As the Senior Brand Development Director at Unilever, Rogier Smeets consistently seeks to define the overall business strategy for Unilever’s biggest global brand (Knorr) and leading the master brand strategy, communication development and innovation road map for Unilever right here on
“At Unilever, we want to fundamentally double our business and at the same time halve our environmental impact,” said Smeets during Day 1 of the Retail and e-Commerce Plenary Roundtables at Retail World Asia 2014.
“So that’s a vision already set by our firm and the board of Unilever. The only we see in advancing forward is simply through the recognition of resource scarcity and it begins through the development of being a ‘company with consciousness’. We are here to grow, and the only way to do so is in a sustainable way.”
So, why is it so important anyway?
“As always, it begins with the consumer and if there is no way in translating value for the consumer, then there’s no way that the company will benefit in the long-term,” explained Smeets. “Brands that drive a higher purpose and are already doing well for certain sets of the population in which consumers can relate to, will ensure that brand will have more meaning for consumers. And as a consequence, the brand preference and brand conviction goes up.”
“Ultimately, it’s the branding story that translates to consumer value perceptions not only on a rational level, but also on an emotional level.”
From that point onwards, I couldn’t help but to think of it as a spontaneous mode of ‘green washing.’ Why? It sounds a tad idealistic, and it’s definitely what the new generation of hippies could ever hope to dream of because it’s easy for large companies who have already developed a strong brand image to do so.
But what else can small and medium enterprises learn from CSR?
In attempt to dispel my skepticism, I was re-educated that finding the right stories and angles to communicate ideas remain to be the key in tapping into a brand’s potential. It’s not just about saving the planet or the world, but it’s more about finding the right angle to talk about a company’s very own corporate social responsibility and making it relevant to the product itself.
In Australia, for example, Unilever actively source their own food products such as wheat, tomatoes, and pumpkins, as they believe that it’s better and it saves on transportation costs without forgetting that these are products that grow in excellence especially in domestic soil and terrain.
Therefore, it places them in a unique situation where they can better position its story about growing its food source responsibly first, as it makes more sense to Australian consumers in understanding the root idea of CSR.
The magnitude of the company is irrelevant as long as it strives to make a genuine connection with the consumer.
In most countries across Asia, SMEs account for more than 90 per cent of businesses. As a result, the CSR footprint of SMEs can be very large.
A GRI study confirms that nowadays most of the economic, environmental and social impacts of MNEs occur through their supply chain and a significant proportion occurs through SMEs in those chains.
What SMEs in Asia can draw from this is to first address the issues in economic, environmental and social performances of both MNCs and SMEs in the supply chain before they can then begin in the facilitation of understanding the contrasting CSR concepts on both ends.
It doesn’t start off with the search for an increased competitive advantage and reputation but to instead develop an awareness in striking meaningful conversations and interactions between the consumer and the organization itself.
It’s simple stuff like embarking on a campaign with a $150 budget in an attempt to develop brand awareness that goes a long way in the journey that fosters CSR and at the same time, maximising brand potential.
For starters, check out how LEGO does it with it’s “Brickmented Reality” campaign.