developing needs for societal sustainability via conscious commerce business models such as that led by Unilever’s Paul Polman.

Noel seeks to inspire his family and community.

Paul seeks to inspire his near 200,000 staff and 2 Billion customers.

Conscious Commerce & Brand Choice: preference will be for the future rather than a habit of the past.

Conscious Commerce & Brand Choice: preference will be for the future rather than a habit of the past.

A very good debate run by Unilever and Guardian Sustainable Business today asking a panel of experts  how to close the gap between concern and action – the panel was made up of Unilever’s CEO, Paul Polman, the CEO of Havas, David Jones, Tensie Whelan the President of the Rainforest Alliance and Malini Mehra CEO of the Centre for Social Markets.

Unilever is taking a bold leadership role with their Sustainable Living programme – in which they are changing their business model towards conscious commerce. The debate was inspiring and a the tone positive and optimistic.

The debate looked at the cooperation needed between business, individuals and government in order to grasp the nettle to change the way the world behaves to match the growing attitude of concern for the planet and our future. Interestingly, the positive tone was in the absence of government in the debate.

Some nuggets stuck in my mind after watching

  • David Jones calling Unilever’s Paul Polman, a pioneer of green blooded capitalism
  • The different attitude of growing up in the West top “have more” vs in emerging markets “to be more”
  • For companies to offer consumers choice based on their values rather than simply shareholder value
  • Politicians could (but won’t) legislate for the future as their electoral terms are short term – much like companies who only focus on their shareholders are focussed on quarterly performance not future effect
  • Brands remain important tools for future consumption, but the offers they make and provide (or those that their holding company do) must give back to the wider community
  • That the younger generation – because of digital connections of social media, are the most knowledgeable, most powerful and most responsible of all time
  • But the future will be changed via inter-generational cooperation as well as the axis of conscious commerce being the preferred choice
  • Small actions, long term outcomes – Don’t stay in the sidelines, it comes down to people making small actions to make a difference

Really worth catching up on the discussion on the Guardian sustainability site or follow #sustliving on twitter

Unilever Global CEO Paul Polman: The agenda of 21st Century Business model

Unilever Global CEO Paul Polman: The agenda of 21st Century Business model

Really powerful talk by Paul Polman to the Annual One Young World Summit about sustainability and the challenges this raises. He is clear of the role of business and the role of brand in 21st Century.

He says, as boss of this massive global firm (170,000 staff, 2 Billion consumers in 150+ countries) , he is not accountable to shareholders. He is not driven by simply raising profits and cutting costs.

He is accountable to his consumers, his staff and to their communities. Accountable to the sustainability of the world. For companies such as his, he wants them to stop using technology to reduce the negative impact on communities and move Unilever to actively making a positive contribution to society,

Unilver wants to grow of course, but Paul says he wants to decouple growth form the environmental impact on the world. Unilver wants to actively improve the health and wellbeing of 1 Billion consumers.

He says the world needs leadership but says he serves his company not leads it. He is a leader and one that inspires. Well worth a look, but more importantly, well worth learning from…is your brand giving back?