A glimpse of business in the future by Angela Podmore

Gives a future business model in place of 'growth at any price'

Amanda Sourry believes future business must be sustainable and long-term

Beacon brands are ‘always on’ brands which not only meet expectations and go beyond and enable deeper relationships. That calls for transparency. You can only have that if you’re the real deal.

That was the topline at a fascinating http://www.bcu.ac.uk presentation by Britain’s most admired companies (as featured in http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/) where Amanda Sourry, chairman of Unilever UK and Ireland said the old model of ‘growth at any price’ is broken. Rather than see this as a threat, Ms Sourry sees it as a huge opportunity.

See the Unilever model for the future: http://www.unilever.co.uk/. In a nutshell, it’s about doubling their business but halving their environmental impact while boosting impact on society.

They’re doing it by being more long term – they’ve 50, time-bound targets. Actions speak louder than words. They’ve stopped reporting to the stockmarket and are committed to renewable energy sources.

When Mr Lever started out, he was on a mission to spread cleanliness with his bar of Sunlight soap. Unilever brands are now in 9 out of 10 UK homes. The tradition carries on. Next time you enjoy a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, savour the positive karma that you’re helping African farmers.

Ms Sourry was very generous with sharing what’s going on out there in consumerville:

• The rise of the super-savvy consumer – where bargain hunting starts at home.
• Collective buying power – witness the rise of Groupon which now has 8m members.
• Cash is king – we now prefer cash to credit card control of our money.
• We’re stretching the monthly shop – scrunching loo rolls so they don’t flow so freely!
• We’re wasting less.
• We’re waiting to buy some stuff when it’s on offer.
• Although our real income is in the sharpest decline for 35 years, our aspirations and expectations continue to climb. Capturing the consumer mood, a Leeds focus panel member’s comment: “Just because I’m poorer doesn’t mean life has to be dull.”

So good to know how a massive organisation such as Unilever is wrestling with bridging that gap between aspirations and lifestyle and making a profit. They’ve a clear plan and know why they’re in business and how they do things the Unilever way.

The event was also sponsored by: http://www.managers.org.uk/ http://www.cipd.co.uk/ and http://www.iconsulting.org.uk/ and was held at http://austincourt.theiet.org/.

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